About the Author: Grace is a 24-year-old chronic illness warrior living in Portland, Oregon. She runs an Instagram account @graceharestad dedicated to physical and mental health advocacy!
My Diagnosis Journey
I was diagnosed with gastroparesis in 2018 after showing symptoms of it for most of my life. Unfortunately, due to other conditions I have, my gastroparesis has gotten a lot worse since then and my symptoms have continued to progress. Gastroparesis is basically partial or total paralysis of the stomach, which leads to nausea, vomiting, vomiting undigested food from hours or days prior, severe bloating, stomach pain, and in rare cases, it can lead to death due to complications from malnutrition. Gastroparesis, like a lot of rare diseases, doesn’t have a cure. There are simply ways to manage the disease and hopefully improve or maintain quality of life. There are times I don’t show any symptoms of gastroparesis, and there are other times where I flare up and I can’t eat solid food for weeks at a time. This can be really dangerous, it's not fun or safe to be starving for weeks on end. I am writing today to give you some tips and tricks on how to get through flare ups of gastroparesis, and the foods I eat (more like drink) to get me through safely.
My Go-To Foods
When it comes to eating during a gastroparesis flare, it really varies on how I am feeling and what I am in the mood for. I don’t live my entire life in a GP flare (thankfully), but I always live with gastroparesis in mind. I like to keep in mind foods that can provide me with the most nutrition and calories when solid foods just won’t work. I also have Celiac disease which means I can have absolutely no gluten. Some other foods I’m intolerant to but can have on special occasions are soy, dairy, and corn. So obviously while some of my food choices may be different than the average person’s, they can still be helpful to those with GP or digestion issues! Here some things I always have on hand:
- Soft foods: Foods like mashed potatoes, gluten-free gravy, and applesauce in varying flavors like apricot, peach, and mango are easy to digest and won’t be too hard on the stomach.
- Soups and Broths: I almost always keep bone broth in my freezer not just because I like the taste, but also because bone broth is really dense in nutrients. I keep other broths in stock as well like chicken, beef, and veggie. I buy lots of soups, but I have to be extra cautious since soups are a great place for gluten to be hidden.
- Rice: I buy a lot of rice for the days my GP symptoms aren’t terrible and I need something that's going to fill me up more. Rice can be a good way to pack in calories, nutrients, and fibers!
- Smoothies: I always keep lots of frozen fruits and veggies around to make smoothies! Sometimes these are still too hard on my stomach but they are a great option. I order pre-packaged smoothies from Revive that I just grab out of the freezer and throw in the blender with some coconut milk!
- Sweet Treats: When I have a sweet tooth, I buy hard candies and just let them dissolve in my mouth. I also make and buy my own popsicles! They’re an easy way to get both hydration and calories. Dairy-free ice cream, frozen yogurt, pudding, jello are also great options. Foods that you would think to eat with a sore throat, I found have been the “safest” for me to consume during a flare!
Hydration is Key!
One of the hardest parts for me is staying hydrated, especially because I have multiple comorbidities, which is just a fancy way of saying “having multiple conditions at once.” One of those conditions is POTS, or Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia syndrome, and one of the most important things to do for both GP and POTS is to hydrate!! At all times in my house, I make sure I have Gatorade, Drip Drop which is an electrolyte powder that mixes into a glass of water, vitamin water, various juices, and of course water. It can get pretty boring trying to stay hydrated with just water, and it's also not always possible, so my gastroparesis is another reason that I receive IV fluids for hydration anywhere from 4-7 times a week. Sometimes having too much liquid in my stomach just adds to my GP symptoms or it's just not possible to drink enough water to sustain my body, so IV hydration has been helpful.
Find What Works For You
When it comes to eating during a flare, I like to come prepared and make a list before going grocery shopping, but I always see things when I am actually there that I didn’t think of. When making food choices, I think of things that are dense in nutrients and calories, but also “pre-digested” so my stomach has to do as little work as possible. It's been quite a bit of trial and error, and I am still learning new ideas for foods and pureed recipes. Overall I have a pretty good grasp on what works for my body for a flare and what doesn’t. It is totally different for everyone, and some of the things I may be able to eat you might not be able to tolerate! This is not medical advice as I have no formal education in nutrition or medicine, These are just some ideas of things that help get me through tough times. I hope you’ve found this helpful, and remember that just because you have a medical diet or limitations, that doesn’t mean you can’t eat delicious foods!
For a more comprehensive list of foods you should eat and avoid with gastroparesis, click here.
What are some other foods you can eat during a flare? Let us know in the comments or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We love hearing from our community members!