Foods You Can Eat When You Have Gastroparesis

Finding foods to eat with gastroparesis can present quite a challenge. Your physician or a registered dietitian can develop a nutritious diet that includes choices from every major food group. Ideally, your eating plan will also promote faster stomach emptying.

Lean meats such as chicken are good when you have gastroparesis. (Image: istetiana/Moment/GettyImages)

Learn About Gastroparesis Causes

If you've ever been troubled by annoying belly bloat, you're probably aware that this maddening symptom can accompany several gastrointestinal problems. Gastroparesis, or an abnormally slow transit of food from your stomach to the small intestine, is one of the culprits, according to Harvard Health.

Gastroparesis causes are well-defined, states gastroenterologist Michael Cline, DO of the Cleveland Clinic. The disease primarily results from peripheral nerve and muscle damage or non-functionality.

For diabetic patients, it manifests itself as a neuropathy-based condition linked to nerve damage. In non-diabetic patients, muscular issues have a larger role. The nerve endings appear to function properly, but the muscles don't respond in a normal fashion.

Some patients with connective tissue diseases, such as muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis, have developed gastroparesis as a secondary condition. In other instances, patients who had recovered from a viral infection were left with unpleasant nausea and vomiting symptoms. Dr. Cline notes that some of these cases may resolve themselves over time, although there's no guarantee that will occur.

Gastroparesis can also develop following surgery for a gastrointestinal problem, according to Dr. Cline. This unforeseen complication occurs when the vagus nerve is compromised during a surgical procedure.

Finally, gastroparesis causes include incidents in which an unrelated medication affects a patient's intestinal motility. In other words, the drug triggers a slowdown in normal digestive function. Dr. Cline stresses that these cases are challenging as the trigger drug can negate the benefits of gastroparesis medications.

Foods to Eat With Gastroparesis

To manage gastroparesis, you must provide your body with adequate nutrients every day, states the Mayo Clinic. To help you achieve this goal, your physician can provide a referral to a registered dietitian. She'll create a tailored food plan that includes easy-to-digest foods rich in essential nutrients and calories.

A well-rounded gastroparesis diet includes multiple choices from each major food group. Easily digestible proteins, such as lean meats, turkey, chicken, seafood, eggs and tofu, are all a good choice.

Your gastroparesis diet should also include vegetables and fruits, such as cooked mushrooms and carrots. Consider tomato sauces and purees, bananas and canned peaches and pears.

Some good starchy options are English muffins, pancakes, rice, pasta and baked French fries. If you can tolerate dairy products, milk, non-fruit yogurt and frozen yogurt are potential options. These foods to eat with gastroparesis form the starting point for a diet that should help meet your nutritional needs.

Enjoy Better Digestive Health

In addition to including easily digestible foods in a gastroparesis diet, the Mayo Clinic recommends that you chew your food completely before swallowing it. Stay away from carbonated beverages as they can contribute to abdominal bloating. Instead, make sure you consume between 34 and 51 ounces of water daily.

After a meal, engage in light exercise, such as a leisurely walk. If possible, don't lie down for two hours after finishing a meal. Giving up smoking and alcohol is also a step in the right direction.

While planning your meals, the University of Virginia Health System emphasizes that you should keep your goal weight in mind. Ensure that you're getting enough daily calories to maintain that weight.

Also, focus on consuming foods that provide your body with essential nutrients, rather than great-tasting snack foods that don't have any nutritional value. Although foods and beverages like soda and snack cakes aren't usually off-limits, they should be the exception, not your first choice.

Empty Your Stomach Faster

To help food pass through your stomach more quickly, don't send large quantities of food to your digestive system at once, says Indiana University Health. Consume smaller meals more often. As a bonus, this strategy should also reduce stomach distention and minimize that "bloated" feeling.

As a guideline, include four to six well-balanced meals in your daily diet. Remember, you want to meet your nutritional goals while providing your digestive system with favorable conditions for faster transit. Finally, encourage your stomach to process food more quickly by drinking fluids with every meal.

In addition to diet modifications, the Medical University of South Carolina states that your physician may prescribe medications that enable your stomach to empty its contents more quickly.

Although these medications aren't guaranteed to work for every patient, they may be useful in your gastroparesis management tool kit. A nausea-reducing drug may also help relieve the uncomfortable symptoms associated with this condition.

Choose the Best Gastroparesis Treatment

Treating gastroparesis isn't an exact science, emphasizes the University of Rochester Medical Center. Naturally, your physician is best equipped to tailor a treatment plan to your specific needs. She (or he) will consider your general health, age and symptoms. Your condition's severity will also factor into the equation.

As a baseline, your physician will likely discontinue medications that are known to trigger gastroparesis. If you are diabetic, keeping your blood sugar under control will be the paramount goal.

Your doctor or a registered dietitian will modify your diet and eating habits, and that should help to set the stage for faster stomach emptying. Your medical team will recommend that you consume more easily digestible foods. Liquid meals could also be on the menu.

Medications are part of your physician's gastroparesis treatment tool kit too. As with many medical conditions, she may find it necessary to prescribe different drugs before one produces positive results.

If you're frequently plagued by a queasy stomach and vomiting episodes, a gastric neurotransmitter may provide relief. A surgeon will implant this small device during a surgical procedure.

If you are battling a severe case of gastroparesis, a jejunostomy may be appropriate. During this procedure, a surgeon inserts a feeding tube through your abdominal skin and into the small intestine. When complete, the tube routes nutrients directly to the small intestine, bypassing the stomach entirely.

Intravenous feeding nutrition may be another severe case treatment option. Here, your digestive system is eliminated from the equation. Instead, nutrients are sent directly to a chest vein and then through your bloodstream via a very small catheter or tube.

Consider Taking Gastroparesis Medications

Physicians use varied medications to help their patients cope with this disorder. There is little fact-based information on the most effective gastroparesis medication, partly because each patient's physiology and disease progression differ from others' profiles.

As noted by the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders, Metoclopramide is the only FDA-approved gastroparesis drug. However, physicians frequently prescribe other FDA-approved medications for their patients in a permitted practice commonly called "off-label use."

Simply put, doctors call upon their past clinical outcomes and check how a specific medication typically affects similar symptoms before choosing a medication for each patient.

The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health points to the use of medications that facilitate stomach contractions. These drugs are designed to stimulate the movement of food through your gastrointestinal tract and may help your stomach to empty faster.

In contrast, opioids and other pain medications cause your stomach to empty more slowly. For that reason, your physician may consider other pain management options while treating your condition.

Can Gastroparesis Cause Cancer?

According to New York-based Stony Brook University Hospital, untreated gastroparesis may contribute to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and malnutrition. The facility's Gastrointestinal Motility Center does not include cancer in that discussion.

However, the converse would appear to be true. A February 2014 study published in the BMJ Case Reports described the case of a patient who developed gastroparesis as a complicating factor in her existing cancer.

There also appears to be an association between radiation therapy and subsequent gastroparesis development. An August 2017 study featured in the Journal of Gastrointestinal Oncology detailed the case of a 69-year-old woman who had received two courses of radiation for metastatic breast cancer.

Upon initial evaluation, the patient reported vomiting and nausea. She also described a feeling of abdominal fullness. Her symptoms progressively worsened, and after several weeks, she vomited every food that she consumed.

Following analysis of several diagnostic tests and consideration of the patient's radiation therapy, medical specialists concluded that she was experiencing radiation-induced gastroparesis. After treatment with an IV-administered drug, with a follow-up of four weeks of oral medication, she returned to a normal nutritional state.

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