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By Karen Alexander, Oncology Wellness Specialist


Managing Gastroparesis with Diet

Gastroparesis is a condition in which your stomach takes longer than normal to empty. The prevalence of gastroparesis is difficult to estimate, but statistics show that about 1.5 million Americans suffer from severe gastroparesis. This condition occurs in 20 to 50 percent of patients with diabetes.

Acute gastroparesis may be caused by drugs, viruses, electrolyte disturbance, or postoperative ileus. Chronic causes include diabetes, GERD, endocrine disturbances, achalasia, anorexia nervosa, and some cancers.

Gastroparesis symptoms include heartburn, early satiety, flatulence, nausea/vomiting, belching, bloating, and upper abdominal pain or discomfort, especially after eating. Complications of gastroparesis include malnutrition, dehydration, and bezoar formation. A bezoar is a solid mass of indigestible material that accumulates in your digestive tract, often causing blockage.

Diagnostic studies inc to measure stomach emptying and diagnose gastroparesis, such as scintigraphy, antro-duodenal manometry, upper endoscopy, ultrasound, barium beefsteak meal, and barium X-ray. Medical treatment facilitates gastric emptying, suppresses nausea, and barium gastric electrical stimulation.

Dietetic recommendations include:

  • Improve glucose control if you have diabetes.
  • Chew foods well before swallowing. Solid foods in your stomach will not empty well.
  • Drink fluids when eating, and sit upright or walk after meals to promote proper digestion.
  • Eat small meals frequently.  
  • If gastroparesis is severe, drink liquids or eat foods that dissolve easily so they are able to pass by partial obstruction before or during digestion. Oral nutrition supplements such as Ensure ®, Orgain ®, Kate Farms ®, or Boost ® can improve your nutrient intake.
  • Avoid foods high in fat since they may delay digestion. However, liquids that contain fat, such as milkshakes, can provide needed calories.
  • Avoid foods high in fiber.
  • Correct dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Avoid fibrous foods that can cause gastric or intestine blockage due to bezoars such as oranges, coconuts, green beans, apples, figs, potato skins, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and sauerkraut.

Foods to try:

  • Milk
  • Milkshakes and smoothies
  • Yogurt
  • Puddings and custard
  • Pureed foods
  • Soup
  • Vegetable juices
  • Fruit juices

You can start with this list and expand it based on your tolerance.

Have a wonderful weekend!
Karen Alexander, BSND, MSCN

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