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Lifestyle Tweaks for Gastroparesis – When Treatments Don’t Help

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Posted by Henry P. Parkman, MD

Gastroparesis can be a trying and isolating condition, particularly for the thousands of sufferers who struggle to find relief with standard treatments, such as medications. With symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting and feeling full after eating a few bites, you may find it difficult to meet even basic nutritional needs. Long term, gastroparesis may also lead to more serious conditions, such as diabetes.

If you’ve tried and failed to take control of your gastroparesis symptoms, there may still be hope. Dr. Henry P. Parkman of the Temple Digestive Disease Center offers his advice on what you can do now to find relief.

Start By Evaluating Your Diet

I often tell my patients that diet is a natural place to begin. Although there’s not a specific “gastroparesis diet,” you may notice improvement in your symptoms simply by being more conscious of what and when you eat.

Try Eating Smaller, More Frequent Meals

I find people respond to eating five or six meals a day instead of two or three. If you eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day, that bloated feeling is not as intense. You’ll also notice your stomach tends to empty faster when you eat smaller meals.

Eat Fewer Fatty and Fibrous Foods

Fat and fiber are essential, but they can slow down digestion. This is what leads to discomfort and fullness. Because everyone is different, I generally tell people to cut back slowly and try to find a good balance.

Avoid Certain Beverages

One of the biggest complaints I hear from patients is that their symptoms seem to increase after drinking soda or alcohol. Of course I tell them to quit, but it’s not always that easy. If they can decrease their intake a little, it may make all the difference.

Work with a Dietitian

One of the best things patients can do to help themselves is work with a dietitian. A dietitian can help with all of the things I’ve already mentioned, and can also make sure patients are getting the right nutrition and adequate calories. When gastroparesis gets more advanced, malnutrition and dehydration are definite concerns. A nutritionist is a great partner for these patients.

Schedule Regular Appointments with Your Gastroenterologist

It’s important to understand that gastroparesis treatment requires a team. I recommend patients work with their primary care physician to find a nutritionist and a gastroenterologist (GI) who specializes in gastroparesis.

While a nutritionist can help with food and lifestyle adjustments, GIs stay aware of the latest gastroparesis treatments, like drugs to speed up digestion or minimally invasive therapies. When new treatments become available, your GI will be able to help you decide if they are right for you.

Request an appointment online or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536).

Henry P. Parkman, MD

Henry P. Parkman, MD, is a Professor of Medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine. At the Temple Digestive Disease Center, he is Director of the GI Motility Laboratory where he specializes in diagnosing and treating patients with motility disorders.

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