Good Food Choices with Gastroparesis Diagnosis
August is Gastroparesis Awareness Month. Gastrointestinal specialists estimate that five million adults have gastroparesis and three-quarters are women. Gastroparesis means stomach (gastro) paralysis (paresis). This digestive disorder is characterized by a stomach that does not digest food or move stomach contents in a timely fashion into the small intestines so food stays in the stomach longer than it should.
These are the common symptoms of gastroparesis:
- Nausea and occasionally vomiting
- Bloating after eating
- Early fullness when eating or getting filled up quickly
- Stomach pain
There are a number of possible causes for gastroparesis:
- The number 1 cause is type 1 or type 2 diabetes, either poorly control or with neuropathy
- Neuromuscular diseases such as Parkinson’s where there can be vagus nerve damage; this nerve controls the stomach muscles
- Autoimmune diseases
- Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia which will disrupt normal digestion processes
- Surgery of the upper intestinal tract which may damage the vagus nerve
- Chronic use of certain medications such as narcotics and antidepressants
Stomach symptoms need to be checked out to be sure there are no other issues like ulcer disease or a tumor. A diagnosis of gastroparesis after a gastric emptying test means treatment will include food changes to help the stomach digest food properly and thoroughly, and that means better absorption of nutrients. Food changes help the stomach crush food up better getting it into small particles to move into the small intestines.
What foods are okay?
- Low fiber foods
- Little to no raw fruits and vegetables
- No whole grains
- Low in fat
- Lean tender protein like fish, eggs, low-fat cheese and poultry
- Food should be soft cooked.
- Chew meals well to break up the food making it easier for the stomach to finish up the digestion process.
- Stay upright after eating to allow gravity to help the food move through the stomach.
For example, canned fruits have been peeled and heated in the canning process so they are digested more easily than raw fruits. Cooked carrots or beets are better than a salad. Soft oatmeal bread is better than a coarse 7-grain bread with seeds.
About the Author
Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.
By: Rita P. Smith, MS, RD, CDE, Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital