Gastroparesis is the medical term for delayed stomach emptying. During the process of digestion, the stomach must contract to empty itself of food and liquid. Normally, it contracts about three times a minute. This empties the stomach within 90-120 minutes after eating. If contractions are sluggish or less frequent, stomach emptying is delayed. This results in bothersome and sometimes serious symptoms, as well as malnutrition, because food is not being digested properly.
Gastroparesis may be caused by various conditions such as diabetes mellitus, certain disorders of the nervous system, or certain drugs. Often however, no cause can be found although a viral infection is suspected in some. Usually, the physician prescribes medication to stimulate the stomach to contract. The purpose of the gastroparesis diet is to reduce symptoms and maintain adequate fluids and nutrition.
- Eat small, frequent meals. Eating 5-6 small meals a day gives your stomach time to digest the food you give it.
- Liquid foods are better tolerated than solid foods. Begin with a liquid or puree diet which maybe better tolerated. Liquids pass through the stomach more easilly and quickly than solids. Try sipping on liquids throughout the day. Liquid nutritional supplements such as Ensure, Boost, Boost Glucose control or Glucerna may help you achieve adequate calories. Advance your diet to soft food as your symptoms improve and remember to chew your foods well.
- Reduce fat intake. Fat naturally slows digestion. It is better tolerated in liquid form. Avoid all fried, fat, or greasy foods.
- Reduce fiber intake. Fiber slows digestion. Avoid all raw fruits and vegetables and whole grain products.
- Maintain control over blood sugars. Drastic changes in blood sugar can impair gastric emptying.
- Reduce or eliminate narcotic pain medications. Some pain medications such as narcotics will slow down the stomach’s ability to contract and therefore impair emptying. You might want to try to switch narcotic pain medications to a different class of medications.