If you have gastroparesis, you may be overwhelmed trying to figure out what you should or should not eat. Understanding how specific foods affect the condition may help reduce and control symptoms.
What Is Gastroparesis?
Gastroparesis means "stomach paralysis." According to the Mayo Clinic, "gastroparesis is a condition in which the spontaneous movement of the muscles (motility) in your stomach does not function normally." As a result, food moves slowly through the digestive tract or doesn't move at all. This interferes with digestion and may cause nausea, vomiting, bloating, pain, weight loss, blood sugar issues, and malnutrition.
It's unclear what causes gastroparesis. Abdominal surgery, thyroid disorder, or diabetes may be to blame, but often the cause remains unknown.
There is no cure for gastroparesis, but diet changes may help. According to UVA Health, a gastroparesis diet is not necessarily focused on healthy eating but on calorie consumption and meeting basic nutrition needs. While eating healthy foods is important, people with gastroparesis who are losing weight and struggling to take in calories should concentrate on eating whatever they can to help reduce the risk of intravenous or tube feeding.
Whenever possible, a gastropareiss diet should include:
- Protein, such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and cheese (soft fish may work best)
- Carbohydrates, such as toast, crackers, potatoes, rice, and pasta
- Fats, such as butter, oils, and mayonnaise
You should also drink plenty of fluids, such as sweetened fruit juice or soft drinks, water, and tea to stay hydrated, especially if you are vomiting a lot.
To help the digestive process along, UVA suggests these diet tips:
- Eat small, frequent meals (six per day).
- If solid foods do not pass through the stomach, eat a mostly liquid diet consisting of liquids and pureed foods.
- Avoid eating high-fiber foods, especially insoluble fiber, which are difficult to digest.
- Eat plenty of liquid fats for calories. Try milkshakes and smoothies made with milk and yogurt.
- Do not lie down after meals. Sit up for at least an hour after eating or take a walk.
- Chew foods thoroughly to break them down and help stimulate digestive juices.
Gastroparesis Diet Foods
UVA Health suggests the following foods for people with gastroparesis:
- Strained baby fruits, vegetables, or meats
- Cooked, canned, or pureed fruits and vegetables
- Hot cereals, such as Cream of Wheat, grits, or rice cereal
- White bread, egg bagels, pancakes, waffles, pita bread
- Puffed wheat and rice cereals
- Broths containing cooked noodles or pasta
- White rice
- Creamy peanut butter
- Baked french fries
- Baked potatoes or yams
- Arrowroot crackers
- Melba toast
- Ground or pureed lean meats and skinless poultry
- Water-packed tuna, clams, shrimp, lobster, crab, scallops, and oysters
- Cottage cheese
- Grated parmesan cheese
- Eggs (not fried)
- Hard candy and gum
Foods to Avoid
To prevent bezoar formation (a common condition in people with gastroparesis in which a mixture of indigestible food accumulates in the stomach), you should avoid these foods, including extremely fibrous ingredients:
- Oranges (whole)
- Brussels sprouts
- Green beans
- Potato peels
Other foods that may be difficult to digest include:
- Uncooked fruits and vegetables
- High-fat meats
- Deep-fried foods
To get the most calorie bang for your buck, try these tips:
- Add powdered milk to liquid milk.
- Drink sweetened fruit juices and soft drinks, such as Hi-C, lemonade, soda, orange juice, chocolate milk, Ovaltine, Gatorade, or cranberry juice instead of water.
- Add protein powder to milk, smoothies, and milkshakes.
- Add ice cream or sherbert to nutritional supplement drinks.
- Try gelatin, which provides protein and calories.
Use Your Blender
Pureed foods may not seem appealing, but they can be a nutritional lifesaver if you have gastroparesis. Almost any food can be pureed. To make pureed foods more appetizing, nutritious, and calorie-dense, blend them with broths, milk, gravy, and vegetable or fruit juices.
Sample Gastroparesis Diet
Following is a sample one-day gastroparesis diet. It includes six small meals and snacks.
- Breakfast: 1 cup Cream of Wheat cereal made with 1/2 cup milk; 1 scrambled egg; 1/2 cup cranberry juice or tea
- Mid-morning snack: 1 piece of white toast spread with 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
- Lunch: 1 cup vegetable soup; nutritional drink; 1/4 cup cottage cheese and 1/2 cup canned fruit, such as peaches or pears
- Mid-afternoon snack: Milkshake made with pureed fruit, milk, and vanilla yogurt
- Dinner: 2 ounces baked chicken or fish; 1/2 cup mashed potatoes or mashed sweet potatoes with 1 teaspoon butter; 1/2 cup cooked spinach or squash
- Evening snack: 1/2 cup to one cup pudding, frozen yogurt, custard, or gelatin
No Cure But There Is Hope
There's no cure for gastroparesis, but with a little planning, you can minimize symptoms and stay healthy. According to Arizona Digestive Health, a liquid diet may be necessary at first to allow time for your stomach to settle, but over time you should be able to incorporate specific solid foods, and even some fibrous ingredients. If you have gastroparesis, talk to your doctor about your symptoms and the best diet approach for you.