What Not to Eat

It’s 4 am, and I am sitting on the floor in the bathroom, alternately cradling the basin and a hot water bottle. I have been sitting here for a little over three hours, and I need a distraction from the misery of throwing up, as an attempt to stave off the impending Pity Party, so hello WordPress!

Why am I vomiting?

The complicated answer (and a quick recap of previous blog posts) is that I have gastroparesis and pan-enteric dysmotility, secondary to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Which means, as you may recall, that my entire digestive tract is too stretchy, and hence inefficient.

The simple answer is that I ate too much on Thursday, and food has to leave the body somehow. The usual route is closed due to strike action today, so my stomach has decided to try things in reverse. It always amazes me that my stomach is all weak and pathetic in the right direction, but seems to work beautifully in reverse.

So far today, the retching and vomiting has been forceful enough to dislocate my jaw, my shoulder (twice) and at least one rib. Hence the Pity Party.

I thought I’d put my experience to good use, and recommend a few foods that are really not very nice on the way back up, as well as a few that are not so bad.

People with gastroparesis are usually advised to eat small meals every couple of hours, in liquid form if solid food is hard to tolerate. The meals should be low fat and low fibre. That makes for quite a limited, and not terribly healthy, diet (more details here if you’re a glutton for punishment interested).

When I was diagnosed with gastroparesis, I took all these diet recommendations to heart. I memorised the tables of foods to avoid, trawled the internet for recipes and meal ideas, and even drank supplement drinks with minimal fuss, and yet I was still sick. For months and months I forced myself to eat and drink all the ‘right’ things, knowing that doing so would cause pain, bloating, nausea and vomiting. Like Pavlov’s dog, I became conditioned to gag and retch at the very thought of Fortisip. I felt so guilty for not wanting to ‘comply’ with my doctor’s instructions, and so miserable that I couldn’t eat the foods that I craved, or take pleasure in the social gatherings that revolved around food.

In 2012, I had surgery to place a feeding tube, which completely bypasses my unhelpful stomach. I get most of my nutrition and some medications through the tube, so anything I eat ‘normally’ is purely for pleasure. Although eating is still associated with unpleasant symptoms, it’s no longer linked to feelings of guilt, judgement and shame, and I am gradually starting to mend my relationship with food.

The decision about whether something is worth eating takes some trial and error, but here are a few suggestions of foods to avoid, and a few that aren’t as bad as you might imagine. Don’t forget that whatever you choose to eat today, which may be ok when tasted in reverse, will mix with the food still in your stomach from earlier (maybe even yesterday or the day before). Strawberry jelly might be fine in isolation, but is a different flavour entirely when mixed with yesterday’s tuna mayo. A different kettle of fish, so to speak.

Not so bad:
– coffee
– bread
– vanilla ice cream
– mashed potato
– pancetta/lardons

Not recommended:
– cottage cheese
– beansprouts
– coleslaw
– sauerkraut
– orange juice
– red, red wine

Would you add anything to either of those lists?