Guidelines for a Gastroparesis-Friendly Diet
by Crystal Saltrelli, author of Eating for Gastroparesis
1. Decrease meal size: The volume of a meal is the most important factor in how quickly (or slowly) it will empty from the stomach. Smaller meals digest more quickly than larger meals, which may help to alleviate symptoms. Aim for 1 to 1.5 cups of food per meal, 5-7 meals per day.
2. Reduce the total amount of fat: Fat takes longer to digest and empty from the stomach than carbohydrates or protein. However, fat is a vital nutrient and is required for the body to function properly. Most people with gastroparesis can tolerate 30-40 grams of dietary fat per day, about 5-10 grams of fat per meal.
3. Reduce the total amount of fiber: Fiber also extends the emptying time of a meal. It’s not necessary to eliminate all fiber from the diet, but most people find that limiting fiber to 10-15 grams per day, divided between meals, alleviates fullness, bloating and other symptoms.
4. Avoid foods associated with bezoar formation: Bezoars are hardened masses of undigested food that may block the outlet of the stomach. While it’s estimated that only about 20% people with gastroparesis experience bezoars, it’s recommended that all gastroparesis patients avoid the following: apple peels, berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, coconuts, corn, green beans, figs, oranges, persimmons, potato peels, sauerkraut, and tomato skins. Also use caution with nuts, seeds and beans/legumes. Fiber supplements such as Metamucil, Peridem, Benefiber,Fibercon and Citrucel should also be avoided. Important Notes• Specific dietary tolerances vary dramatically from person to person. Careful experimentation, within the guidelines listed above, is the key to finding the optimal diet for you.
• Dietary modifications are a tool for managing and reducing the symptoms of gastroparesis. Following a gastroparesis-friendly diet won’t address the underlying cause of the disorder, but may significantly alleviate day-to-day symptoms.
• For most people, there is a point at which further restricting the diet does not yield additional symptom relief. Over-restriction can lead to malnutrition and vitamin/mineral deficiencies.
• No studies have been conducted to determine which specific foods alleviate or exacerbate symptoms in patients with gastroparesis. The guidelines and food suggestions above are based on the science of normal digestion, as well as the experience and observations of patients and clinicians over time.
• Unlike gluten in cases of Celiac disease, fat and fiber do not damage the GI tract of people with gastroparesis. They simply increase the gastric emptying time of a particular food or meal. Therefore eating foods that do not agree with you, while likely to exacerbate symptoms in the short, will not make your gastroparesis more severe overall.