If you have gastroparesis, your stomach doesn’t empty as fast as it should. Your doctor may call it delayed gastric emptying. It can make you feel sick or vomit. Your belly may hurt, or it may seem really full after you eat a small amount of food. This can make it hard for you to get enough calories, vitamins, and minerals.
There isn’t an official gastroparesis diet. But you may feel better if you change how and what you eat. Your doctor might send you to a registered dietitian. They can help you figure out which foods work best. Here are a few tips.
How to Make and Eat Food
The goal is to ease your symptoms while making sure you get enough nutrition. Everyone is different, but your doctor or dietitian may tell you to:
Eat small meals more often. Try to space your meals out. Eat 4-6 times a day. Your stomach may swell less and empty faster if you don’t put too much in it. A small meal is about 1 to 1½ cups of food.
Eat healthy food first. It’s not a good idea to fill up on empty calories like desserts or snacks.
Eat less fiber and fat. These can slow stomach emptying. You may feel OK if you stay under 2-3 grams of fiber with each meal. You might need to try to keep your fat between 30 and 50 grams or less per day.
Add high-fat drinks. Your stomach might do OK with liquid fat. That’s good news if you need more calories.
Chew your food well. Solid food is harder for your stomach to digest. Your food should feel kind of like mashed potatoes before you swallow.
Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and other fluids every day. Dehydration can make your nausea worse. If you throw up a lot, your doctor may tell you to drink sports drinks or something else with sugar or electrolytes.
Eat solid foods first. Try solid food in the morning, and eat more liquid meals later in the day. If your symptoms are serious, your doctor may suggest you go on an all-liquid diet for a while.
What to Avoid
Too much fat. You’ll want to limit solid foods high in fat. That includes non-lean meats (sausage, hot dogs) and anything fried or greasy. Try fat-free, low-fat, or reduced-fat foods.
High-fiber food. Some fruits and vegetables can be hard to chew. They can also cause bezoar formations -- that’s when fiber clumps together. You can end up with a blockage in your stomach. Some experts say it’s like a cat with a hairball. Some high-fiber foods you may want to skip:
- Raw and dried fruits (such as apples, berries, coconuts, figs, oranges, and persimmons)
- Raw vegetables (such as Brussels sprouts, corn, green beans, lettuce, potato skins, and sauerkraut)
- Whole-grain cereal
- Nuts and seeds (including chunky nut butters and popcorn)
- Legumes or dried beans like lentils, soybeans, or baked beans
Tough food. That includes meats like steak and roast, or anything with skin.
Dairy. You may not digest lactose very well. That’s a sugar found in milk products. Use lactose-free or nondairy milk (like soy) instead.
Carbonated drinks. The extra air may fill up your stomach.
Large amounts of fluid. Too much liquid at once can make you feel really full. Try to take small sips while you eat.
What to Eat and Drink
You’ll need to try different foods to see what works for you. But your doctor may suggest:
- White pasta
- White bread
- English muffins, white
- Quick oats
- White rice
- Low-fiber cereals (less than 2 grams per serving)
- Lean meats (beef or pork)
- Smooth nut or seed butters (1-2 tablespoons)
Fruit (peeled, canned, or cooked)
- Peaches or pears
- Honeydew or cantaloupe
Vegetables (well-cooked and peeled)
Dairy or plant-based options
- Skim milk
- Soy, rice, almond milk
- Low-fat cheese
- Pudding or yogurt
- Fruit juices
- Sports drinks
- Protein smoothies
- Higher-fat milk (2% and whole milk, or full-fat oat milk)
- Nutritional drinks
Sit up. Don’t slouch or lie down while you eat. Try to stay upright for at least 1-3 hours after you’re done. This can lessen pressure on your stomach.
Take a walk. Your symptoms may get better if you go for a walk or move after you eat.
Keep a food journal. Write down what you eat and how you feel after. That can help you figure out which foods make your symptoms worse.
Gastroparesis and Diabetes
Uncontrolled diabetes can also slow stomach emptying. That’s because high blood sugar affects your nerves, including the ones in your belly. Talk to your doctor about how you can control your blood sugar.