8 Diet Tips for Gastroparesis
Gastroparesis is a rare medical condition characterized by slow stomach emptying, which can cause abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.
According to the American College of Gastroenterology, diet is a mainstay of gastroparesis treatment, and it’s a natural treatment to boot. Doctors can prescribe medication and perform medical procedures to improve gastroparesis symptoms, but these interventions work best if patients also follow a gastroparesis diet, which restricts slow-digesting foods.
1Focus on nutrition.
People with gastroparesis frequently feel full after taking a few bites because the food remains in the stomach rather than passing through efficiently. So, it’s essential that those few bites contain the nutrients your body needs rather than empty calories. Lean meats, eggs, cooked vegetables, bananas, canned fruits, rice, potatoes (without the skin) and yogurt are good choices. Pass on cookies, cakes, and prepackaged snack foods (such as chips) that are low in nutrition.
2Avoid high-fiber foods.
Most Americans are advised to eat more high-fiber foods. However, if you have gastroparesis, it’s essential to steer clear of high-fiber foods because they are particularly difficult for the body to digest. Foods to avoid with gastroparesis include whole grain cereals, dried beans (even when cooked), lentils, nuts and seeds, Brussels sprouts, lettuce and other leafy greens, peas, green beans, apples, berries, oranges, persimmons, figs and coconut.
If you’re hungry for an apple, opt for applesauce instead. Because it’s processed and doesn’t include the skin, it’s easier to digest.
3A blender may be your best friend.
The stomachs of people with gastroparesis can usually handle liquids better than solids. So, if you have a hard time getting enough nutrients via solid food or are experiencing uncomfortable gastroparesis symptoms when you eat, try using a kitchen blender to puree or liquify your food.
Begin by cutting the food into small pieces; then, add liquid and puree. Broth can be added to meats and meat dishes; fruit juice can be used to puree chunks of fruit into a drinkable, digestible liquid. You can also use water.
4Eat 5 to 6 small meals per day.
It’s better to eat small portions of food throughout the day instead of stuffing yourself at breakfast, lunch and dinner. When you spread your food intake out, your stomach has a chance to process the food you eat before your next meal.
The International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders recommends a modest breakfast (cream of wheat and scrambled eggs are good choices); a liquid breakfast shake mid-morning; a small soup and sandwich lunch; mid-afternoon fruit shake; dinner with lean protein, fruit and veggies; and a before-bed snack of custard.
5Avoid alcohol and soda.
Alcoholic beverages, including beer, wine and spirits, are predominantly empty calories; they take up space in your stomach but don’t contain any essential nutrients. What’s more, drinking alcohol can cause serious abdominal discomfort. Soda is also a bad idea; the carbonation can cause additional bloating and discomfort.
Better beverage choices include coffee, tea, water, sports drinks, and non-carbonated, sugar-free drinks. You may also be able to tolerate small amounts of skim milk and pulp-free fruit juice.
6Steer clear of hard-to-chew foods.
Anything hard-to-chew is also difficult to digest. You should avoid:
Whenever possible, opt for the easiest-to-eat version of a food. For example, instead of a raw pear, choose canned pears. Pear sauce is an even better choice. Opt for finely mashed potatoes over baked potatoes and pureed soups over chunky stews
7Move after eating.
Remaining upright for at least an hour after eating improves digestion. There’s also evidence to show that walking may increase stomach emptying, so why not go for a walk after meals? Instead of settling into the couch, lace up your sneakers and head out for a walk around the block.
Exercise may seem impossible when your stomach hurts or you’re experiencing nausea and vomiting, but anecdotal evidence suggests that increasing physical activity can improve gastroparesis symptoms. You may want to engage with a trainer who works with people with chronic illnesses.
8Limit fatty foods.
Fat delays stomach emptying. (That’s why cheese is constipating; cheese is a high-fat food.) Many healthcare providers recommend people with gastroparesis restrict their fat intake to no more than 50 grams per day; some patients won’t even be able to tolerate that much, especially as they begin treatment.
Stay away from any fried foods, including French fries and fried chicken. Baked or broiled meats (prepared without the skin) and veggies are easier for the body to digest. Whenever possible, opt for the lowest-fat version of a food. Choose skim milk over whole or 2% milk.