Gastroparesis is a condition in which your stomach empties into your small intestine more slowly than it should. Gastroparesis can be triggered by an illness or a long-term disease, such as diabetes or lupus. Symptoms may be mild or severe, and usually include vomiting, bloating, nausea, and heartburn.
Sometimes gastroparesis is a temporary response that your body has to something else that you’re dealing with, and sometimes it’s a chronic, or long-term, condition. Gastroparesis can also occur after bariatric surgery or another medical procedure that interrupts your digestion.
When you have gastroparesis, the amount of fats and fiber that you eat can greatly affect how intense your symptoms are. Dietary adjustments are sometimes the first method of treatment suggested to people who have gastroparesis.
If you have gastroparesis, it’s important to focus on getting the nutrition that you need while eating small, frequent meals that are low in fat and easy to digest. The staples of this kind of diet include high-protein foods (such as eggs and nut butter) and easy-to-digest vegetables (such as cooked zucchini). If the food is easy to chew and swallow, that’s a good indication that you’ll have an easier time digesting it.
Here is a list of suggested foods to keep your gastroparesis in check:
- peanut butter
- breads, hot cereals, and crackers
- fruit juice
- vegetable juice (spinach, kale, carrots)
- fruit purees
If you currently have gastroparesis symptoms, you should be aware of what foods to avoid. As a general rule, foods that are high in saturated fat or fiber should only be eaten in small amounts. Here is a list of foods that might make your gastroparesis discomfort worse:
- carbonated beverages
- beans and legumes
- seeds and nuts
- broccoli and cauliflower
- heavy cream
- excess oil or butter
When you’re recovering from gastroparesis, you might need to be on a multiphase diet that gradually reintroduces solid foods. The Gastroparesis Patient Association for Cures and Treatments (G-PACT) describes the three phases of this diet in their diet guidelines.
The three phases are as follows:
- First phase: You’re limited mostly to broth or bullion soups, as well as blended vegetable juice.
- Second phase: You may work up to soups that contain crackers and noodles, as well as cheese and peanut butter.
- Third phase: You’re allowed to have most soft, easy-to-chew starches as well as softer protein sources such as poultry and fish.
During all phases of this recovery diet, you need to avoid red meat and high-fiber vegetables because they take longer to digest.
When you have gastroparesis, you should be mindful of how often and in what order you consume foods. It’s recommended you eat small meals, five to eight times per day. Chew your food well before swallowing it. Eat nutritious foods first to keep from becoming full from foods that don’t fuel your body.
While recovering from gastroparesis, consider taking a multivitamin supplement so that you can still get the nutrition you need. If weight loss has been a symptom of your gastroparesis, aim for a minimum of 1,500 calories a day as you begin your recovery. Nutritional drinks such as yogurt smoothies, fruit and vegetable smoothies, liquid meal replacement shakes, and protein shakes are easy-to-digest liquids that can help with this.
Drink plenty of water so that your digestive system doesn’t get dehydrated. Avoid alcohol when you have gastroparesis symptoms, as alcohol can dehydrate or constipate you further — not to mention deplete your body of nutrition.
Your food options might feel limited when you have gastroparesis, but you can still enjoy some delicious recipes. Peach banana smoothies and green smoothies with peanut butter contain the nutrition you need and taste great. For savory options, garlic mashed potatoes and gastroparesis-friendly vegetable soup have little fiber but lots of taste.
Gastroparesis is either temporary or chronic. It can be a symptom of another condition, or it can be idiopathic, which means the cause is unknown. No matter what the cause or duration of your gastroparesis, eating small meals and limiting your fiber and fat intake can help your digestion.
Speak with your doctor about your nutritional needs while treating gastroparesis. It’s important to make sure that your body is still getting the vitamins and minerals necessary for healthy organ function as you recover from your gastroparesis symptoms.