Gastroparesis Diet: What to Avoid, Meal Plan, and More

Gastroparesis is a condition where food moves through your stomach slower than normal.

This can cause stomach discomfort, nausea, vomiting, and poor appetite.

These symptoms can adversely affect your quality of life while making it more difficult to get the nutrients that you need for optimal health.

Fortunately, eating certain foods and avoiding others can ensure that you get enough of the nutrients you need while also alleviating your symptoms.

This article explains what to eat and avoid with gastroparesis and provides a sample gastroparesis diet menu.

gastroparesis diet

Causes and risk factors

Gastroparesis is a condition where the stomach muscles become paralyzed.

This paralysis delays the time it takes for the food you eat to empty from your stomach into your intestines.

Gastroparesis is the opposite of dumping syndrome, which occurs when food moves too quickly through the digestive system.

Gastroparesis is relatively uncommon, affecting about 2% of the United States population (1).

While it’s unknown why most people develop gastroparesis, several causes have been identified.

Known causes of gastroparesis include (2):

  • diabetes, mostly type 1 diabetes
  • certain autoimmune diseases
  • neurological conditions, like Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis
  • surgeries involving the esophagus, stomach, or intestines
  • spinal cord injuries
  • some viral infections
  • low vagal tone

The use of narcotics, certain types of antidepressants, and blood pressure medications can worsen gastroparesis.

Diagnosis and treatment

To diagnose gastroparesis, your doctor will review your medical history and any symptoms that you have been experiencing.

The most common symptoms of gastroparesis include (3):

  • nausea
  • vomiting, which may occur several hours after a meal
  • bloating
  • heartburn
  • poor appetite
  • feeling full shortly after starting a meal

Some of the digestive symptoms like bloating may be due to small intestinal bowel overgrowth (SIBO), which occurs when excess bacteria grow in the small intestine.

If your doctor suspects gastroparesis, he or she may confirm that nothing is blocking your digestive tract that may be causing your symptoms by performing an imaging test, like a computerized tomography (CT) scan.

If no blockages are found, your doctor will likely perform a gastric or stomach emptying study to determine how quickly food leaves your stomach.

Depending on different factors, such as the cause (if known) and the severity of your symptoms, your doctor can recommend an appropriate treatment plan, which should involve changes to your diet (3).

Gastroparesis diet

Making changes to your diet can help you manage your symptoms and ensure that you receive the nutrition you need (4, 5).

Foods to eat

Some foods are easy for your body to digest and move through your stomach at a faster pace.

This quicker exit time from your stomach can reduce nausea and other symptoms that gastroparesis can cause when food moves through your stomach slower than it should.

Easily digestible foods are generally low in fiber and fat.

Here is a list of foods to eat with gastroparesis (6):

  • Vegetables: canned or cooked vegetables
  • Fruits: applesauce, canned fruit, ripe bananas, melons
  • Grains: quick oats, white rice, bread, and pasta
  • Proteins: eggs, fish, chicken, lean beef
  • Dairy: low-fat milk, cottage cheese, and yogurt
  • Beverages: tea, 100% fruit juice, water

If your symptoms are severe, low-fat liquid meals like smoothies tend to be tolerated better than solid meals for relieving symptoms (7).

Foods to avoid

Many foods — especially fatty and high-fiber foods — slow stomach emptying, which can worsen your symptoms.

Spicy and acidic food as well as alcohol and carbonated beverages can also worsen your symptoms.

Foods to limit with gastroparesis include (6, 8, 9):

  • Alcohol: beer, vodka, wine, whiskey
  • Fatty foods: fried chicken, sausage, pizza, bacon, fried foods, snack foods
  • Carbonated drinks: soda, energy drinks, sparkling water
  • High-fiber foods: cabbage, broccoli, celery, beans, nuts, legumes, squash
  • Acidic foods: oranges, peppers, onions, tomato juice, coffee, salsa
  • Spicy foods and condiments: dishes, sauces, and seasonings made with hot peppers

One-day sample gastroparesis diet menu

Here is a one-day sample gastroparesis diet that is suitable for anyone with the condition, including people with diabetes.

  • Breakfast: quick oats topped with ripe banana slices and spinach omelet
  • Snack: low-fat cottage cheese and cubed watermelon
  • Lunch: chicken noodle soup with a soft roll
  • Snack: vanilla smoothie made with low-fat Greek yogurt, almond milk, avocado, vanilla extract, and Dymatize whey protein powder
  • Dinner: grilled salmon with white rice and well-cooked green beans

Other diet and lifestyle tips for gastroparesis

Here are some additional diet tips you can incorporate to better manage gastroparesis (5, 10, 11, 12):

  • Eat small, frequent meals. Large meals can worsen your symptoms by delaying stomach emptying.
  • Chew your food thoroughly. Smaller food particles decrease the time it takes for food to empty from your stomach and also improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes.
  • Eat slower (30-minute meals). Increasing the time it takes you to finish a meal can improve digestion. By default, chewing your food thoroughly will force you to eat slower.
  • Avoid lying down after eating. Lying down after a meal can increase acid reflux. Avoid eating within four hours of bedtime.
  • Take a multi-vitamin. People with gastroparesis may be deficient in one or more nutrients. Supplementing your diet with a multi-vitamin, like this one from Nature Made, is a relatively inexpensive way to ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need.

While the effects of exercise on digestion in people with gastroparesis remain limited, engaging in regular exercise may help to improve digestion, alleviate your symptoms, and support healthy blood sugar levels.

For the greatest benefit, exercise for at least 150 minutes per week, incorporating both aerobic exercises — like walking or jogging — and resistance training (13).

The bottom line

Gastroparesis is a condition that delays the time it takes for food to empty from your stomach into your intestines.

This can cause stomach discomfort, nausea, vomiting, and poor appetite.

You can alleviate these symptoms by limiting or avoiding foods that slow digestion or that cause stomach irritation, such as fatty foods, high-fiber foods, spicy and acidic foods, carbonated beverages, and alcohol.

Additionally, eating small, frequent meals, chewing your food thoroughly, eating slower, staying upright after a meal, and taking a multi-vitamin can also improve your symptoms and ensure good nutrition.

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