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Jan 4, 2014 10:54 AM

alternatives to peppers?

my husband was recently diagnosed with gastro paresis which makes it hard for him to digest different food. Certain foods cause episodes of excruciating pain for about 48 hours. We have found that his biggest triggers are peppers and legumes. Is there anything that we can substitute in recipes? most spices are ok and he can handle sweet peppers

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  1. As someone who also suffers from gastroparesis, I have no substitutes for you. Sorry. Just words of caution about certain foods with skins like beans, peppers, corn and such. Gastroparesis is a fickle bitch. What makes him attack one day may not the next. Start journaling what attacks him and do your best to avoid those things. Best of luck and sorry for the bad news.

    1. my mom can do raw tomotos but not stewed wierd huh?....if it is texture you are looking for I would try broccli stalks squash , green beans and carrots... bachoi maybe jicima

      1. I also have gastroparesis and agree with Suzigirl. He may find some foods okay one day but horrible the next. I would also suggest he keep a food journal to pinpoint all of his trigger foods.

        To answer your question, I would substitute sweet peppers for the regular peppers. That shouldn't be so bad. You could also try ground peppers in place of whole for flavor. For instance, I often will add a bit of chipotle powder to recipes in place of a chipotle pepper, since I can't eat peppers of any kind. It is not at all the same, and I wouldn't suggest you do this in a recipe where peppers are the main ingredient, but it will still add a bit of the original recipe's flavor.

        Your husband is lucky he can still eat sweet peppers, so take advantage of that! I can count on my fingers how many foods I can stomach, and they are mostly beige mushy things.

        As to legumes, I would avoid them altogether for him. They not only cause him stomach pain but can also get "stuck" in his gut and cause bezoars. It is recommended gastroparesis sufferers avoid high fiber foods, but especially those that are also fibrous in texture like oranges, broccoli, etc.

        Good luck to him.

        ETA: You could also try cooking and then pureeing the peppers. Some people with gastroparesis find pureed cook veggies or fruits totally okay, versus eating them whole.

        20 Replies
        1. re: nothingswrong

          thanks for the suggestions! He has actually been pretty lucky in the foods he has been able to eat- most of the things that trigger attacks fir him are things he didn't even like but i was making him eat ti get him to eat healthy lol. his number one trigger has been stress and just plain over eating. we are trying to find a new stress reliever for him because the old one was eating

          1. re: heetlr01

            Not that I am advocating drugs but he might consider Xanax. If he can get a prescription for the .25 MG it is very mild. I can totally relate to the stress eating. He has to completely readjust his eating habits. He has to eat much smaller meals. I wish I could offer you a quick answer but since gastroparesis is so different from one person to the next and from one day to the next advice is difficult to give. Best of luck to you both. I say that because the person who lives with gastroparesis is not the only one who suffers.

            1. re: suzigirl

              Let's be clear. You're advocating drugs.

              There is a whole world of stress reduction techniques out there for those who are willing to spend the time and or money. Yes, it's a catch-22, I'm stressed because I don't have enough time in a day to get everything done, but, that really doesn't hold up to scrutiny. I'm just unwilling to give up certain activities (bad habits), like watching TV.

              I suspect a significant percentage of registered chowhound users eat to relieve stress. I do. But, not as much, now that I am more mindful of the purpose of eating.

              Sorry to go all psycho-babble, here, but, it's hard to keep my mouth shut when psychotropic medications are being recommended.

              1. re: johnseberg

                I really don't want to get into a shooting match here. I am only suggesting it because from my understanding it is prescribed to many suffers of gastroparesis. And to be perfectly honest, I would suggest drinking a quart of vinegar if I thought it would help. Gastroparesis is an excruciatingly painful ailment. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. If he isn't resistant to psychotropic medications and it can help reduce attacks all the better. You may feel differently if you suffered this condition.

            2. re: heetlr01

              This article might be helpful. It might get a little bit technical without a broader context, but, I think one can get some potentially beneficial stress management techniques, even if you just skim it. You could even skip over the first half, if you don't need to know *why* stress management is important. It's not that long, though.


              1. re: heetlr01

                Well, hopefully he will slowly find new ways to adjust and manage his symptoms. I too find stress and lack of sleep to be two of my biggest triggers, aside from the obvious, which is eating!

                I just got home from a 3 day hospital stay. My stomach has flared recently and I dropped VERY quickly down to 80 lbs. My doctors feared I'd drop dead.

                I'm on full IV hydration and TPN (IV nutrition) due to the severity of my gastroparesis. Like Suzigirl said, everyone with GP is different, and our symptoms can vary day to day or month to month. A year and a half ago I could sit down and eat a turkey sandwich with iceberg lettuce and French fries at my local diner. Today I'm lucky to get in 100 calories worth of saltine crackers.

                Anyway, aside from medication (which is a personal choice), I find helpful stress/symptoms relievers to be:

                Taking baths
                Taking walks at my own pace
                Playing/cuddling with my dogs
                Baking (even if I can't eat it!)
                Spending time with friends/family
                Avoiding traffic or other stressful daily situations
                Taking time to sit down and just "be" during the day
                Prayer (if that's your cup o tea)

                And I can't stress enough how much sleep is an important factor. If I don't feel rested, my entire GI tract will seem off.

                If he REALLY has difficulty with managing stress, perhaps a few sessions with a therapist might be helpful. I've gone in and out of therapy since getting sick and it's never a bad thing to have extra support for the loss and difficulty associated with GP.

                As to the overeating, it takes a huge amount of work and planning, but my doctors had me on a very regimented diet consisting of 5 small meals per day. Everything had to be prepped in advance, but it was really helpful when easing into this illness. I kept chopped cooked white meat turkey, boiled baby potatoes, and cooked-to-death greens like spinach in the fridge at all times so I could portion out a handful's worth for each meal. That is literally what is recommended--a palm's worth of food at a time. This is definitely not what we are used to eating as a "meal." But if you stick with it and know that you can just eat again later when you're actually hungry, it's much easier to do.

                Good luck to you both.

                1. re: nothingswrong

                  I hope that you get back on track soon nothingswrong. That was a very severe attack. Remember the days of worrying about gaining weight? I hope that you get your weight up as quickly as you can. I know that is easier said than done. You offered some excellent advice. I hope heetlr01 can take some of that and apply it to their lives. I will be thinking of you and pulling for you.

                  1. re: suzigirl

                    Thanks suzigirl.

                    Incidentally, I came home last night to a house that STINKS like a dead animal. Further investigation found the crawlspace opening on the side of the house has been ripped open (???) and I'm assuming a critter is rotting under my feet as I type this.

                    My physical state has me completely bedridden at the moment and the stench is doing nothing for my nausea.

                    I'm also stuck here because they're sending nurses to my home.

                    I'm currently doing whatever I can to cancel the odor--bowls of vinegar, fresh cut lemons, all doors and windows open, and unfortunately I laid heavy on the Febreze this morning. Night 4 with very little sleep.

                    When it rains, it pours....

                    1. re: nothingswrong

                      Oh no. I can't even imagine the distress you are in with that smell. I hope that it is just a visitor and something hasn't crawled up there and died. Worse yet, you can't close it until you are sure nothing is under there whether alive or dead.
                      I wish you a speedy recovery with this bout. Is this the least you have weighed? It sounds so tiny. I get stressed when I drop to 100. To lose so much weight so quickly is so physically taxing. I get exhausted with the smallest things after an attack. Try to take it as easy as you can.

                      1. re: suzigirl

                        Well, I just got off the phone with a pest control company and they are coming later this afternoon to do a thorough search. FINGERS CROSSED THEY FIND THE SOURCE! I am going nuts in here, lol. It's almost comical.

                        Yes, this is the least I have weighed since being a child! My "healthy" weight is 100-105. I've always been thin, am 5'4" with small bones. I've never really weighed more than that. But now at 80, I literally can see and feel the bones all over my body. Not to get too graphic/morbid, but I stood in front of the mirror last week in my underwear and was terrified at what I saw. It literally hurts to sit in chairs because my booty has all but disappeared.

                        I was diagnosed as an adult failure to thrive last year, with total cachexia (muscle wasting). My body has literally eaten every ounce of its muscle.

                        I'm doing my best to follow all doctor's suggestions but it is really hard. They want to insert a nasojejunostomy tube, to test out my intestines, and then surgically insert a jejunostomy tube for the long haul. I agreed initially, but while in the hospital the last few days, I chickened out. The prospect of a feeding tube terrifies me. I have had a picc line in for about a year now for IV hydration or TPN at home, which is far more dangerous, but scares me less. I don't like any of it though, and psychologically I think I'm in quite a bit of denial in regards to my condition.

                        Anyway that is much more than you asked! Thank you for the good wishes, and I will definitely be trying to take it easy. This little body needs some TLC.

                        1. re: nothingswrong

                          Fingers crossed. I am glad they are coming out so quickly. I would be freaking out. I am hyper sensitive to odors when I am attacking. Mystery dead animal would kill me. Glad you can be so cool with it, What else can you do?
                          I can relate to your body concerns. I have lost 34 lbs since being sick. And that isn't including the weight I have gained back. It is so difficult having this condition but even more so when you are tiny like we are. I was concerned with fldhkybnva because her symptoms sounded hauntingly familiar. She seems to be doing well now though.
                          You have GP much more severely than I do. Right now I am just on medications to control my issues. I wouldn't want a j-tube either. It seems so extreme, but I would have to consider it if my paresis was as severe as yours. Being sick and in pain all the time is no way to live as anyone with GP knows.
                          give that little body the TLC it deserves.

                          1. re: suzigirl

                            The exterminator just left. It would have been $150 for him just to crawl under the house, plus a $50 charge for showing up, plus another $150 for every hour he had to spend looking for the animal, plus an undisclosed fee for removal of said animal.

                            He got here super quick and was very friendly, sniffed around the house, then crawled underneath. He reappeared within a minute and said it is a SEWAGE PIPE! Apparently while in the hospital, something has gone wrong with the plumbing. Great.

                            So now I've put 2 calls and an email into my landlord (I rent a house) but no reply. I'm dying in here, lol! I started dry heaving earlier. I do not do well with foul odors.

                            I just want to take a nap :(

                            As to the GP, yes, I thought fldhkybnva's issues sounded similar and I was sad for her. But she does seem to be tolerating foods that GP does not allow.

                            I got sick originally in 2005 after salmonella poisoning. I lost a little weight, but not much, and was still able to eat pretty normally, just would have reflux and slight pain with big meals. In 2008 I went through several months where it seemed like I couldn't stomach ANYTHING without feeling or getting sick. I lost 20 pounds very quickly. Then in 2010 the onset of malnutrition began and I was diagnosed with a life-threatening condition called Beriberi syndrome. Wasn't even diagnosed with gastroparesis until mid-2011. On drug therapy I did really well for 18 months, gaining back 10 pounds and eating all sorts of stuff (always around 2,000 calories per day).

                            Now the last year has just been a nightmare. The drugs don't seem to be working anymore. Everything I eat causes terrible nausea, regurgitation, etc. It is truly exhausting feeling this sick all the time. If I could have anything, it would be an indefinite break from nausea and stomach pain. Even just one week a year to be able to eat normally, travel, relax, etc. would be amazing. A vacation from my body, so to speak.

                            What I wouldn't give about now for a cheeseburger and fries, a pizza, a roast chicken with mashed potatoes and veggies, or a HUGE SALAD and some fruit.

                            All I've eaten for the last year is pasta, white rice, baked potatoes, crackers, tortillas, bread, and other white floury things. Makes a person really REALLY want something fresh and light and crisp. Like berries, lettuces, or juice.

                            1. re: nothingswrong

                              I don't know which is worse when you are sick... sewer or dead? Both are pretty high up there on the ugh list. Now you have to deal with a plumber and whatever the pipes are going to need. YIKES! You can't catch a break. I hope you have a good landlord that will get it remedied quickly.
                              Isn't funny how something as simple as food poisoning can cause a lifetime of illness? Mine was onset by stomach flu. I got the stomach flu in May 2012 and couldn't shake it off and eventually lost 44 lbs before I convinced my bf that it was beyond what we could handle. after several days in the hospital and countless tests they diagnosed me with GERD, three active ulcers and GP. Every time they try to back me off my meds(because they can cause neurological side effects after long term) I go nuts attacking. They have tried other meds to no avail. It is a very frustrating condition. You are really behind the eight ball. I can't imagine all the distress these things have caused in your life. I know for me it effects my work(I have lost clients), my love life, social life(who wants to go with me to a restaurant and either have me not eat or worse, eat and get sick and have to leave) and holidays(not much I can eat). I cook a lot of different things here but my big thing is to enjoy one bite or two of each thing and cut it out right there. I haven't had a full meal in nearly two years. I would love to take a much needed vacation from my stomach. Or to be hungry without feeling sick at the same time or just to feel hungry. I would settle for that. and to not go into every meal anxious about attacking. That would be nice.
                              I hear you. What I wouldn't give for a crispy salad, corn, goat cheese or a glass of wine. A margarita, a cucumber with seeds, a beet salad... I could keep going. I can eat pretty normal foods most often, just a very, very small amount.
                              And is it just me or do portion sizes seem ridiculous since you have gotten sick? Who eats like that? I am shocked at portions now that I can't eat all that. I used to eat a whole foot long, bag of chips and a large drink at Subway. Now I have them cut a six inch in half and make two meals, hold most the veggies please.

                              1. re: suzigirl

                                So you are post-infectious too! We are supposedly the most rare (lucky us).

                                I assume you take the drug that starts with an R. I was just given IV doses 6 times a day in the hospital to no avail. They sent me home with it (pills) but I'm simultaneously having a horrid reaction to TPN which makes my insides all liquid and I've been sick as a dog all day.

                                I hear you on all of your anxieties and losses. I have developed a real fear of eating, despite my true love of food. I bake and cook constantly just to be around the food. Nibble bits and pieces as much as I can.

                                Funny thing, I completely lost my appetite for most of these years I've been ill but the last few months I have a RAGING appetite, my stomach growls all the time, but when I try to eat, I get sick. Or I'll eat maybe 4 bites and I'm so full, it's coming back up my throat.

                                Portion sizes... OMG... I have been thinking about that a lot lately. I look at how my friends and family eat and think "I can do that" and get the weight back on. So I'll put a serving of food on my plate (a real serving, not an American serving, like a 1/2 cup of rice, 2 oz. of white turkey breast, etc.) and I'll still be thinking "This is a totally manageable amount of food." Then I start eating. I eat until I'm gagging most of the time. So full I can't move. Have to curl in a ball for an hour or two to get the nausea and stomach-heaves to subside. And then I'll look down at my plate and it literally looks untouched. My mother always comments on it if I'm eating at her house--that all that work and nausea from the equivalent of a few bites of food. It's crazy.

                                I used to eat double-decker turkey sandwiches from a local Jewish deli with a full side of fries. I mean, there was like 1/2 lb of meat on those things. I also used to have a knack for eating Betty Crocker cake mix cakes--I once ate an entire box's worth (pineapple upside down) in a 9"x13" pan in less than 36 hours. Sigh...

                                Today I am allowing myself to have a pity party. Apologies...

                                1. re: nothingswrong

                                  Iam on the drug that starts with the R. 4X a day. They keep trying to back it off but then I am attacking between 8 and 12 times a week. I hope the TPN starts to jive with you soon.
                                  I hear you on feeling like you can tackle a meal like normal people and feeling like you ate a bus or getting sick after just a few bites. I have to go lie in my room and turn off the lights and just not move. If I move I retch terribly.
                                  Thanks for being someone to talk to that relates to what I feel. It is a comfort to me. And never apologize. I join your pity party all the time. Here is to today being a better day.

                                  1. re: suzigirl

                                    I just started on the R drug for the first time ever. Previously my doctors had refused to give it to me because of the side effects. So I was given tons of IV doses in the hospital and now am taking the pills since being home (24 hours) and am noticing they make my stomach feel funny. Like it's constantly contracting/spasming, yet I don't feel like I can eat more. Do you feel those spasms? Is that normal? They are quite uncomfortable. Best I can describe them: It feels like I'm throwing up DOWN instead of up.

                                    I have occasional gastric dumping and it feels similar to that, minus the sweats and clamminess.

                                    I'm sorry you and I relate on this level, but I'm still kind of glad to find a fellow food lover with GP! It's like a strange curse to love food and cooking and baking so much, and to be plagued with an illness like this.

                                    Lately when I have attacks, I find myself curled up in the bathtub (with or without water in it). I find it so comforting in there, like no matter what happens, there will be no real mess to clean. Ha! Sometimes just sitting under the running water for 10 minutes is enough to make me feel back to normal. The tub has become my happy place.

                                    Hope you are having a good day and please enjoy your weekend!

                                    I spent all morning in the hospital again, with clots in my new picc. Luckily the infusion nurse was able to get them out. So maybe with all the shit being thrown at me, things are starting to look up! I even ate a bagel with cream cheese and it caused tremendous pain but was delicious. Thanks for the good wishes.

                                    1. re: nothingswrong

                                      I'm sorry you had to back to the hospital. I hate that dreadful place. Lucky it was a short stay.
                                      I had the stomach spasms when I first started taking it but they went away. I never said anything to my dr because they stopped but I would say something if it persists.
                                      Don't be sorry we relate on this level. I am glad that someone else understands the struggles of the love/hate for food. I described myself to my dr as an unwilling anorexic.
                                      When I attack my happy place is my bedroom. I had my bf board up the windows with foamboard insulation to block out the light and muffle the sound. It is my refuge when I am ill.

                  2. re: nothingswrong

                    thank you so much for all the ideas! we had not really thought about lack of sleep. It makes so much sense now. We had a baby this fall that was born with such severe acid reflux that he was kept in the NICU for 3 weeks. when he came home he was so uncomfortable he only slept about 90 min at a time. he is finally growing out of some if his issues and sleeping longer stretches and my husband has not had an episode since we started getting more sleep.
                    thanks for the stress release ideas. My husband plays the piano for a living and has recently started playing at home- not what he needs for work but whatever he wants for enjoyment and that has really been helping with the stress.
                    I really hope you and everyone else on here will find what works best for them so that nobody has to deal with all the pain. Good Luck!

                    1. re: heetlr01

                      Interesting that his symptoms are better with more sleep! I'm telling you, I find it's one of the biggest factors in how my stomach feels. I'm not sure why, but my stomach just feels more settled when I'm well rested.

                      That's really cool your husband is a pianist! I took up playing piano years ago when I started getting really sick. I found it to be a wonderful stress reliever, and somehow even if I feel like I can't do chores, I can sit at the piano for a bit and play.

                      Thanks for the good wishes for all of us, and same to you and your husband. And I hope your baby continues to get better, poor thing.

                      1. re: heetlr01

                        You sure have a lot on your plate. I hope things to continue to improve for you. It seems you have a lot of gastric distress in your house. Congratulations on the new baby. I hope that you stay well while trying to keep your family well. Best wishes

                2. I have delayed gastric emptying and a pancreatic insufficiency - I take a prescription supplement to help my body digest fats. This is only what works for me, but I find that if I cut the peel off of the peppers, I don't have nearly the issues that I do when I eat them peel and all.

                  I don't do many legumes - usually just a few when I make quesadillas or something like that, where I can put just a few in mine and more in the ones for the rest of the family. I avoid soy completely because I happen to be allergic.

                  If your husband wants to ask the doc about trying an enzyme supplement, the name of mine is Creon. It is pretty expensive, even with insurance coverage, but it significantly reduces my digestive issues, so it is worth it.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jw615

                    Yes, good point! Cooking, peeling, and de-seeding vegetables will make them much easier to digest.

                    I find I can eat cooked zucchini if I cut out all of the seeds.

                    For tomatoes, I've heard many people can stomach them if they are peeled, seeded, and pureed.

                    So for peppers, I would probably roast and then take off all the peel, obviously seed them, and then add to recipe.

                  2. Has he ever tried kefir to help him with this? I have found it to be an amazing digestive aid. 8 ounces everyday, first thing in the morning.

                    Chile peppers are unique in many respects. I don't think there is one substitute for all recipes. I find it very surprising that he can handle "sweet peppers." I assume you mean bell peppers. Perhaps it is the capsaicinoids in hot peppers. Still, if he can work with bell peppers. Why not a poblano with all the seed and placenta removed. Those are pretty mild.