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Foods to Avoid With Delayed Emptying

By Anne Tourney

With delayed stomach emptying, food remains in your stomach beyond the length of time required for healthy digestion. This delay can cause nutritional deficiencies, fluctuations in your blood sugar and an imbalance in your digestive bacteria, according to the Mayo Clinic website. Eating certain foods can worsen delayed emptying, or gastroparesis. If the complications of diabetes, the side effects of stomach surgery or a nervous disorder interfere with the way your stomach processes food, your health care provider may recommend that you eliminate or restrict these foods and replace them with more digestible alternatives. Do not make any dietary adjustments without first consulting your doctor.

Causes and Symptoms

Diabetes is a common cause of gastroparesis, a condition in which your stomach muscles don’t contract properly during digestion. In healthy digestion, your stomach pushes the foods you’ve eaten into your small intestine, which absorbs their nutritional contents. In gastroparesis, nerve damage caused by surgery, the effects of diabetes or a nervous system disorder interfere with the activity of the vagus nerve, which triggers stomach muscle contractions. Nausea, vomiting, heartburn and blood sugar fluctuations are symptoms of gastroparesis. You may have an uncomfortable sense of fullness or heaviness in your stomach long after eating certain foods.

Raw Vegetables and Fruits

Raw vegetables and fruits contain roughage, a form of plant material that your body can’t digest. In normal digestion, roughage performs the vital function of pushing food through your intestinal tract. When you have delayed emptying, roughage can linger in your stomach and form clumps called bezoars that may obstruct your digestive tract and interfere with your absorption of nutrients, according to the Mayo Clinic website. Fruit and vegetable juices, pureed or canned fruits and vegetables may pass through your stomach more easily, according to Dr. Frank Jackson of the Jackson-Siegelbaum Gastroenterology Group in Camp Hill, Pa.

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Whole-Grain Foods

Whole-grain breads, cereals, brown rice and oatmeal contain large amounts of plant fiber that can sit undigested in your stomach. Breads and cereals made with refined flour, creamy hot cereals or saltine crackers are more digestible substitutes if you have gastroparesis.

High-Fat Foods

Dietary fat prolongs digestion, which can cause foods to linger even longer in your stomach, the Mayo Clinic notes. Whole milk, cream, ice cream, butter, full-fat yogurt and foods that contain these products may slow digestion and worsen the complications of gastroparesis. Cakes, cookies and other high-fat desserts may also delay digestion. To reduce fat, replace whole-fat dairy foods with skim or non-fat milk, yogurt and cottage cheese. If you use oils or other fats for cooking, use only small amounts, Dr. Jackson advises.

Whole Red Meat, Dried Beans and Peas

The muscle tissues in steaks, chops, and other whole cuts of beef or pork may be difficult for your stomach to process with gastroparesis, Dr. Jackson notes. Dried beans, peas and lentils are high in fiber and may cause digestive difficulties. Chicken, fish, lean hamburger, eggs or peanut butter provide more digestible proteins.

Severe Gastroparesis

If delayed emptying becomes severe, your health care provider may recommend that you follow a non-fat liquid diet temporarily to prevent malnutrition and to manage your blood sugar levels. With a liquid diet, your provider may limit you to water, clear juices, broths, electrolyte replacement drinks or other clear fluids until you're able to progress to more solid foods.

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