Written by Sandra Solinas | Gastroparesis patient and advocate
Diet is one aspect of gastroparesis you can take the initiative to actively manage. Not only will a healthy diet improve how we feel but also keep us nourished to avoid other issues such as malnutrition
Malnutrition often occur due to us not being able to eat enough nutrition and malabsorption of what little nutrients we do eat. Thus it is important for us to address these issues early on the in the process to avoid further complications.
Diet is an individual thing while some can tolerate food orally while others are unable to as it causes them too much pain therefore these persons may be entirely tube fed.
Safe foods are foods we can eat and are able to tolerate without issues (major) but as you will find out that gastroparesis is so unpredictable what we can eat today may not be safe the next.
“Nutritional meal replacement drinks such as Ensure or Sustagen with low fat milk or almond milk. For those that are lactose intolerant or have allergies, Kate Farm shake or tasteless collagen/beef protein powder with soy milk, banana and honey mix” Jodie, Eliza, Karna & Hope
Diet needs to be modified so that we ensuring that we are getting our daily requirements of nutrients and are able to maintain nutrition. This can be done in a number of ways:
- When we can eat, to eat within our limits and restrictions
- We can use supplements such as Ensure or Sustagen
- On difficult day, is it important that we at least keep our liquid intake up
Meals are centred around volume therefore you might spread out your meals into smaller snacks 6 – 8 times a day. The trick is to keep the belly as empty as possible. Too much food can create a pile up of new food on top of food that is already there and undigested, this leads to spoilage intensifying our nausea and vomiting episodes.
There are some great cook books and resources for gastroparesis (left to right)
- Karen Frazier | The Gastroparesis Cookbook
- Crystal Zaborowski Saltrelli | Living Well with Gastroparesis
- Crystal Zaboroski saltrelli | Eating for Gastroparesis Guidelines tips and Recipes
- Crystal Saltrelli | Quick Start Guide to Gastroparesis Management (Free at http://livingwithgastroparesis.com/)
Diet should be low in fats, fat slows down digestion and motility. Diet should be soft and foods that are cooked well. If you are able to eat orally my suggestion would be to start out with pumpkin, potato, sweet potato, and vegetable soups that have been pureed or blended and well strained.
Some patients have found it helpful to keeping a low FODMAP diet. This means avoiding small carbohydrates in certain foods.
This link to the low FODMAP diet by Monash University is a great resource
There should be a limit to fibre or in some cases no fibre. However, no fibre can create other issues such as constipation and insulin-resistance.
Not all fibres are the same, there are two types:
Soluble fibres – Absorb water and become thick like toothpaste in your gut. Think of oats, beans, figs, anything that becomes mushy when mixed with water. They are helpful in absorbing sugar and cholesterol BUT are difficult to move and can lead to constipation if you eat too much.
Insoluble fibres – DON’T absorb water, they behave like dry hay and will move quickly through your system. Think salad, apples, corn, anything that doesn’t mix with water. They are helpful in keeping you regular BUT too much can lead to diarrhoea.
“I use Spirulina powder in smoothies or yogurt when my gastroparesis is not flaring too much” – Jodie
Successful management of fibre involves speaking with your doctor or dietitian and monitoring your symptoms to finding the right balance of soluble and insoluble fibres.
You can also ask a dietitian to obtaining some further nutritional supplements at cheaper prices through a program or their links with suppliers.