Monthly Archives: February 2011

Twelve Letters. Begins with C…

The answer to this crossword clue: constipation.  The dreaded “c” word just happens to be a not so pleasant side effect of the low fat/ low fiber GP diet which often exacerbates Gastroparesis symptoms.  The last time I mentioned this unfortunate problem I used “whisper voice” but we all know it’s the white elephant in the room so here goes….

Shortly after diagnosis, I mentioned this new phenomenon to my Gastroenterologist.  His advice was literally one word: Miralax.  I’ve always been a compliant patient so I went to the store and picked a bottle off the shelf and began to read the ingredients.  It was right then and there I decided there had to be another way before I headed down the Miralax path.

This is the point where I would be irresponsible if I failed to mention that I’m not a Dietitian or medical professional.  Everything I write about is based on my own research and experience and should not be construed as professional nutritional or medical advice.  It is also not meant, in any way, to be disparaging or critical of anyone’s GP lifestyle.  We are all doing what we need to do in order to be well and live well with a chronic digestive disorder.  One piece of wisdom I got from the Dietitian (when the look of horror came over my face when I first saw the limitations of the GP diet and heard the words “puree” and “baby food”) was that you can only give your body what it is willing and able to tolerate.  I should also mention that I have been diagnosed with Idiopathic Gastroparesis and no other dysfunction any further down my digestive system.  Now that we have that out of the way…

These are a few of the ways I’m able to keep the “trains running on schedule” while adhering to the GP diet.  They work best as maintenance tools rather than solutions so I address any “slow downs” (when things get sluggish, incomplete or nonexistent for one day) very quickly to avoid “back log”.

Juicing: I’m a big fan of juicing and not just because it’s a great way to get fresh, raw fruits and veggies.  I firmly believe that what is included in my juice helps me fend off the dreaded “c” word.  Greens are magnesium-rich thanks to their pigment chlorophyll.  Magnesium is necessary for normal muscle function including the intestines.  It relaxes the muscles in the intestines and attracts water to the intestines.  My favorite greens for juicing are dandelion, spinach, chard, parsley, kale and beet.  Speaking of beet, drinking beet juice regularly is thought to relieve constipation so I include beet root every time I juice.  During the summer months I include watermelon in my juice and find it very effective.  The white part of the rind is loaded with chlorophyll so don’t cut it off with the green skin.  Here is a link for a few Juicing Recipes for Constipation .

Limiting the White: Bananas, canned/cooked peaches and pears, prunes (as baby food or pulp-less juice), peas (as baby food), squash, sweet potatoes, white potatoes (without skin and not instant/processed potato) are all starches or carbohydrates that promote regularity.  Think anti-BRAT diet.  White rice, white bread, noodles and cream of wheat type cereals promote constipation because they are highly processed.  I’m very mindful of how much “white” I consume and try to opt for less processed forms of starch/carbohydrate to balance out the “white” when I can.

Hot Beverages: Don’t underestimate the power of a strong cup of coffee if you are able to tolerate it.  I enjoy one cup of strong, black coffee after my breakfast smoothie has settled each morning to help get things going.  If things feel like they’re becoming sluggish I make myself a Cup O’Go, as I like to call it,  in the evening as the last thing I consume before I go to bed.  One tablespoon of blackstrap molasses dissolved in a cup of hot water (milk, coffee or tea) produces a mild laxative effect without fiber.  Blackstrap molasses is the result of the third boiling of sugar and is a significant source of potassium, iron and calcium.

Probiotics: Dosing with good bacteria is believed to keep pathogens (harmful microorganisms) in check, aid digestion and nutrient absorption and contribute to immune function.  I’m a bit of a novice as far as probiotics are concerned and get mine with a daily Acidophilus pearl and a serving of Activia yogurt.  Recently, I weened myself off of the sugar-sweetened vanilla and now enjoy plain, unsweetened with a serving of baby food fruit poured over the top.  Many GPers swear by Align.  I haven’t tried it but Mollee at www.mybrokenstomach.com is a huge fan.  Click on the link to read what she has to say about Align.  

Regular Exercise: We’ve all heard or read that regular exercise is good for us and it’s also good for all facets of digestion…that includes elimination.  Weather permitting, I speed/power walk my neighborhood which is  3 miles or spend 50 minutes (5.5 miles) on the elliptical at the gym.  Getting 5 days of exercise a week diminishes ALL of my GP symptoms including constipation.

Water: Again, we’ve all heard or read that being properly hydrated aids all aspects of digestion.  Proper hydration lubricates the intestines and makes waste soft and easier to pass. I drink water with and between meals.

Yoga: My favorite yoga pose or asana for “intestinal discomfort” is Pavanamuktasana. The literal translation is: “wind release pose”.  Click on the link.  It’s much easier to see the pose than for me to explain it.  I find this pose relieves bloating and discomfort associated with “slow down”. 

Supplements: My last resort if everything else I’ve mentioned isn’t working.  Magnesium is available in supplement form.  Phillips makes a magnesium caplet (not to be confused with Milk of Magnesia which is a saline laxative).  Each caplet is 500 mg of magnesium oxide.  I take one or two caplets with an eight ounce glass of water before bed.  I have no idea if magnesium interacts with medication so if you have any concerns consult your doctor of pharmacist.

We’ve all been diagnosed with the same condition and following the GP diet may help by keeping us fed and healthy but it has it’s drawbacks.  I hope some of these suggestions prove helpful and if you have any “home spun” wisdom of your own please share.

Hoping you’re all Eating Well!  Being Well! and Enjoying!

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D-lightful!

This is a Gastroparesis recipe blog and a vehicle for eating well and being well.  In that spirit I’d like to share that after almost a year my Vitamin D levels have finally settled into a normal range.  Shortly after my diagnoses last February I found out I was Vitamin D deficient after my Primary Care Physician sent me for blood tests at my routine annual appointment.  Why am I chatting about my Vitamin D levels?  Because a significant percentage of the population (non-GPers included) is Vitamin D deficient.

In a nutshell: Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and hormone that promotes calcium absorption in the gut and maintains normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus which are important in maintaining strong bones.  Vitamin D also modulates cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function and reduces inflammation.  There is growing research suggesting that Vitamin D provides protection from osteoporosis, high blood pressure, several autoimmune diseases and cancers.  Vitamin D is found in foods such as fish, eggs, fortified milk and cod liver oil and is synthesized in the skin when exposed to sunlight.  The U.S. government currently recommends 600 units per day.

My doctor’s first course of action was to write a prescription for 50,000 units of Vitamin D to be taken once a week for 12 weeks.  My levels rose to the normal range and I was told to take a maintenance dose of 2,000 units of Vitamin D3 per day.  I couldn’t maintain a normal level at that dosage.  My doctor suggested that people with digestive disorders have a harder time absorbing certain vitamins and nutrients and told me to increase my daily dose to 3,000 units of Vitamin D3.  Happily, my levels are now in the normal range and I’m continuing (under my doctor’s supervision) at the daily dose of 3,000 units of Vitamin D3.

I’m not a Dietitian and this isn’t meant to be nutritional or medical advice.  I’m  just passing along what I’ve learned from this experience with the hope that it will be helpful to other GPers.  So, if you have Gastroparesis and don’t know what your Vitamin D levels are I suggest you ask your doctor for a simple blood test to see if you are in need of supplementation.

As always…Eat Well!  Be Well!  Enjoy!

If In Doubt, Just Leave It Out

I was going to title this post “Does Your Pee Smell Funny?  Mine Does!” but I thought that might be slightly crude so I showed a little self restraint…of course not enough to just leave it out entirely.  I was feeling adventurous so I tried a new veggie!  Asparagus.  It’s included in the sample menu provided to me by the Dietitian.  I’ve taken my sweet old time trying asparagus because when I noticed it at my appointment and started to get excited I remember she got a little cagey using phrases like: make sure it’s really cooked or maybe just the tips…not a very confident endorsement.  In all fairness we all know that no one can tell a GPer what will and will not work for them.  It’s all trial and error.

The bunches of asparagus at the market looked so healthy, like bouquets of vibrant green pencils.   Quality asparagus should be standing in clean water like an arrangement of cut flowers and the tips should be tightly closed.  Not only did it look beautiful but it was on sale so I bought a pound for me and a pound for hubby.  I’m a “less is more” kinda gal and (no secret) a very cautious gal so I thought an asparagus soup with only a few simple ingredients and some well cooked tips for garnish would be just the place to start.  As for the title of this post: “If In Doubt, Just Leave It Out”, this is the first time that I’ve included shallot.  I felt because everything was pureed and pressed through a fine mesh strainer that it wouldn’t pose a problem.  If you have any doubts leave it out and substitute onion powder.  I’ve also used a little bit of olive oil because according to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen, a little bit of fat enables you to absorb more vitamins from your veggies.  Again, if even a small amount of fat poses a problem, leave it out.  Your judgment is your best guide.

I enjoyed my Asparagus Soup with a “safe meal” of baked haddock fillet seasoned with a teaspoon of dry french Vermouth, garlic powder, salt and lemon pepper seasoning then topped with cracker crumbs.

Asparagus Soup

This simple soup tasted of asparagus…exactly as I intended.  Feel free to add any herbs or a splash of fat free half and half if you like.

Makes approximately 4 cups

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 shallot, chopped

1 pound of asparagus, trimmed and chopped-tips reserved

4 cups low sodium chicken stock

salt and pepper to taste

Spray a soup pot with cooking spray.  When pot is hot add olive oil and shallot.  Salt lightly and saute the shallot until tender and starting to turn golden.  Add asparagus pieces (reserving the tips) and saute for  a minute or so.  Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Simmer UNCOVERED (to preserve the beautiful green color) until asparagus is very tender.  Puree thoroughly and press through a fine mesh sieve to catch any stringy fibers.  Return soup to the pot and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a boil, salt the water then drop the asparagus tips in.  Cook until very tender.  DO NOT cover or the asparagus will lose its beautiful green color.  Time will depend on how big the tips are.  When tender drain and shock in a small bowl of ice water to stop cooking.

Serve each cup of soup with a garnish of asparagus tips.

Nutritional Information Per Serving: 1 cup per serving

50 calories, 2.3 grams fat, 2.5 grams fiber, 3.6 grams protein

“You Don’t Look Sick” G-PACT Webinar

Just a quick post to let you know that there is another G-PACT webinar scheduled for March 2, 2011 at 7:00 pm EST.  I listened to the last webinar “Eating for Gastroparesis” in August and found it very informative.  March’s webinar is titled “You Don’t Look Sick: Living Well With Invisible Chronic Illness”.  Here’s the link if you’d like to register: “You Don’t Look Sick: Living Well With Invisible Chronic Illness”.

I’ve already registered and am looking forward to it!

As always, Eat Well!  Be Well!  Enjoy!  Mary

Single Serving

Yesterday was a bitterly cold, blustery day.  After a trip to the gym I pottered around most of the afternoon and because, like most GPers, I’m not always hungry the dinner hour sneaked up on me.  What to eat?  I wanted something warm and comforting with absolutely no effort involved…translation: Hubby was on his own for dinner.  Quickie Salmon Corn Chowder was just the ticket…easy, nutritious and the epitome of a “dump recipe” with literally three ingredients: Trader Joe’s Simply Wild Pacific Salmon (already cooked and available in the refrigerator section), a jar of Earth’s Best Organic Corn and Butternut Squash baby food and fat free milk.  A handful of Ritz-type crackers rounded out the meal.

Oh, and if you’re worried about Hubby, don’t be.  He rustled up enough ingredients to build a hearty and delicious open-faced sandwich that he toasted to perfection under the broiler.

Just a reminder: If you haven’t participated in the one question poll and would like to it will be open for another week.  The front-runner to date is “getting more fruits and veggies”.  Thank you if you’ve already participated.

Quickie Salmon and Corn Chowder

I used cooked wild Pacific salmon but crab meat and a sprinkling of Old Bay seasoning might be a nice version as well…I’m allergic so if you try it please let me know how it is.

Serves 1 but can be multiplied

3 ounces cooked salmon, flaked (used Trader Joe’s Simply Wild Pacific Salmon)

1 4 ounce jar Earth’s Best Organic Corn and Butternut Squash baby food

1/2 cup fat free milk (or milk substitute) I just filled the empty baby food jar

generous sprinkling of Penzey’s Mural of Flavor salt free seasoning

salt and pepper (be generous as baby food is under-seasoned)

pinch Spanish smoked paprika  (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer until warmed through

Nutritional Information Per Serving:

205 calories, 2 grams fat, 1 gram fiber, 23.5 grams protein

I Can’t Eat ‘Em…But I Can Drink ‘Em!

I promised periodic juicing updates and since a picture speaks a thousand words…strawberries, kiwi, grapefruit, pineapple, spinach, watercress, kale, parsley, beet and beet greens!  How healthy does that look?  And that’s what I’ve been drinking this week.  This assortment of pictured fruit and veggies produced a 16 ounce glass of ruby red juice.  Watercress, the newest addition to my juicing. This semi-aquatic herb has a distinctive peppery flavor…think peppery like arugula.  Watercress is considered an anticancer super food and is a rich source of antioxidants, vitamin C, beta-carotene, folic acid, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, iron and iodine.  In fact, according to my research, watercress contains more calcium than milk and more iron than spinach and offers moderate amounts of vitamins B1 and B2.  The strawberries were a bit of a splurge but paired nicely with the peppery bite of the watercress.  I held them up to my face, inhaled deeply and took in all their sweet, sunny strawberry essence before dropping them into the juicer!

I look forward to my glass of “fresh” and in all honesty some combinations are better than others.  My rule of thumb is that if it would taste good as a salad it will probably create a tasty juice.  If you are new to juicing start out slowly until you know if it agrees with you.  Carrots are sweet and apples are crisp and are the base for many people’s juicing.  Unfortunately, I’m allergic but that doesn’t mean they’re not an option for anyone who can eat them.   Strain your juice through a mesh sieve if you are concerned about any residual fiber.  As always…Eat Well!  Be Well!  Enjoy!

The Hubster Loves Me!

Not that I was having my doubts…but then, the UPS man delivered a box to the front porch.  Let me tell you, I have no shame and when I spotted it from the driveway did a very undignified OMG dance.  Grinning like an idiot I scooped up my prize and broke my legs to get us both into the house.

Hubby’s Valentine’s gift to me was a shiny, new Vitamix 5300 in what else…Valentine red!  Now, I may have mentioned once or twice that the other GP blogger girls each have a Vitamix and they believe it has been a valuable tool for their GP-friendly lifestyle…but this was all Hubby’s doing.  Some may feel a blender for Valentine’s Day isn’t the most romantic gift but for this GP-friendly recipe blogger girl it was a testament to true love!  I look forward to creating all sorts of nutritious treats in my new Vitamix and as usual my good fortune is yours… as I will promptly share them all.

Yes, Valentine’s Day conjures up visions of candy, roses and candle lit dinners but romance isn’t limited to the stereotypical…sometimes an appliance is the perfect way to say “I Love You”.

Eat Well!  Be Well!  Enjoy!