When Your Stomach Doesn't Digest Correctly

I have seen more people dealing with undetermined stomach issues over the years, that get lumped into "not enough stomach acid". Sometimes it really isn't just the stomach acid, sometimes it is your stomach. This is called gastroparesis, and it is where the stomach slows down it's mobility making digestion a slower and miserable process. There are a lot of underlying reasons why this could happen. It could be a damaged vagus nerve at play that can be caused by number of diseases, or a medication that you are taking. A simple way to see if you feel better is to change up the way you eat, and just see if it helps. Of course always make sure you are addressing any changes with your treating physician when dealing with dietary changes. Often a gastric bypass is recommended for those with this, to bypass the digestion issues. However, gastric bypass is not a fix for the nutrition, just for the pain . It is important to recognize that the malnutrition and nutrient deficiency are a part of either of these.

The major macronutrient deficiency after gastic bypass is protein malnutrition. Deficiencies in micronutrients, which include trace elements, essential minerals, and water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins, are common before surgery and often persist postoperatively, despite universal recommendations on multivitamin and mineral supplements.
That is why I want to talk about the reality of those dealing with these issues. Just like those with gastroparesis, those that have had gastric surgery are told to avoid greasy and spicy foods, whole milk due to the fat content, and to eat nutrient dense foods. Those with these slower digesting stomachs don't want to eat a lot of hard to digest foods, like animal products, either. As well, raw vegetables can be just as hard to digest as a steak for some of us. So I think digestive enzymes have to be a consideration to help your body with the process. Chewable is something that is very helpful because you are starting the process before the enzymes get to the stomach. Part of the problem can be having a stomach that feels hard after you eat. If you don't take digestive enzymes, you can try papaya enzymes before each meal.

Probiotics are an amazing to help repopulate any good gut bacteria that may be missing. There is often an overlap of gastroparesis and SIBO. Balancing the gut microbiome you know is something I am always interested in, and supplementing with probiotics can be extremely useful in certain types of gastroparesis more than others. I like both soil based probiotics and Also there are prebiotics that have a straight relationship to digestion, like your white rice or cold mashed potatoes. These are called resistant starch and feed the good bacteria in the colon.

I also love being able to use encapsulated whole foods as a source of predigested nutrition. I like to dump the capsules into a little warm water, fresh juice or a protein milk/coconut water combination and drink them so that there is no fight to start absorbing nutrition. You can even break up something like this into different times of the day so that you are absorbing as much of the nutrients as possible. With this disorder it seems that solid foods may be better tolerated earlier in the day, with a switch to liquid meals later in the day for those that are finding it hard to eat at night, but are super hungry in the morning.

I love having a small smoothie in the morning and evening, with two small meals in the middle of the day. or even adding in a nice soup with either bone broth or spirulina mixed in for the extra protein source. The reason for eating like a Hobbit (second lunch) is because the stomach needs some extra time to work on digesting your food, and so the smaller amount makes it a lot easier. Many small meals, small is the key. Think in terms of cups of food, rather than plates of food, and just listen to your body for the clue that you are hungry or thirsty again. Ideas to increase liquid calories/nutrition include some frozen non-dairy kefirs or yogurts. You can make up purees of fruit and bone broth mixed together and freeze into ice cubes to use in smoothies. You can also mix a clean vegan meal replacement protein mix into fresh squeezed juice to slow insulin spikes from the juice, which is a very quickly absorbed sugar.

Dietary measures in treatment of gastroparesis
  • Restrict meal volumes
  • Increase meal frequency
  • Small particle meals
  • Avoid excess fat
  • Avoid excess dietary fibre
  • Supplementary nutrition (liquid formula)
  • Support by specialized dietitian

Hormones can also impact our gastric abilities, and so you may need to have a little fiber at dinner or in the morning (try dinner first to see how you react so you aren't at work). I like the really finely ground chia and flax seed, although not too much, mixed into some herbal tea. However do not take fiber with your medications, because it can cause you to absorb less of it, which is not a great idea. And overdoing the fiber is not great for those with gastroparesis The vegan omega capsules I love are a vegan capsule and they digest almost immediately, but can also be poked in the end of the capsule and just squeezed into the mouth. You can even chew these capsules, which some of the little kids do. Anything encapsulated will have to digested to actually get to what is inside. So getting it out of the capsules is a good thing to remember. Chewable, liquid, and bioavailable is essential with a slow stomach. I even like a little liquid D during the winter. Find one that has fats added to is since D is a fat soluble vitamin.

However, on the topic of fats, they slow down your digestive system even more. The keto diet is not a great space for you if you have a slow gastric system. You may find that algae oil, avocado oil, olive oil are easier fats to digest in small amounts than coconut oil is. You can blend a high quality cold pressed olive or flax oils into your soup or your smoothie, but make sure you add in those vegetable fibers including good starchy root vegetables and green leafs to make it healthy and work well together. That is why soups and smoothies are such a great fit for this, and why those that have taken on the ten day program feel so much better on the other side of it. I love "Superfood Soups: 100 Delicious, Energizing & Plant-based Recipes" as a great book to help get you some fantastic ideas for healthy foods into your stomach, in a way that you can simply use without too much fuss.

As a final note, don't get caught up in the desire to over-exercise. Initially your body won't allow it because you are deficient and fatigued. Getting in 10 - 20 minutes every other day of simple fitness is a great way to start. Doing those high-intensity exercises they believe actually delays your gastric emptying through the over-activation of the sympathetic nervous system. So although you may want to go out and do an intense workout, it will work against you. I have worked with several clients to get their nutrition corrected, and life balanced... so I know that you can do it too!



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