What to eat with Gastroparesis
Out of all my disorders, Gastroparesis seems to be the one hindering me the most at the moment. I can tolerate the pain just find on my own (with the help of Zofran, which surprisingly cuts my pain in half). As long as I remember to take Midodrine, my dizziness is a non-issue. It’s winter, so my heat intolerance is fine. While my anxiety could be better, I still think that my nausea is worse.
However, I have done a lot in my daily life to accommodate my chronic nausea, and over the years I have found a few things that have helped me tremendously. So, I have compiled my list of Gastroparesis Dos and Don’ts. I hope this helps my fellow Gastroparesis and chronic nausea sufferers. Please note that everyone is different, and these are things that I have personally found to be helpful.
Don’t Eat Uncooked Vegetables and Fruits
Believe it or not, uncooked vegetables and fruits are incredibly difficult to digest. They are incredibly high in fiber. Now, my mom is always telling me to add fiber to my diet to decrease my constipation, but I often complain that fiber makes me nauseous and gives me acid reflux. While fiber is helpful for most normal people, those with delayed gastric emptying, IBS, and other stomach disorders struggle to digest fiber. While it may help bowel movements, it will cause nausea and stomach pain.
Additionally, it is wise to avoid other foods that are high in fiber (such as beans and lentils).
Do Eat Cooked Vegetables and Fruits
I practically live off of stir-fry at college. Cooked vegetables and fruits have less fiber, and are much easier to digest. However, there are exceptions to the rule. For example, tomatoes are lower in fiber uncooked and I find tomatoes, tomato soup, and tomato juice to be an awesome way to increase my salt intake (Dysautonomia win).
Don’t Eat Fried Foods
I know, this one is difficult. I went to college in the south, and EVERYTHING was fried. Fried chicken was my best friend. I love fried foods, but they do not love me. Anything fried is difficult to digest, and can actually move through the digestive tract undigested too quickly. This can cause blockages and indigestion. Stay away from fried foods, friends.
Do Eat More Chicken
Unfortunately, Chick-Fil-A is mostly fried, but that doesn’t make their slogan any less true. Eating grilled or baked chicken breast (preferably without the skin) tends to be easier to digest, and better for your gastrointestinal tract. Chicken is probably the one of the best sources of protein a gastroparesis sufferer can get (meat-wise). I find red meats (with the exception of bacon) to be difficult to digest, but I need protein so my number one source is chicken.
Don’t Eat Large Concentrations of Proteins
Eating large meals in general is a bad idea with delayed gastric emptying, but avoiding large concentrations of protein is important. Protein is difficult to digest. and eating large amounts is even more difficult. Over thanksgiving, I only took small bits of meat, eating mainly cooked veggies (and vegan mac & cheese) to avoid stomach problems.
Do Eat More Often
Eat smaller meals more throughout the day. It is important to keep up with the daily amount of calories and protein needed to sustain you. By eating smaller portions more often, it decreases your chances of losing weight and increases the amount of food in your body. It is important to keep the body nourished, but it might take several more trips to the refrigerator throughout the day (that’s an exercise win, right?).
Don’t Eat Xanthan Gum
If you’ve followed my blog on Instagram, you’re probably no stranger to xanthan gum. It is a thickening agent made by bacterial fermentation. It also slows digestion, and can increase the risk of digestion issues. This is used in most ice-creams, salad dressings, yogurts, and sauces, so be sure to check the ingredients of your favorite brands.
Life hack: I live in a place where Kroger is the main grocery store, and most Kroger brands are lacking in xanthan gum if the popular brand has it.
Do Substitute With Guar Gum
Guar gum, on the other hand, is a thickening agent alternative to xanthan gum, and is made of guar beans. Guar gum is high in fiber, and therefore might not be beneficial in higher quantities, but the low amount used in salad dressings and ice-creams has never bothered me (everyone is different though). Additionally, guar gum is thought to be a prebiotic, which means it promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut (and this may help speed up digestion).
Don’t Eat Dairy
This is more well-known than my other tips, but avoiding dairy is beneficial to digestion health. Dairy is difficult for the body to process, and therefore should be avoided as much as possible. Now, I love cheese (a lot) and going dairy-free has been an experience for me. Up until this summer, 90% of my protein came from dairy.
If you feel that going dairy-free isn’t an option for whatever reason, I do have another suggestion. Eat Kosher. Deuteronomy 14:21, Exodus 23:19, and Exodus 34:6 all state that dairy and meat are not be eaten together (“do not cook a kid in its mother’s milk). Weird, right? Well, many scholars have suggested possible reasons for this, ranging from the cruelty of cooking the meat in something that gave it life as a baby, all the way to the idea that milk represented life and kindness while meat represented death and judgement. Those are great reasons, but I’m not satisfied because God always has an underlying reason for His rules.
Sometimes, that underlying reason is as simple as the uncleanliness of the rabbit. Rabbit’s feet, much like today, were considered lucky in Canaanite culture. Yep, that dates back to the Canaanites. Scholars believe that rabbits were considered unclean because God wanted the Israelites to attribute their good fortune to Him and not the foot of an animal carcass.
I wonder if God, being the all-knowing, timeless being that He is, looked into the future and saw a cheeseburger. Meat is difficult to digest. Cheese is difficult to digest. Together, they can cause nothing but pain and suffering for your poor, defenseless digestive tract. I just wonder if there was a part of God, because I’m sure there is more than one reason for this rule, that was protecting us from our idiotic, heart-attack inducing selves. So, if you must eat cheese, try the Kosher way and see if that helps. Before cutting out dairy completely, I did stop eating dairy and meat together.
Note that dairy is lower in fiber, and there is a chance that I am lactose-intolerant (never diagnosed, but I do have the symptoms). If you do not struggle to digest dairy, go for it! Eat cheese and love it. Some studies show that dairy can help with nausea for those who tolerate it fine.
Do Eat Grains
Grain is an essential food group, and helps maintain good digestive health. White breads and rolls tend to be easier to digest than whole grains, as are bagels, crackers, and low-fiber cereals. Personally, I love Wheat Thins. They definitely help aid my digestion. Obviously, if you’re gluten-intolerant, this is not a possibility.
Don’t Drink Before a Meal
This seems like an odd rule, but about a half-hour before I eat a larger portion I will try to cut off liquids. Gastroparesis causes feelings of fullness early on in meals, which contributes to weight loss. Fluids can actually fill the stomach quickly (especially if you are eating small things frequently). While on an empty stomach liquids will empty quickly, with food liquids will take longer. Avoiding liquids before a meal will allow you to get more nutrients into your stomach, and maximize your time spent eating.
Do Stay Hydrated
Hydration cuts down nausea, and promotes health. Avoid dehydrators like caffeine and alcohol. Electrolyte drinks are fantastic. Personally, I have found that SPORTea, a ginger-based, caffeine-free tea, helps reduce nausea tremendously. On high nausea days, I find myself able to drink this tea. Drinking lots of water or tea is important for your health. I know a lot of people find success in drinks like Gatorade. The important thing is to hydrate. Additionally, I find that carbonated drinks (soda water, ginger ale, etc.) are easier to digest.
For a discount on SPORTea, used the code LibbySPORTea at checkout.
Do What Feels Right
Everyone is different. No two people are alike, and therefore no two disorders are alike. There are certain foods that my body will process differently, and that’s okay. The important thing is to know what works. These are the things that have worked for me. What works for you? Is there a certain food that you think helps aid your digestion? Did you learn something new? Drop a comment and let me know your thoughts. Thanks for reading!