Gastroparesis is a condition in which the stomach motility (spontaneous contraction of the muscles) does not function properly. When stomach muscles are strong and healthy, they push the food forward along the digestive tract, until it is ready to be released through the bowels. In gastroparesis, the motility is limited or does not work at all, so the stomach does not empty completely. This way, gastroparesis interferes with normal digestion, leading to nausea or vomiting.
Natural Home Remedies for Gastroparesis
There is no cure for gastroparesis but it can be better managed with the help of natural home remedies. You can incorporate the following natural home remedies to obtain relief from your gastroparesis.
Although natural home remedies can help you manage symptoms, it’s still very important that you seek out medical advice as complications from untreated gastroparesis include dehydration, malnutrition, fluctuating blood sugar, and can affect the overall quality of life.
Yoga: Yoga has been found to stimulate the normal function of the liver and pancreas to moderate blood sugar levels. If blood sugar levels spike or drop, it could trigger gastroparesis symptoms.
Abdominal pumping exercises and breathing exercises are beneficial as a means to better control gastroparesis. Place one hand on the belly, one on the chest, and focus on your breathing with your eyes closed. Inhale slowly through the nose and exhale through the nose while constricting the nose and tilting the chin to get all the air out. Slow down your breathing as you concentrate.
Another move is to perform a spinal twist while sitting in a chair. Send one arm back behind the chair and look behind you while maintaining your breathing from the above exercise. Return to center and do the same for the other side.
Another move is to bring your arms behind you with your fingers intertwined and stretch so your chest is open and pushed out. Regardless of what yoga you perform, ensure you’re always focusing on your breath.
Aloe Vera: Aloe Vera helps with the digestion and regularity of bowels. As a natural laxative, it helps support proper digestive function and relieves bloating and stomach pains.
Consume one cup of aloe juice each morning prior to a bowel movement. This can be made at home by mixing aloe gel (two tablespoons) and one cup of water or orange juice in a blender. Aloe juice can also be consumed prior to meals. Avoid consuming aloe juice with more than two tablespoons of aloe gel in one day.
Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar helps to alkalize the body, which helps with stomach pains, heartburn, and bloating along with improving digestion. One teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in a cup of warm water consumed 15 to 20 minutes prior to a meal is all you need. Avoid consuming apple cider vinegar undiluted as it can harm your teeth and be too acidic.
Acupressure and Acupuncture: These are classified as alternative medicine and both use trigger points on the body — either with pressure or needles — to align the bodies Qi. Some studies have found that patients who receive acupressure or acupuncture have experienced relief from bloating and other digestive symptoms.
Two key areas on the body to apply pressure to are known as PC6 (located on the wrist) and ST26 (front of the leg, below the kneecap), as these areas have been shown to improve stomach issues. Always speak to an expert before undergoing acupressure or acupuncture, as they are more knowledgeable on key areas of the body specific to improving stomach and digestive issues.
Diet for Gastroparesis
Diet is another key area that can help improve gastroparesis. Aside from knowing what to eat and what to avoid, it’s also important to incorporate diet changes.
Foods to Eat with a Gastroparesis Diet
Working with a dietician can help you determine the best foods to eat with gastroparesis. Common foods to eat include fruits and vegetables in the form of purees and smoothies, canned peaches and pears, well-cooked fruits and vegetables, juices, and soups.
Try eating carbohydrates and starches such as corn tortillas, English muffins, puffed wheat and rice cereal, potatoes and sweet potatoes (no skin), and white or refined breads, crackers, bagels, pasta, or rice. You want to be careful with your fiber intake as, although it’s essential for healthy bowels, it could also trigger constipation and bloating. Therefore, consuming low fiber foods is advised.
For meat, eggs, and dairy, stick with reduced fat cottage cheese, custard, eggs, ground or pureed meats, low-fat milk and milkshakes, plain yogurt and frozen yogurt, poultry with no skin, shellfish, tofu, and tuna in water.
Coconut oil can be consumed when following a gastroparesis diet because it contains essential fatty chains that can aid in digestion.
As you can tell, it’s important that you eat softer foods, as they are easier to digest and put less stress on your digestive system.
Foods to Avoid in Gastroparesis Diet
Avoiding the following foods can help ease symptoms, as these foods are harder on the digestive system, which can trigger symptoms.
For starters, fatty foods delay stomach emptying. Choosing the right fats, on the other hand, can help digestion. Be mindful of what types of fats you’re consuming and try to eliminate them or lower them as best as you can.
As mentioned, high-fiber foods can worsen symptoms, and that is why low fiber foods are a better option. High fiber foods include fruits such as apples, berries, figs, and oranges, vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and green beans, whole grain cereals, nuts and seeds, beans, and lentils
Also, avoid foods that aren’t easily chewable because they’re harder to break down through the digestive process. This includes nuts, seeds, corn, and popcorn.
Avoid junk food because they can cause fluctuating blood sugar levels. They can also prevent feelings of fullness and do not provide adequate nutrition.
Lastly, reduce your intake of alcohol because it significantly decreases the rate of gastric emptying.
Diet Tips to Manage Gastroparesis
Here are some additional tips you can incorporate into your gastroparesis diet in order to improve your condition and reduce symptoms.
- Eating smaller meals: Eating more frequent smaller meals ensures your stomach can fully empty along with alleviating bloating.
- Chewing food properly: The more food is chewed, the easier it is to break down in the stomach, which makes it easier to digest. Take your time properly chewing food to aid in digestion.
- Avoiding lying down during and after meals: When you lay down post-meal, you halt and slow down digestion because digestion needs gravity to work properly. Furthermore, laying down after a meal contributes to acid reflux.
- Drinking liquids between meals: Avoid drinking fluid with meals as it takes up room in the stomach and can slow down digestion and trigger bloating. Instead, drink fluids in between meals to stay hydrated.
Different Stages of Following a Gastroparesis Diet
In stage 1 of a gastroparesis diet, your doctor will most likely put you on a liquid diet. A dietician will ensure you’re receiving adequate nutrition. Fiber foods should be avoided during this stage along with fatty foods and dairy products. Soups and beverages like sports drinks and soft drinks are permitted.
A typical day in stage one would include ½ cup of sports drink, ½ cup of ginger ale, ¾ cup of bouillon, and six saltine crackers. Lunch and dinner are the same with the only difference being the soft drink — you could opt for cola or citrus soft drinks.
By stage 2, your dietician will add some fats to your diet (< 40 grams). Some low-fat dairy may be added in this stage along with bread, pasta, or cereal made from white flour. Some well-cooked vegetables may be incorporated along with some fruit. Portions will still be quite small, but you will have a greater variety of food options.
A typical menu in this stage would include ½ cup of skim milk, one poached egg, one slice of white toast, and ½ cup of apple juice for breakfast. Your lunch may contain two ounces of mozzarella cheese, six saltine crackers, ¾ cup of chicken soup, and ½ cup of sports drink.
Dinner may involve one tablespoon of peanut butter, six saltine crackers, ½ cup of vanilla pudding, and ½ cup of grape juice. Snacks include soft drinks, frozen yogurt, saltine crackers, canned pears, corn cereal, and two tablespoons of sugar.
The last stage of the diet is long-term maintenance. Fat is increased to about 50 grams or is based on what the patient can tolerate. High fiber foods are still limited, but the list of cooked vegetables you can eat increases, meaning you now have more variety. Vegetable and fruit juices are allowed and well-tolerated in this stage. You can now consume meats like ground beef, poultry, and fish, but be mindful of fibrous steaks, as they could cause problems.
A typical breakfast menu involves ½ cup skim milk, cream of wheat, two teaspoons of sugar, 1/2 cup of orange juice, one slice of white toast, one teaspoon of margarine, and one tablespoon of jelly. For lunch, eat some tuna fish, low-fat mayonnaise, white bread, canned peaches, and Gatorade. Lastly, for dinner, you can enjoy baked chicken, white rice, cooked beets, a dinner roll, skim milk, and margarine.
Other Treatment Options for Gastroparesis
Drugs for gastroparesis include medications to stimulate the stomach muscles and medications to control nausea and vomiting. In some cases, surgery is required to treat gastroparesis if the patient is unable to tolerate food and liquids. Doctors may recommend a feeding tube to be placed in the small intestine or a gastric venting tube to help relieve pressure from gastric contents.
Feeding tubes are temporary and are fed through the nose into the small intestine. They are used in severe cases of gastroparesis. Your doctor will determine the best mode of treatment depending on the severity of your condition.