Gastroparesis is a common diabetes complication that affects the muscles in the stomach and intestines. Symptoms include fullness, bloating, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. It can also be hard to keep your blood glucose under control if you have this condition. Some people with gastroparesis find it hard to eat any solid foods, which can lead to weight loss and malnutrition.
Eating Tips for Gastroparesis
If you’ve been diagnosed with gastroparesis, it’s important to meet with a registered dietitian who can help you choose the best foods for you. There’s no special “diet” for gastroparesis, and what works for some people may not work for you. However, a few general tips may be helpful:
- Eat smaller meals, more often. Instead of eating three big meals each day, which puts a strain on your stomach, try eating smaller meals, but more often. This may mean eating 4 to 6 times a day. Eating more often may take some getting used to, especially if you don’t usually eat between meals. However, by doing so, you’ll likely feel better and enhance your nutrition. If appetite is an issue, try to eat the healthiest foods early in the day.
- Eat slowly and chew your food well. Gulping down your food can cause a flare-up of gastroparesis symptoms, like heartburn, bloating, and nausea. Train yourself to take smaller bites of food and eat slowly.
- Control your carbohydrate intake. When you are trying to avoid or manage heartburn, nausea, or vomiting, counting carbs might be the last thing you think of doing. In general, though, if you’re eating smaller meals, aim for about 45 grams of carb per meal. This can help you manage your blood glucose levels. Your dietitian can help you figure out the right amount of carb for you.
- Limit your fat and fiber intake. Fat and fiber are slow to leave your stomach. It’s best to limit or even avoid fatty foods and foods high in fiber, such as bran cereal, whole grain bread, broccoli, apples, and berries. You should also avoid fiber supplements, such as Metamucil and BeneFiber, unless they’re prescribed by your healthcare provider. Of course, some fat and fiber in your diet is important, so you’ll need to experiment to find out how much of these foods you can handle.
- Try liquids and pureed foods. Liquids leave the stomach a lot faster than solid foods. So, depending on your symptoms, you might do better with a “liquid” meal. If you feel worse in the morning, an instant breakfast drink, milkshake, or nutritional supplement (like Glucerna or Boost) might be better than a bowl of cereal. All foods can be pureed in a blender or food processor, and while they might not look appetizing, they’ll still provide you with the nutrients that you need.
In addition, you’ll need to check your blood glucose often to learn how your food intake is affecting your diabetes control. If you take medicine for your diabetes, talk to your diabetes team about any adjustments you may need to make.
For more information about gastroparesis, visit the GPD Foundation’s website at www.gpdfoundation.com.