Gastroparesis dietary guidelines: Foods to eat and foods to avoid

Heather Campbell
 min read

Gastroparesis dietary guidelines are necessary if you have been struggling for some time with various stomach complaints.

Gastroparesis dietary guidelines: Foods to eat and foods to avoidIf your doctor has diagnosed delayed gastric emptying, also known as gastroparesis, you are advised to start consuming foods rich in energy and protein, and to avoid high-fat foods.

As a general rule, the right nutrition can help with gastroparesis. Low-fat, protein-rich foods will certainly help. Also look for dairy low-fat foods, energy-rich snacks, and ensure to chew slowly and well. Avoid gas-forming foods and eat smaller meals spread throughout the day.

Changing your diet can help reduce symptoms!

Read on to find all kinds of helpful nutrition tips and advice for dealing wisely with delayed stomach movements.

Gastroparesis dietary guidelines: Introduction

Digestion begins in the mouth. While chewing the food, enzymes in the saliva already begin to digest certain nutrients.

Digestion then continues in the stomach. The stomach wall makes gastric juice and includes stomach acid and digestive enzymes.

While the upper part of the stomach has a storage function, the food is kneaded in the lower part of the stomach, finely ground, and well mixed with the gastric juice.

Digestive enzymes further break down the food and, through the exit of the stomach, food is passed bit by bit into the small intestine.

Then the nutrients are absorbed into the blood through the small intestine wall.

Gastroparesis or delayed gastric emptying

Gastroparesis or delayed gastric emptying is the result of a malfunction in the movements of the stomach.

This means that the stomach muscle contracts too little or too irregularly.

Therefore, food stays in the stomach longer than normal. In some cases, too large chunks of food, which are not sufficiently ground and kneaded, are delivered to the small intestine.

Normally, food remains in the stomach for about 3 hours before it is delivered to the small intestine. A very high-fat meal even takes a little longer than 3 hours.

Possible Causes

Unknown cause

In many people, the cause of delayed gastric emptying is unknown. A thorough examination often simply shows no abnormalities of the stomach.

In this case, delayed gastric emptying belongs to the so-called functional abdominal complaints or functional gastrointestinal complaints.

In other words, the symptoms are caused by a disturbed function of the stomach, but no visible abnormality is found.

The cause of this is unknown, though it is likely that stress and tension play a disruptive role in stomach function.

Demonstrable cause

However, in other cases, a demonstrable cause or abnormality can be found for delayed gastric emptying.

Some examples are as follows:

  • Taking some medications. Sedatives, medicines for high blood pressure, and medicines for Parkinson’s disease can slow stomach movements.
  • Diabetes mellitus. People with diabetes may eventually suffer from delayed gastric emptying as a complication.

Deteriorated kidney function or thyroid dysfunction may also result in delayed gastric emptying.

Tip: For more information on possible causes of delayed gastric emptying, check our other article Delayed gastric emptying: What causes gastroparesis + Treatment tips

Complaints

Common symptoms of delayed gastric emptying are nausea and sometimes vomiting after meals.

Other possible complaints include:

Foods rich in energy and protein as a guideline to keep gastric function going

High-energy foods stimulate the stomach

Food provides energy, which we need for everything we do. For example, to walk, run and cycle, and for every other bodily function.

Energy is provided by carbohydrates (containing sugars) and fats in the diet.

The amount of energy a person needs depends on, among other things, that person’s height, age, gender, and activities.

If you suffer from gastroparesis, fat is a lesser energy source because eating fat slows down your gastric emptying.

A good check to see if you are getting enough energy is to analyze your weight.

Our advice is to weigh yourself once a week at a set time. Is your weight staying the same or increasing? It it’s stable then you’re getting enough energy.

If, on the other hand, your weight is dropping, then the amount of energy you are taking in is (still) insufficient.

Illness causes a greater-than-normal need for energy.

Protein-rich foods to keep digestion going

Protein is a dietary component needed to build and maintain muscle and heal wounds. In other words, protein functions as a building material for the body.

In fact, when sick, it is the most important nutrient for recovery.

When you don’t get enough energy, your body uses proteins as an energy source (fuel) rather than as a building material. And this, among other things, leads to muscle breakdown.

Protein is found primarily in animal products such as meat, fish, chicken, cheese, and dairy products.

Protein is also found (to a lesser extent) in bread and legumes such as brown and white beans.

Nutrition Recommendations

There are several ways to take in more energy and protein with your diet.

Drink beverages that contain energy, such as fruit juice, low-fat dairy drinks, and syrup. Coffee, tea, and water do not contain energy.

Add sugar, honey, syrup, and syrup as needed, perhaps in coffee, tea, milk, custard, yogurt, porridge, fruit purée, and fruit juice.

Make ample use of high-protein products. Protein comes mainly from lean meat (products), chicken, fish, egg, milk (products), soy products, and legumes.

Hot meal

  • If (hot) meat is not digested well in your stomach, try using finely chopped meat, a ragout (small pieces of meat stewed with vegetables), or cold meat.
  • Alternate meat regularly with chicken, fish, omelet, or a vegetarian meat substitute.
  • A bowl of applesauce or another fruit puree with a hot meal provides a fresh change.
  • If you have a day with less energy, you can choose a ready-made meal or products from a can, glass, or freezer. All you have to do is warm these up. Consider refrigerated meals, frozen meals from the supermarket, or a meal from the butcher or greengrocer. You can also order meals from a catering service or other meal provider.
  • You can also cook a large batch and prepare your meals for 2 or 3 days at a time and freeze a part of it.
  • For variety, choose a compound dish of rice, pasta, potatoes, stew, legumes, or a meal soup.
  • Should you have a lot of trouble with the hot meal in terms of digestion, make a well-filled soup with lots of meat, vegetables, and vermicelli.
  • There are few nutrients in broth. A small amount of broth before a meal can stimulate the appetite, though. Preferably choose bound soups and incorporate meatballs or chicken pieces into a clear soup or broth.

Dairy products and cheese

  • Low-fat dairy products such as milk, milk products, and cheese can be used with your main meals and as snacks.
  • Look into ready-made desserts or puddings.
  • If you can’t or won’t use dairy, soy products are a good alternative. Soy products provide the same amount of protein as regular dairy products. Calcium and various B vitamins are added.

Energy-rich snacks

  • A cracker or rusk topped with cheese or cold cuts or a slice of bread spread with butter.
  • If you are out and about or on the road, bring something to eat, such as a cookie, a packet of fruit juice, or low-fat (chocolate) milk.

Additional dietary advice and tips against gastroparesis

With delayed gastric emptying (or gastroparesis), food is kneaded too slowly and not mixed enough with gastric juice, and not propelled properly toward your small intestine.

It is also known that the stomach needs more time to process very fatty meals.

Thus, in terms of diet, we recommend the following to combat delayed gastric emptying:

  • Avoid high-fiber foods such as raw vegetables, granola, and whole wheat bread.
  • Eat slowly and chew well. Haste and haste are not good.
  • Take a leisurely walk after meals to stimulate digestion.
  • Does the hot meal in the evening give you more complaints? Then move it to the afternoon.
  • Avoid fatty foods. Choose semi-skimmed and low-fat milk products, lean meats and low-fat meats, and low-fat (spread) cheese. Avoid fried foods and nuts. Do not add fat such as cream to soup, for example.
  • Have smaller meals and spread them well throughout the day. Have three small main meals and three to four small snacks in between.
  • Solid foods stay in the stomach longer than liquid foods. Do symptoms increase with solid foods? If so, replace all or part of these with liquid foods.
  • In diabetes mellitus: hyperglycemia, excessive blood sugar, slows gastric emptying. So always strive for good blood glucose levels.
  • Some foods have little effect on gastric emptying but can cause symptoms. Examples include coffee, carbonated (soft) drinks, beer and other alcoholic beverages, herbs, and spices. Large amounts of gas-forming foods such as cabbage, peppers, onion, garlic, and leeks can also cause symptoms. In case of complaints, avoid these products.
  • After eating, do not lie down and stay upright for at least 30 minutes.

Gastroparesis dietary guidelines: Conclusion

It is possible to alleviate symptoms of gastroparesis with these dietary guidelines.

Avoid fatty foods as these naturally stay longer in the stomach, and opt for more lean-protein meals.

The above information contains some basic and sensible guidelines, but you must always consult your doctor at all times.

About Heather Campbell

As a dietitian, my field of specialization is science-based nutritional advice but more importantly, it is my goal to share capturing and inspiring stories, examples and solutions which can help plus-size individuals overcome their specific difficulties. Read More