The gastrointestinal tract plays a critical role in allowing the body to function normally. Food is processed by the digestive system, which forms part of the gastrointestinal tract.
As the food is processed, the digestive system breaks it down. This allows the body to absorb essential nutrients. Certain health conditions can affect digestive process1.
Gastroparesis is one condition that can lead to serious complications. No cure exists for this disease. There are several strategies that patients can use to relieve symptoms.
Patients should ensure they understand how their diet affects the condition. Some foods can cause symptoms to become worse. Certain foods may ease symptoms associated with gastroparesis.
We take a closer look at what gastroparesis is. We will also consider the most appropriate gastroparesis diet that patients should follow.
What Is Gastroparesis?
There are muscles in the stomach that control the spontaneous movements of the digestive system. These muscles assist with the motility of the digestive system. They contract spontaneously. This allows food to move from the stomach to the lower parts of the digestive tract.
Gastroparesis is a condition that harms these muscles2. The condition causes problems with the spontaneous contractions and movements of the motility muscles in the stomach.
When this happens, food does not move effectively through the gastrointestinal tract. The movement of food through the digestive system becomes slow. This can cause a number of problems. Gastric emptying is slowed when gastroparesis develops. It takes longer for food to move from the small intestine to the large intestine and to be expelled from the body.
The complications of gastroparesis can also lead to serious health problems. When the patient continuously vomits due to the condition, they may suffer from dehydration. Nutritional deficiencies are also commonly found among people with gastroparesis.
There are different types of this condition. Diabetic gastroparesis seems to be rather common. This is found in patients previously diagnosed with diabetes. The combination of these two conditions can lead to serious concerns. Blood sugar will be difficult to manage, partly due to the delayed gastric emptying. High blood glucose levels can lead to other problems too.
Idiopathic gastroparesis is another type of condition that some patients develop.
People with gastroparesis need to watch what they eat and consider their lifestyle. Some lifestyle factors are known to make the condition worse. Changing these habits are often considered the best option when treating gastroparesis.
There are several potential risk factors for the condition. People with Parkinson’s disease have a higher risk of gastroparesis. The condition has also been linked to multiple sclerosis, vagus nerve injury, and hypothyroidism.
Symptoms Of Gastroparesis
Due to the complications associated with gastroparesis, people must recognize the symptoms. Taking action early on can help to manage the condition more effectively. This may also help to reduce the risk of certain complications.
Various symptoms may signal the presence of gastroparesis. Some of these symptoms are linked to other conditions too. This is why a consultation with a doctor is helpful.
The doctor can determine if the patient has gastroparesis. Other possible causes for the symptoms can also be ruled out.
Symptoms that patients should take note of include3:
- Heartburn occurs in many patients with gastroparesis.
- Other symptoms associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, can develop.
- Some people will vomit food that has not been digested.
- Nausea and vomiting are both common symptoms.
- Stomach upset is also relatively common.
- Some patients complain about bloating.
- Blood sugar control is difficult with gastroparesis.
- Many patients find that they lose their appetite. This can also lead to weight loss due to lower calories consumed.
- Some people have pain in their abdomen.
When nutrients are not absorbed, the immune system can become weak. This increases the risk of bacterial overgrowth and other problems.
Foods To Eat If You Have Gastroparesis
Diet changes often provide the best management strategy for gastroparesis. Patients should ensure they learn more about the foods they can eat on a gastroparesis diet.
This will help the individual determine what types of food they can prepare for dinner and other meals of the day. It also enables the person to set up a meal plan that will be beneficial to their digestive system.
- Vegeatbles: Vegetables are essential for people with gastroparesis. The body finds it harder to absorb nutrients properly in people with the condition. Eating more vegetables can provide a larger supply of nutrients for the body.
Vegetables should ideally be cooked. Some people find that straining vegetables are useful. It is also possible to use a blender to create a type of vegetable smoothie.
- Fruit: Apart from vegetables, fruits should also be included in a person’s diet. Both fruits and vegetables are rich sources of crucial vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. It is also generally advised that fruit be cooked before eating them on a gastroparesis diet. Some people also find it beneficial to make a smoothie using a blender.
People with gastroparesis may also benefit from drinking juices and using milk products. Not everyone with gastroparesis is able to tolerate these beverages.
The person should first have a small amount of these drinks. This will allow them to determine if they can tolerate them. Drinks that can be tolerated can then be included in a person’s diet.
Other foods that can also be included in a gastroparesis diet:
- Certain types of bread are good. The bread variety consumed should not have too much fiber in it, however.
- Cereals can also be included in the diet. The cereal should not focus on providing the person with extra fiber.
- Pureed meats can be consumed. Some people rather prefer ground meats. Both of these products can provide the person with vitamin B12 and other nutrients generally only available in meat products.
Foods To Avoid If You Have Gastroparesis
Apart from understanding what food to eat, people should also realize that some foods can worsen symptoms linked to gastroparesis.
A large number of foods can cause problems with the digestive system when a person has this condition. Many of these foods cannot be tolerated. Others may cause a further delay in gastric emptying.
- Fatty foods: A person should ensure they do not eat too many foods that contain a lot of fat. Fatty foods are generally the first thing that should be eliminated from a patient’s diet once diagnose with gastroparesis. It is known that fat causes a delay in stomach emptying. This accounts for food only. Some people can benefit from still drinking beverages that contain fat.
- High fiber foods: It is also generally advised to avoid eating foods that are high in fiber. Fiber is generally considered a beneficial compound in food. It helps to keep a person full. It also aids in helping to improve digestive health. It is not the same in people with gastroparesis, however.
Fiber is known to delay the process of gastric emptying. This is something that a person with gastroparesis wants to avoid. When there is too much fiber, symptoms caused by the condition may become worse. This is because the condition already causes the digestive process to work slower than it should.
The slow digestive system also increases the risk of fiber substances binding together. When this happens, the patient may experience a blockage in their stomach. This complication is referred to as a bezoar4. It can lead to severe consequences – and will usually require urgent medical care.
High fiber foods to be avoided include:
Several vegetables are rich in fiber content. The following vegetables should also be avoided in a gastroparesis diet:
- Brussels sprouts
- Green peas
- Potato peels
- Green beans
Apart from this, it is also important to avoid foods that can be difficult to chew. These foods may also cause problems with the digestive process. The body may find it harder to process these foods. Examples of foods generally considered more challenging to chew include:
Gastroparesis Recovery Diet
Gastroparesis is considered a chronic disease. There are no known cures for the disease. When a patient develops the condition, they should ensure they follow an appropriate treatment plan. A treatment plan will focus on managing the condition. This can help to reduce the symptoms of the patient experience.
Once diagnosed, patients are often advised to follow a gastroparesis recovery diet. This type of diet will usually include three steps5. The patient starts at step one, which is a liquid diet.
The goal of the first step in the diet is to help rehydrate the patient’s body. The step only consists of liquids. Apart from hydrating the body, the initial step of the diet also provides the body with salts and certain minerals.
The second step usually includes more solid foods. About 40 grams of dietary fat is added to the patient’s diet. Healthy fats are preferred during this step. The small amount of dietary fat can generally be tolerated by the body.
A long-term maintenance program is provided in step three. The patient will usually limit their intake of foods that are high in fiber. They will also not eat more than 50 grams of dietary fats per day.
Knowing what foods to eat and what to avoid is vital for people with gastroparesis. This, however, is not the only lifestyle changes that can help. There are a few other diet tips that can be useful for people with this condition.
Here are a few tips that people should consider to assist in managing gastroparesis:
- The patient should ensure they properly chew all of their food before swallowing. This can help to make it easier for the gastrointestinal tract to digest the food.
- The person should consider having smaller meals. They can then have multiple meals per day. Five small meals have a lower chance of causing symptoms compared to two or three large meals.
- Taking a supplement with the diet can help to address nutritional deficiencies. People with this condition offer suffer from these deficiencies. Adding a multivitamin supplement can help to reduce such risks.
- A person should also drink adequate fluids, including water. Dehydration is a common problem with gastroparesis. By drinking enough water and other fluids, a patient can reduce their risk of dehydration. This can also help to improve the absorption of nutrients, which is a common concern with slow stomach emptying.
Gastroparesis can cause serious problems if not treated. The condition leads to slow gastric emptying. Severe gastroparesis may lead to serious dehydration and nutrient deficiencies.
Even though there is no cure, simple lifestyle changes can help. Implementing an appropriate gastroparesis diet can help a patient experience a relief in symptoms. There are also some foods that a person should avoid. These foods may aggravate the condition.
Personally I found nothing really improved my gastroparesis until I went almost entirely meat based and high fat. Fruit, vegetables and bread are all pretty bad for me, and eating 5 small meals a day is a great way to gain weight due to the constant insulin spikes.