How to Treat a Crohn's Flare

Is There a Gastroparesis Diet?

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.

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Eat healthy food first. It’s not a good idea to fill up on empty calories like desserts or snacks.

Blend your meals. Liquids leave your stomach faster than solids. Toss your food in a blender or food processor with water, juice, milk, or broth. You can blend meat too, including fish and chicken.

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.

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Alcohol and smoking. These may slow your stomach emptying even more.

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:

Starches

  • White pasta
  • White bread
  • Crackers
  • English muffins, white

Grains

  • Quick oats
  • White rice
  • Low-fiber cereals (less than 2 grams per serving)

Protein

  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Tofu
  • Lean meats (beef or pork)
  • Smooth nut or seed butters (1-2 tablespoons)

Fruit (peeled, canned, or cooked)

  • Applesauce
  • Bananas
  • Grapefruit
  • 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

High-calorie drinks

  • Fruit juices
  • Sports drinks
  • Milkshakes
  • Protein smoothies
  • Higher-fat milk (2% and whole milk, or full-fat oat milk)
  • Nutritional drinks

Other Tips

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.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on February 07, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

American Gastroenterological Association: “Gastroparesis.”

Gut and Liver: “Gastroparesis Updates on Pathogenesis and Management.”

Gastroenterology: “Dietary Intake and Nutritional Deficiencies in Patients with Diabetic or Idiopathic Gastroparesis.”

University of Virginia Heath System: “Gastroparesis Diet Tips.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Diet for Gastroparesis.”

International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders: “Basic Dietary Guidelines.”

Michigan Medicine: “Gastroparesis Nutrition Therapy.”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Treatment for Gastroparesis.”

UW Health: “Gastroparesis.”

National Organization for Rare Disorders: “Gastroparesis.”

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