The word gastroparesis literally means a weak stomach. In this condition, the stomach's ability to digest solid food decreases. This happens because the stomach muscles responsible for pushing the food through the digestive tract do not work properly. This often results into delayed stomach emptying. In gastroparesis, the stomach requires extra time to empty its contents into the intestine.
Specific dietary changes play an important role in controlling gastroparesis. Changes in diet is the right approach to improve the patient's health. Doctors often recommend to have small frequent meals (6 to 8 meals daily) instead of having large meals twice a day. The stomach will require more effort to digest a super sized meal than a lighter snack. Pureed or a liquid diet will be better tolerated, as liquids can easily and quickly pass through the stomach. When it comes to eating food some guidelines should be followed by gastroparesis patients. It is discussed below:
It is necessary to avoid high fiber and high fat foods. Fiber is mainly found in raw vegetables and fruits, legumes and whole grains. As the stomach will take extra time to digest fiber foods, the intake of these foods must be minimized. For this reason people diagnosed with gastroparesis, are often recommended to have low fiber foods, well cooked vegetables, fish and refined breads. This is because fat slows down the process of digestion and fiber cannot be easily digested. The indigestible part of food forms bezoars in the stomach. Foods that can cause bezoars include berries, dried figs, coconut, apples, tomato peels, potato, brussels sprouts and corn.
High fiber foods such as broccoli and orange contain nutrients that are simply difficult to digest. Indigestion is something that cannot be tolerated as the stomach is already weak in this condition. An important point to note is the food that cannot be digested remains in the stomach, and can cause further complications.Though a bowlful of salad supports healthy bowel movement, it is not easy to digest for people with gastroparesis. So, reducing portion size of salads is very important to manage gastroparesis.
Fried or greasy vegetables can aggravate the symptoms, hence it must not be consumed. To fulfill the requirement of calories and nutrients contained in high fat liquids, one can have small servings of rich drinks such as milkshakes. The diet for gastroparesis must contain adequate protein and calories. This can be easily achieved by taking nutritional supplements like Ensure, Boost or Glucerna.
People with gastroparesis are comfortable eating pureed food and soups. The process of pureeing involves crushing fruits and vegetables to make a thick paste (sauce). Almost any type of food can be pureed. As gastroparesis patients are not allowed to eat high fat foods, deficiency in essential nutrients such as calcium, iron and vitamin B-12 may occur. To compensate the loss, one can include mineral supplements in their diet.
Vomiting is the most common symptom of gastroparesis. This often leads to dehydration (loss of water). So it is necessary to have plenty of water in a day. One can also have fruit and vegetable juices. The daily dosage of fluids required by the body needs to be fulfilled in order to stay healthy.
Tips to Control Gastroparesis
Apart from following the recommended diet, one should make some changes pertaining to the way we have our meals. It is discussed below:
Good Eating Habits
Chewing the food properly before pushing it down the throat can go a long way in managing gastroparesis. Having meals hastily without giving much priority to chewing is not good, especially for a stomach that is working poorly. As the stomach is unable to contract normally in gastroparesis, it can be extremely difficult for the stomach to push semi-solid or solid food. To be on the safer side, one should choose foods that are easy to chew. For instance nuts like almonds, walnuts and cashew nuts require a lot of chewing and so have to be avoided.
Increase Fluid Intake
Increasing fluid intake during meals can soften food and facilitate its movement through the stomach. Drinking water while having lunch or dinner can certainly help to improve digestion of patients suffering from gastroparesis.
Be Active After Meals
Also, one should not lie down immediately after meals as it can delay emptying of the stomach substantially. Gastroparesis patients are expected to walk for at least for an hour post meals to speed up emptying of stomach. Any light physical activity after meals will ensure that the ingested food does not spend much time in the stomach and is passed down to the intestine at the earliest.
Use a Blender
One can also use a blender to soften foods. For instance, gastroparesis patients may not be allowed to eat cooked vegetables and meat. However, these semi-solid food items can always be pureed using a blender.
Most patients respond well consuming pureed foods and nutritional supplements. But some people with gastroparesis suffer from severe stomach problem. As a result, they are not able to tolerate any liquids or food. In such a case, the doctor may insert a feeding tube into a small intestine. Modifications in the diet aforementioned can definitely help the person to cope with the disorder and lead a normal life.