The past few weeks have been… interesting.
I seem to have gastroparesis, because after every bite or two of food, I felt like I’d swallowed a cannonball, I’d still taste it up to five hours later, and even the thought of food made me nauseous.
At the same time, I seem to have wasting syndrome, because the other end of my GI system was working double-time and overtime. I was exploding on the toilet long after there was anything to explode with, whether I had eaten or not.
The weight loss has been a boon to my knees and hips, but the ground-in weakness is annoying.
The usual treatment is a “low-residue” diet, a shameful pile of poor nutrition and monotonous eating, consisting largely of things that I’m allergic or sensitive to — and steamed vegetables, which I can usually eat by the plateful, but can now barely manage a bite of, they’re so heavy with water.
I thought it over.
Both gastroparesis and diarrhea indicate an intestinal lining that is starving for antioxidants, and probably inflamed. Therefore, anything I eat is going to have to have antioxidants, because that is first-line treatment for tissues starved for antioxidants. Many antioxidant-rich foods are anti-inflammatory, so it’s useful for me to lean towards those.
The sluggish-to-trudging pace of intestinal motion, or peristalsis, is liable to under-stimulate the release of digestive juices, so anything I eat had better be easy to digest — or, better still, partly digested already.
Since I could only eat one or two bites at a time (and still feel rather ghastly afterwards), every single bite — in terms of both nutrition and flavor — had darn well better be worth the trouble of eating it!
I’ve been interested in good food since forever. My mother has been an outstanding cook all my life, and time spent helping in the kitchen was never wasted. She’s always been good at shoehorning a bit of extra nutrition into something in a way that improves the flavor. Dad would eat anything, so failed experiments were never wasted.
Because of my upbringing (traveling widely with a good cook on one side and a walking disposer on the other) I’m a fearless cook and a promiscuous eater, happy to try anything from anywhere, as long as it’s good in both senses of the word.
On my sudden return from abroad in 2006, terribly weak, badly sick with CRPS, and having my heart broken in umpteen pieces by the most traumatic, trouble-ridden, devastating trip of my entire life, I found sanctuary with my friend L and her family. It took ten days even to notice which end was up, but then L said, as I snacked on something homemade from a jar, “It’s normal to eat a lot of raw food when your system has been deprived for so long. Give it another week and your appetite will get more normal.”
I considered being embarrassed, but I was too busy absorbing the impact of what she had said. I had heard her talking about “raw food” since I’d arrived, and I understood it meant cold-processed food that was carefully jacked to boost its nutritional value and digestibility.
I didn’t realize I was devouring it on an industrial scale.
Knowing what I know now about the devastation at the cellular level that this disease can wreak — and the depth of disruption that even occasional trauma can cause, let alone a relentless, months-long parade of traumas — I’m not surprised. At the time, I found my attention sinking deeper and deeper into my body, and noticing a curiously profound ravenousness that only L’s un-cooking seemed to satisfy.
It actually took four and a half weeks… of grated beets lightly marinated in balsamic vinegar; young spinach dressed with fresh lemon juice and flax oil; pepitas dried with tamari and spices; crispy sesame-kale flakes; yogurt made from sprouted cashews; homemade nut milk; juice from apples picked an hour before they met their fate; tomato-leather from the garden’s surplus, stowed in the deep-freezer to make tomato paste and soup base in the winter. It was a feast of discoveries, or a discovery of feasts.
At that point, L asked if I’d mind kicking into the grocery budget. (I turned bright red, smacked my foggy forehead, and started taking my turn at the grocery store.) I did my feeble best, but I’ll never be able to pay back the real value of what they gave me, in terms of sustenance for the body, balance for the mind, and stability for the soul. L let me know when she had had enough of gratitude, so at this point, I just do my best to pass it on.
I recently replaced my blender, as the old one was blowing smoke, and I got a dehydrator too. In light of my nutritional status, I put them to use.
Here’s an example of the sippy-cup-sized shakes that I make in the blender…
… and the partially re-created flax-cracker recipe we’d invented all those years ago — the ones that smell like hot-dogs and taste like junk-food, and have more minerals and omega-3s than you could shake a Triscuit at. Mine aren’t quite hot-doggy yet (I used a lot of sesame), but they are, wow, really good just the same. Especially with a touch of grassfed butter, when they’re out of this world.
It has been almost 3 weeks, and I can finally eat a small meal once a day without significant repercussions. Also, I can be more than an hour from a toilet without fearing for my trousers.
I’m so far successfully denying the fact that the endocrine shenanigans of this disease have made it so that I can’t drop this excess weight unless I’m literally starving. I don’t think I’ve gotten above 1,000 calories per day more than 3 times since this started.
I’ll think about that later. Right now I have a sliver of raw goat-milk cheddar and a sprouted sesame-flax cracker waiting for me.