If you or a loved one is dealing with esophageal varices, the goal of your diet should be to provide nutrition for health and healing while preventing any additional complications. Esophageal varices are swollen veins in the esophagus that are at risk of rupturing. The condition is usually related to an increase in pressure on the veins that deliver blood to the liver, also known as portal hypertension, and is caused by cirrhosis of the liver. A soft diet is recommended for people with esophageal varices to prevent the veins from rupturing. Work with your doctor or a registered dietitian to design a diet appropriate for you.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Soft Diet Basics
A soft diet eliminates foods that are difficult to chew or swallow, and in the case of esophageal varices, foods that may further irritate the esophagus. It includes foods that are naturally soft, such as yogurt or ripe bananas, and foods that are made soft by cooking, mashing or chopping, such as potatoes. You should also avoid foods that may tear the veins in your esophagus, such as taco shells, tortilla chips, hard vegetables such as carrot sticks or large pieces of raw fruit.
What to Eat
A soft diet includes a variety of foods from all the food groups, so you should be able to meet your nutrient needs. Soft grain options include cooked cereals such as oatmeal, pancakes, pasta, soft breads and plain rice. Cook raw vegetables such as carrots or asparagus tips until soft; salt-free canned vegetables are also OK. Soft fruits such as bananas and cantaloupe make good choices, as well as canned fruit and cooked fruits without the skin. Cook your meats, including pork, beef, poultry and seafood, until tender. Eggs, tofu and smooth peanut butter are also good protein options on your diet. Milk, yogurt and cottage cheese are naturally soft. You can also eat cheese prepared without nuts.
Foods to Promote Regularity
Constipation may increase the risk of rupturing esophageal varices, according to a study published in "The American Journal of Gastroenterology" in 2011. Including foods to help improve bowel function may help soften stools to prevent constipation and straining. Prune juice is a natural laxative, and drinking a glass a day may help prevent constipation. Adding foods high in insoluble fiber, which adds bulk to stool and eases the passage of food through your digestive tract, may also help. Good sources include wheat bran and beans. You also want to make sure you're getting enough fluid. Aim for 1 quart of fluid for every 50 pounds of body weight, or 3 quarts if you weight 150 pounds. Water, 100 percent fruit juice and unsweetened decaf tea make good fluid choices.
Sample Soft Food Meal Plan
To limit irritation, eat five to six small meals a day. A good breakfast option might include oatmeal with wheat bran and a glass of prune juice. A healthy, soft midmorning meal might include low-fat yogurt with a banana. For lunch, you might enjoy a bowl of chicken vegetable soup with added kidney beans, a soft roll and soft cooked carrots. In the midafternoon, satisfy hunger with canned pears and saltine crackers with smooth peanut butter and a glass of low-fat milk. At dinner, baked salmon with mashed potatoes and asparagus tips makes a healthy option.
- Nutrition and Diagnosis Related Care: Esophageal Varices; Sylvia Escott-Stump
- NYU Langone Medical Center: Esophageal Varices
- Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: Soft Diet
- The American Journal of Gastroenterology: Potential Precipitating Factors of Esophageal Bleeding: A Case-Control Study
- Better Health Channel: Fibre in Food
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Fluid Needs
- Vladislav Nosick/iStock/Getty Images