Gastroparesis is a condition in which your stomach empties into your small intestine more slowly than it should.
Symptoms may be mild or severe and usually include:
Sometimes gastroparesis is a temporary sign that your body has something else that you’re dealing with. In most cases 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 changes 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 most important foods in this kind of diet include high protein foods (such as eggs and creamy nut butter) and easy-to-digest vegetables (such as cooked zucchini).
If the food is easy to chew and swallow, that’s a good sign that you’ll have an easier time digesting it.
Here’s a list of suggested foods that may help keep your gastroparesis in check:
- smooth or creamy peanut butter
- white breads, low fiber or refined cereals, and low fat crackers
- fruit juice
- vegetable juice (spinach, kale, carrots)
- fruit purees
If you currently have gastroparesis symptoms, it’s important to be aware of what foods to avoid.
As a general rule, foods that are high in fat or fiber should only be eaten in small amounts.
Here’s 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 a gastroparesis flare-up, you might need to be on a multiphase diet that gradually reintroduces solid foods.
While there are no official diet guidelines for gastroparesis flares, many people find it helpful to follow a three-phase diet.
The three phases are as follows:
- First phase. You’re limited mostly to broth or bouillon 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 creamy 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, it’s important to avoid red meat and high fiber vegetables because they take longer to digest.
When you have gastroparesis, you should try to 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 avoid becoming full from foods that don’t fuel your body.
While recovering from gastroparesis, consider taking a multivitamin supplement so 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 per day as you begin your recovery.
Nutritional drinks are easy-to-digest liquids that can help with this. These include:
- yogurt smoothies
- fruit and vegetable smoothies
- liquid meal replacement shakes
- protein shakes
Drink plenty of water so 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 lower your levels of certain nutrients.
Your food options might feel limited when you have gastroparesis, but you can still enjoy some delicious recipes.
While gastroparesis is usually chronic, it can be temporary in some cases. 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.
Different people with different diagnoses can tolerate certain food items better than others. Always speak with a doctor or dietitian about your individualized nutritional needs while treating gastroparesis.
It’s important to make sure your body is still getting the vitamins and minerals necessary for healthy organ function as you recover from your gastroparesis symptoms.