What to Eat When You Have Gastroparesis

Dietary Recommendations for Better Management

In This Article

Gastroparesis is a condition in which your stomach cannot empty food in a normal manner. What and how you eat, perhaps not surprisingly, play a big role in its management.

The foods that are part of a gastroparesis diet are easily digested, which can help you manage related digestive symptoms. The diet is also designed to help you maintain optimal nutrition, which is especially important for preventing some of the concerns that stem from flares.

Apple sauce in a white bowl
Renee Comet / Getty Images

Benefits

Ordinarily, strong, spontaneous muscle contractions propel food through the digestive tract. But if you have gastroparesis, your stomach's motility is slowed to a point where it is simply unable to empty fully.

The gastroparesis diet is always the first step to treating this condition after diagnosis. The easy-to-digest foods it promotes put less stress on your gastrointestinal system, reducing a range of uncomfortable symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, acid reflux, bloating, and abdominal pain.

Furthermore, the focus on nutrient density helps your body weather bouts of appetite loss that often arise during flare-ups. Without a consistent focus on good nutrition, these episodes could lead to malnutrition and unintended weight loss.

Following a gastroparesis diet may also help you avoid medications and other treatments for the condition that may be associated with side effects.

How It Works

Studies investigating specific foods to eat and avoid on a gastroparesis diet were lacking until 2015.

According to a 2016 report published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, patients traditionally received dietary advice based on physiological principles rather than scientific evidence.

However, more recent clinical trials have identified specific foods and food characteristics that help improve the comfort level of those living with gastroparesis.

For example, a study in Digestive Diseases and Sciences sought out to identify and characterize specific foods that affect gastroparesis. Based on patient experiences, researchers were able to compile a list of foods that changed participants' symptoms.

Foods that provoked symptoms were usually acidic, fatty, spicy, or roughage-based. Tolerable foods were usually bitter, salty, bland, and sweet.

It may take some time to develop a diet that works best for you. The guidelines provided here can serve as a starting point.

Duration

There is no cure for gastroparesis. Dietary changes and other treatments (including medications and other options) can help you manage the symptoms. Therefore, you should plan to adopt the gastroparesis diet for the long-term.

As you develop a list of foods that help you manage the condition, it may be helpful to keep a food journal.

You can also work with your healthcare provider to get food recommendations or ask for a referral to a registered dietitian, who can help you put together a personalized food plan.

What to Eat and Avoid

Studies have shown that eating foods with a small particle size might help to ease symptoms of gastroparesis. Researchers have identified these specific foods as having an impact on the condition.

Compliant Foods
  • Soda crackers

  • Gelatin

  • Graham crackers

  • Ginger ale

  • Gluten-free foods

  • Tea

  • Potatoes (sweet and white)

  • Pretzels

  • White fish

  • Clear soup

  • Salmon

  • White rice

  • Popsicles

  • Applesauce

Non-Compliant Foods
  • Oranges and orange juice

  • Fried chicken

  • Cabbage

  • Sausage

  • Pizza

  • Peppers

  • Onions

  • Tomato juice

  • Lettuce

  • Coffee

  • Salsa

  • Broccoli

  • Bacon

  • Roast beef

In addition to these foods, several medical sources have provided guidelines about different types of food that can provoke or reduce symptoms.

Fatty Foods

Dietary fat slows digestion, so following a low-fat diet is usually beneficial.

Avoid:

  • Fried foods
  • High-fat dairy
  • Fatty meats
  • Rich desserts
  • Cream-based soups

Instead, choose:

  • Low-fat and non-fat dairy
  • Leaner, softer meats like chicken, turkey, or fish

You don't have to completely cut out fat; just limit your intake. It's okay, for example, to add a bit of sour cream, butter, or margarine to a meal, but only enough to add flavor.

Fiber-Rich Foods

Fiber is usually something you'd want to increase, but eating too much fiber can further slow gastric motility and make your condition worse.

Avoid high-fiber foods like:

  • Broccoli
  • Whole grains
  • Brown rice
  • Dried beans
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

Instead, choose foods that promote motility, such as:

  • White bread
  • Pasta
  • Soda crackers
  • Bananas
  • Ripe melon

Raw Fruits and Vegetables

You don't have to give up fruits and vegetables, but you may need to avoid:

  • Raw vegetables
  • Harder fruits like raw apples
  • Fruits and berries that have pulp or a lot of seeds

Instead:

  • Thoroughly steam, roast, or boil veggies until they're soft
  • Choose fruits that are fully ripened, cooked, canned, or juiced (without the pulp)

Soft Foods

Meals are more likely to be digested more comfortably if they're soft. You have a lot of choices among the softer foods commonly recommended for a gastroparesis diet.

Protein:

  • Chicken or turkey (skinless)
  • Canned tuna (packed in water)
  • Eggs
  • Tofu

Grains:

  • White bread and rolls
  • Plain bagels
  • English muffins
  • Flour or corn tortillas
  • Oatmeal or cream of wheat
  • Puffed rice or wheat cereal
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Cottage cheese

Dairy:

  • Yogurt (without fruit)
  • Custard or pudding
  • Frozen yogurt

Fruits and vegetables:

  • Well-cooked root vegetables
  • Tomato sauces
  • Applesauce
  • Baked or mashed potato (no skin)
  • Sweet potato (no skin)
  • Fruit and vegetable juices (no pulp)
  • Canned peaches, pears, and apricots (skins removed)
  • Bananas

Other:

  • Broth and low-fat pureed soups
  • Gelatin desserts

Liquid Foods

According to the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Diseases, your doctor may recommend that you drink your nutrition if you can't tolerate solid foods. These drinks may include liquid nutrition meals or solid foods puréed in a blender.

Your doctor may also recommend that you drink plenty of water or liquids that contain glucose and electrolytes, such as:

  • Low-fat broths and clear soups
  • Low-fiber fruit and vegetable juices
  • Sports drinks
  • Oral rehydration solutions

Timing and Tips

With gastroparesis, your stomach is less able to transport food into your small intestine. Instead of eating three large meals per day, try eating six or more smaller meals every two to three hours. It can help reduce the burden on your stomach.

Cooking Tips

You may not have time to cook five or six times each day, so plan to cook meals in bulk and divide them into small containers to be enjoyed later.

You might also want to cut and freeze fruit to use in smoothies or juices. Steam vegetables in advance, then store them in microwavable containers to reheat as needed.

To reduce fat in meals, use cooking methods that don't include oils or butter. Roast meat and seafood, steam vegetables, or grill foods to keep them lean.

Modifications

Nutritional deficiencies are not uncommon while on a gastroparesis diet. Studies have shown that many people with gastroparesis have diets deficient in calories, vitamins, and minerals.

For instance, a large study published in the journal Gastroenterology tracked over 300 patients with gastroparesis to evaluate their calorie and nutrient intake. They found that, on average, study participants consumed under 1,200 calories per day—equivalent to about 58% of their total caloric needs.

Additionally, many study participants were deficient in important vitamins and minerals, most notably:

Unfortunately, research has also indicated that people with the condition rarely get nutritional consultation.

In the study, only a third of the participants received dietary therapy. However, those who did were 1.5 times more likely to have their daily caloric intake reach 85% or more of their daily requirement.

For this reason, medical experts suggest dietary therapy to address nutritional deficiencies. If you are managing another condition, such as diabetes, a registered dietitian can work together with you and the rest of your healthcare team to manage a comprehensive treatment strategy.

Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about any medications you're taking. Certain drugs slow gastric emptying and may make symptoms worse. Examples include:

Considerations

Living with gastroparesis can be easier with support and knowledge.

Your healthcare team may be able to direct you to a support community affiliated with a hospital or health center near you. Talking to others, sharing experiences, and gathering tips can help you to feel less alone as you manage the condition.

If a support group isn't available near you, online resources may be helpful.

The International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders is a nonprofit education and research organization that provides substantial information about living with gastroparesis. Their website offers helpful guidance including travel tips, personal stories, and advice to make day-to-day living more comfortable.

A Word From Verywell

Changing what and how you eat can help you to stay energized and healthy when you have gastroparesis. It will probably take a bit of trial and error to find what works best for you.

Unfortunately, there is no single gastroparesis diet that relieves symptoms for everyone. Stay connected to your healthcare team as you journey through the experience of experimenting with foods and meal timing.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Symptoms & Causes of Gastroparesis. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Jan 1, 2018.

  2. Definition & Facts for Gastroparesis. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Jan 1, 2018.

  3. Camilleri M. Novel Diet, Drugs, and Gastric Interventions for Gastroparesis. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2016;14(8):1072-80. doi:10.1016/j.cgh.2015.12.033

  4. Wytiaz V, Homko C, Duffy F, Schey R, Parkman HP. Foods provoking and alleviating symptoms in gastroparesis: patient experiences. Dig Dis Sci. 2015;60(4):1052-8. doi:10.1007/s10620-015-3651-7

  5. Olausson EA, Störsrud S, Grundin H, Isaksson M, Attvall S, Simrén M. A small particle size diet reduces upper gastrointestinal symptoms in patients with diabetic gastroparesis: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Gastroenterol. 2014;109(3):375-85. doi:10.1038/ajg.2013.453

  6. Sadiya A. Nutritional therapy for the management of diabetic gastroparesis: clinical review. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2012;5:329-35. doi:10.2147/DMSO.S31962

  7. Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for Gastroparesis. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Jan 1, 2018.

  8. Parkman HP, Yates KP, Hasler WL, et al. Dietary intake and nutritional deficiencies in patients with diabetic or idiopathic gastroparesis. Gastroenterology. 2011;141(2):486-98, 498.e1-7. doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2011.04.045

  9. About Us. About Gastroparesis. Feb 19, 2016.

Additional Reading