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Recovering from Longterm Illness: Can You Help?!

Hi all-
I'm fairly new around here, though I've lurked for a long time.

Here's my deal: I've had a couple bouts with pretty severe pancreatitis in the past year. My body's been through a ton (including some organ failures, necrosis in the abdomen, hospital-acquired C. diff, etc), and I spent a lot of time on a pure IV feed (weeks/months with no food at all, many more months on limited liquids only).

I can eat solids again now, but between the time spent not eating, the trauma/healing, and pancreatic/absorption issues, I am WAY skinny.

Pancreatic patients need to eat within the following guidelines:

NO alcohol
NO transfats
NO artificial sweeteners
No caffeine
No deep-fried foods
Generally low-fat
Generally not meat-heavy
Minimal dyes
Minimal preservatives
Minimal refined sugar (especially avoid HFCS)

I eat 6-8 times a day. Large volume/bulk is hard on my system, so I eat smaller meals.

I generally eat mostly vegetarian/pescatarian, though I do eat some chicken, pork, etc. I don't eat beef, as it hurts my system. I do fine with most plant fats (nuts, seeds, avocados, vegetable oils, etc) in moderation. i MUST have high calcium intake, as I quickly develop severe calcium deficiencies (which lead to seizures). The more natural and "whole food" the diet, the better; I love food, I love eating, and I am looking for advice! No food allergies or squeamishness, just the doctor guidelines for the pancreas stuff.

So, I challenge you, friends; can you offer me suggestions of delicious things for a single girl to make so I can get back to a remotely normal weight?!

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  1. I believe a low fat, carb heavy diet stresses pancreatic beta cells the most, and protein and fats the least... how about at least 2% Greek yogurt for the calcium and protein? Sugars are sugars, refined or not... and all carbs/fruits are the same to your pancreas AFAIK... I'm guessing that leafy, high fiber veggies, avocadoes, nuts are good sources of healthy fats and nutrients... I hope you have a complete and healthy recovery. Maybe whey peptide smoothies made with Greek yogurt and a small amount of frozen berries a few times per day?

    2 Replies
    1. re: mcf

      Oh the smoothie sounds helpful! What is whey peptide? I assume that's available at health food stores? Thanks!

      1. re: chartreauxx

        It's a very bioavailable protein powder, you can buy it unflavored, so without sweetening. I like Designer Protein brand, a lot of folks like Muscle Milk, but I haven't used their unflavored variety. You can sip a smoothie over an hour or more and get lean body mass building protein in a tasty way that allows you to adjust ingredients to meet your needs. Some folks mix the protein powder with cottage cheese and almond meal or a little flour to make pancakes, too, though I haven't. To thin the Greek yogurt (much more protein than regular), you can use ice cubes, too, so you don't consume too much frozen fruit sugar at once.

        I'm pretty sure you can sneak some avocado, for healthy fats and calories or some leafy spinach into a fruit shake for extra vitamins, too. HTH, and be well, wishing you a smooth recovery.

    2. My suggestions are re the need for calcium. I don't see anything on your list that would exclude tapioca pudding. If you use the recipe for Fluffy Tapioca on the Minute Tapioca box, you will use only two eggs to a quart of milk and can cut the sugar back to 1/2 cup (or less if you eat the pudding with a strawberry or slice of peach). With nothing but milk (use 1% if you like), egg, the tapioca, vanilla, and a small amount of natural sugar, you will have a very nutritious food that seems within your guidelines. Baked custard has more egg. Cornstarch pudding (blanc mange) can be made without egg. Bread puddings and rice pudding are another option---you can modify the sugar as needed and have some fruit with it or add raisins. Yogurt? How about clam chowder using canned minced clams and 1% milk---then thicken it a bit with just a little instant mashed potato. Getting into commercial ice creams and pudding from a mix, you would have to read very carefully what's in it. If you can find an acceptable chocolate, hot chocolate made with 1%. If you can find some OK ice cream, then milk shakes and malts. You are going to have to learn a lot of chemistry and read a lot of labels, I think. BTW given your medical parameters I should think your insurance would cover a consult with a registered dietitian---very helpful as they know tons more about diet than doctors do. (Sorry if that offends anyone but I cooked for my heart-patient husband for over twenty years and that was my experience.)

      1. I make a chia seed pudding with different kinds of milks and stevia. The chia seeds are powerfull, healthful little things and the puddings are easy on the system and good for breakfast, snacks or dessert. I like chia, almond milk, cocoa, stevia. Google chia pudding and customize to your needs, the varieties are endless.

        1. Right now you should be able to get peaches and pears from local sources. I think there is no better simple snack that a scoop of good cottage cheese and a fresh peach or pear. You can add a little spice to that or a few natural almonds. I've had to try several brands of cottage cheese before finding what I like best at Whole Foods.

          I also want to recommend the 365 Everyday brand of ricotta cheese. It tastes very fresh.

          Today at WF I picked up some fresh mozzarella and I plan to make a Caprese salad. You could do this if you can have salami, or some other sausage. Very seasonal, and very fresh.

          I hope you make a good recovery. Good luck.

          1. Thanks guys! These are super helpful ideas! I LOVE cottage cheese, ricotta, tapioca, etc, but haven't eaten any in years. And I am a complete peach addict...

            Querencia, I think you're right about reading labels and learning chemistry.

            Sedimental, that sounds great! Do you always put meat in your caprese? An uncured meat or something like seafood (shrimp maybe?) could be really good with that....

            1. A soup that I love and is good hot or cold is Bobby Flay's roasted tomato soup:

              I don't find the heavy cream necessary at all. Maybe instead swirl in plain yogurt, to also boost the calcium.

              Sending best wishes for your recovery.

              1. Kind of new to this board, and hope you are doing well. Your post caught my eye since some of my "food issues" are similar.

                I'm a long-time vegetarian who recently became "short gut" (I have ~100cm of short intestine intact, no ileum or ICV). I'm also a long-time (former competitive) runner and cyclist, so calorie needs are important.. Kinda icky (close your browsers NOW, squeamish peeps...) but I also deal with almost constant diarrhea. This can suck for someone who once considered herself something of a "foodie".

                I have added salmon to my diet. My internist almost let out an audible sigh of happiness! I'm guessing you already eat this wonder-food? It adds needed protein and calories to our day! Some days I just need the calories and I wolf the @#$! stuff out of the can. It seems to be one thing I can tolerate and digest. My cats are jealous. Other days, I buy better stuff (fillets), sautee it and add it to salads or omelets.

                Speaking of omelettes..the wonder food. I think the French had it right all along. When I cannot tolerate bread-products (pasta, tortillas...omg I CRAVE those) I reach for the eggs. Baked potatoes too. I can top both those puppies with salmon and greens and whatever else my stomach will handle on that particular day.

                Bummer about the vino. I still get to have a glass of red once in a while. It kind of makes my life tolerable. And the calories are nice.

                Oh and if I can mention a brand name? Ensure. I live on the stuff. Some days nothing else will "stick" with me and I don't have the energy to eat anything else. It beats TPN, right? ;)

                Best wishes!

                8 Replies
                1. re: pedalfaster

                  pedalfaster, so sorry you, too, have had such difficult health challenges. Based upon reccos, I got my elderly and frail MIL Muscle Milk lite (or whatever they call the low sugar one with plenty of protein) ready to drink shakes. She loves them and they're also an easy way to get some lean body mass building protein in a way that's easy to take. HTH.

                  1. re: mcf

                    Thanks for the tip mcf! I'm due for another (my last?!) surgery in Sept and will need more meal-replacement/calorie-dense ideas for a few weeks. I'll try to pick some up and give it a test run before then. The more options I have the better. Eating (or drinking ) the same stuff day in/day out gets boring and stale quickly.

                    1. re: mcf

                      I think the light version contains artifcial sweeteners, which might have undesirable GI effects for certain individuals. (Maybe not as bad as sugar alcohols, but all the same, important to consider in light of ongoing problems.)

                      1. re: 4Snisl

                        Never have had that problem, and it's not reported in the myriad positive reviews. MIL has a delicate stomach and she loves it. Neither of the sweeteners in it have been associated with gastric problems that I'm aware of. I've been reading and posting to low carb and diabetic groups for a lot of years, and only sugar alchohols are ever reported to do that.

                        1. re: mcf

                          So glad it hasn't caused any issues with your mother-in-law! Seriously, anything that is an available option is good news.

                          I haven't read any literature that asociates artificial sweeteners with negative GI effects....yet so many clients have reported having negative effects with products that have artificial sweeteners (even those that don't have sugar alcohol) that I've just generally put out the disclaimer. And honestly, after tracking food diaries with them, the artificially sweetened products do appear to be the culprit for whatever reason....even if it's 'psychosomatic'.

                          1. re: 4Snisl

                            That's something I've never heard before from diabetics and low carbers. Each person has to listen to her own body.

                          2. re: mcf

                            sucralose/Splenda does a number on my stomach, and i've heard from others that i'm not alone in this.

                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              I know it does and I believe you about others. Are they also gluten intolerant or with other autoimmune probs? I have only heard of one other person, who has mastocytosis and an extreme reaction to sugars life long having a reaction to it, but it wasn't gastric, I don't think. It's very uncommon with sucralose. Of course, it's possible that a lot of folks are having symptoms and not connecting them to the sweeteners, too.

                    2. Hello Charttreauxx,
                      Both my daughter and I follow an Insulin Resistence/Metabolic Syndrome way of eating. We are also eatting every 3-4 hrs. If you are able to tolerate low carb wraps, Target, Mission and Weight Watchers brands are very tasty. We enjoy natural peanut butter, cinnamon, fresh fruit and sprinkle a lil stevia if needed....warm 30 secs in micro and whhhaaalaaa. Sorta reminds me of comfort food when warmed, and very filling. Those wraps are so versitile, salmon, chicken, pork, beans.....whatever you can think of. Sometimes we enjoy placing them in a heated frying pan(no oil needed, unless you would like a spec of evoo) then they become crispy and you can melt any cheese and dry rubs for seasoning to shake things up like cajon, italian>hot sauces too. Another yummy one is sausage peppers and onions....delicious. A great snack is slicing a yam very finely and putting in a baggy with evoo and plenty of seasoning..herbs fresh or dry to marinate and then layn them flat in micro for 5mins....yummy chips. Target also makes great cheese sticks part skim and jalepeno, good low fat, high protein snack. We also like pumpkin sunflower,chia. and flax seeds. Edamame is a GREAT nutritional snack as well. I am a fan of Chobani Greek yogurt(plain has less carbs)and fresh fruit with chia and flaxseeds topped with cinnamon and stevia(if desired)is terrific too. We love to slice apples,top with cinnamon and stevia, micro until soft texture and roll in wraps.....omg a yummy warm dessert; and healthy(you can always add a lil protein source and your balanced.
                      Hope I gave you a few new leads,

                      ALL THE BEST & A SPEEDY RECOVERY,
                      BEACHAHOLIC :)

                      1. With the exception of a glass of wine and a cup of coffee, this is pretty much how I eat every day ... just because its what I like to eat! And between swimming, running and an otherwise active life, I eat plenty. some of my staples:

                        Plain yogurt (2%, either make my own or get plain trader joes brand) with fruit and granola (make my own -- lots of nuts and use maple syrup to sweeten), cottage cheese and fruit, peanut butter on ww toast (often with a tomato sliced on top... ), salads with lemon juice and olive oil dressing, often with some roasted vegetables or other leftovers tossed in. Sardines are a favorite in salads too. Quinoa salad has been on the rotation this summer, generally with edamame and an assortment of vegetables.. Cheese and avocado sandwiches. Organic blue corn tortilla chips. Hot dishes includes chickpea and vegetable sautes with cashews (kind of like this http://chocolateandzucchini.com/archi...), scrambled eggs with greens, homemade pizza (lots of veggies, moderate amount of cheese and sometimes a little meat). Roasted vegetables (through in some potatoes and chicken sausage for a meal).


                        1 Reply
                        1. re: firecooked

                          A few people have mentioned yogurt but I want to endorse firecooked's idea of making your own. it's so easy to do that it's unfair to call it "cooking" (here's Chow's version: http://www.chow.com/food-news/54959/m...) and after a few times you'll be able to customize it for how sour you want it, how thick, match the amount of homogenization/pasteurization/antibiotics/etc. in your source milk with your nutritional needs, etc. Also, you'll save a bundle of money if you eat a lot of it.

                          Good luck to you.

                        2. Could you eat dates? This cake is happy with all kinds of changes and accommodations, but here is the basic recipe: Process in blender or processor 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 cup water, peeled rind (use potato peeler) of one lemon, artificial egg equivalent of 2 eggs or just use the whites, 2 tablespoons oil,1/2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp baking soda. Then add 8-10 oz pitted dried dates. Process until smooth if you want a smooth cake or just pulse on and off if you want a chunky torte-style cake. Then add 1 cup flour (and 1 cup walnuts, optional) and pulse on and off. Bake in an 8-inch square pan or however. A very forgiving cake (change it however you need to---it seems to be indestructible), lots of calories for putting on weight, and a load of Potassium in the dates. Of course you can use real eggs but it comes out OK with substitute. It comes out no matter what you do to it and is a delicious, intensely date-flavored cake that is wonderful with a cup of hot tea.

                          1. i think that the old cliche of chicken soup for ill people would not be a cliche if it was not one of the most effective food-treatments there is!

                            i would encourage you to make your own chicken stock from natural/organic chickens, which is SO much more delicious and nutritious than store-bought or canned, and is preservative-free.

                            once you have the nutritious and easy-to-digest chicken stock, you can make it into any type of soup you would like. you don't have to make "chicken soup," you can make a lentil or vegetable soup, but you will get a lot of healing nutrition. you can use the stock to cook grains or add flavor when cooking vegetables. a nice fish court-boullion is great too, but not as versatile.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: soupkitten

                              My granddaughter stayed with us for several months after her divorce and made the most delicious chicken soup using a top of the line kosher chicken (from Trader Joes) - hardly any fat but intense taste - added carrots, celery, onion but slow cooked it on top of the stove for about one and a half hours, took the meat off the bones - what a feast.

                            2. wishing you a speedy recovery! i haven't seen any mention of canned sardines - they're a delicious way to take in protein, calcium and good fats at once. canned salmon is great too, but be sure to buy the kind that has the bones in it.

                              sesame seeds & tahini are also rich in calcium - hummus would be a great way for you to take advantage of this, as you'll also get protein & fiber from the chickpeas. sesame-crusted fish or chicken is a good option too.

                              and almonds - again, calcium, protein, and good fats. try almond butter with apple slices or crudites, or add a dollop to the blender when making a protein smoothie.

                              and there's always tofu!