If you know me, you know that most of my favorite foods do not fall into the gut-friendly category. I like a lot of fruits and vegetables, I also like beans and coffee and beer, and I really, really like a regular ungodly amount of sugar. Unfortunately, this doesn’t do me right when things are rolling Boadicea chariot-style on the intestinal front.
When I have a flare up, I usually drink a ton of water and do the BRAT* thing for a couple days, or I go the bland diet route.
Push it too far the wrong way, i.e. all broth and juice and no solid foods, and you can fast your way into a flare. How this happens, I do not know – I only know that it happened to me. To tone down the alarmism a bit, it’s true that UC is different for everyone, so it’s possible that you or someone you know with UC can fast happily and without any problems. That makes more sense to me; I would think that if the colon’s getting minimal roughage, adequate nutrients and the same levels of medication, well, that should be one happy relaxed colon. But in my case? Not so, if the last time I did a planned fast was anything to judge by. Of course, I also attempted it while
A) planning a cross-country move
B) preparing for a honeymoon and wedding
C) graduating from my master’s program
D) preparing for a weeklong visit from my family
So. Methinks it might be time to give the fast thing another go. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, I’ve belly-flopped into another flare-up, probably due to consecutive colds, cellulitis, travel, and pneumonia, with a healthy ass-jab of antibiotics to top them off. I assume that my living in Texas is why I’m catching so many bugs; there’s no harsh winter to kill things I’m used to having killed. The excess of antibiotics scares me more than anything, though. I have nightmares about Clostridium difficile sneaking up on me in a dark hall.
This is my first officially full-on bloody flare I’ve had since June 2009. That’s pretty good, actually. Also good: I can review my comfort foods list and reexamine whether or not they still work for me.
So! What to do when you can barely stand up but you’re damn hungry? You pour a giant glass of water, boil up some peppermint tea, lean against the kitchen counter and start channeling your favorite chef.
Comfort Food Standbys
Warning: these are relative to how riotous my gut feels.
Soup is my favorite dinner when I’m flaring. This potato and leek soup is pretty tasty, although I usually tweak it into a simpler, less frou-frou version without the cream or the garni. Anything without a lot of beans usually steers me straight. The simplest, easiest one is, of course, chicken soup.
Emphatically Not A Jewish Mother’s Chicken Soup
(aka Chicken Soup for the Cheap ass Soul)
This is probably the homeliest version of chicken soup out there. It certainly doesn’t hold a candle to the elana’s pantry pic above. But guess what? It’s cheap. It’s fast. You can take lots of breaks while making it to sit on the can. And that, my friends, is justification enough for me.
Heat a couple Tbsp of olive oil (or butter, or canola oil, or whatever you like for soups) in a large pot. Mince the hell out of several garlic cloves, or press them if you’re lazy. Chop up about half a cup of onion. Chop up a carrot or two in thin pieces, and some celery if you have it. (I usually don’t have any. My soup is probably the Food Network’s worst nightmare.) Sauté the garlic and onion in the heated oil for a minute or so, then add the chopped carrots, celery and any other veggies you might want to add at this point. Let them sizzle for a minute or two, then add about 5-6 cups of chicken broth. I used bullion. Emulate me at your gourmet peril. Bring the soup to a boil and then turn down the heat so that it simmers, and let the soup cook for about 20-30 minutes or until the hardest veggies get tender. Add basil or oregano (or whatever other herbs you like), salt and pepper to taste, small pieces of roast chicken (if you got it. Again, I usually do not), and uncooked vermicelli in the last five minutes of cooking time.
Fill up your bowl, crumple onto the couch, and slurp your soup carefully and conservatively while your hungry dog/cat/fish/spouse looks on in envy.**
– Suggested side dishes and drinks: toast, crackers, a gallon jug of water, pots of Sleepytime tea.
– Suggested side viewing: The Warriors.
Ah, soup. But sometimes you need more than soup to convince yourself you’re not dying of gut cramps!
Relatively Quick Homemade Applesauce
The relative speed of this sauce is determined by whether or not you have a sweet, willing victim who will cut all the apples for you. Also in this recipe, I require you to use a food mill rather than peel the apples. Said sweet, willing victim must also be ready to hop to and clean out the food mill after use. But it’s really good, so try to find that special someone in your life.
Needed: tart apples (think pie), water, honey or sugar. That’s it. Oh – you can add some spices if you like; I usually put in cinnamon and nutmeg. But that’s it.
Cajole victim into cutting up apples into chunks. Put apples in a large pot and add a cup or so of water. Bring water to a boil and then turn down heat, leaving water at a simmer. Add honey or sugar somewhere through the cooking and stir thoroughly. Let the apples cook into soft fragrant mush, stirring occasionally and keeping an eye out for scorching. Add water when needed. Taste – if sauce tastes good to you, remove from stove and have your victim mill the sauce in batches to strip out the peels. If you have pretty red apples, your sauce will probably be a pretty pink. If you have brownish or yellowish reddish apples, it will probably be brownish. I’ve never made this with green apples. I imagine it would look rather bilious. But who knows?
– Suggested side dishes and drinks: Pork rinds. Just kidding – more water, more tea, more liquids.
– Suggested side viewing: The Blob. Obviously.
By this time, you’re probably getting bored with all the water and all the minty herbally tea drinks, not to mention the trips to the toilet. Can’t do much about that last, but I can provide some variety to the fluid.
Shirley Temple’s Secret Sister Susette***
2 parts ginger ale
1 part orange juice
1 generous splash cranberry juice
No alcohol, sorry. Take a tylenol if you’re desperate for some liver action. Stick a straw in this bad girl and enjoy!
– Suggested side dishes: ice cream or sherbet, if you can handle it. Yay, sugar.
– Suggested side viewing: Amélie.
Now I know what you’re saying. “These recipes are worthless!” “They don’t even sound good!” “I could have figured those combinations out.” “I already HAVE figured those combinations out, and I have written a book of recipes, and you have blatantly plagiarized me.” Er. Except that last one. It’s a good thing I’m not interested in writing the Definitive Ulcerative Colitis Cookbook. I think that would be an awesome collaborative project, though, for people with more time and less snark.
But to close with a return to the flare-up, what are your suggestions for recipes? Any favorite gut-calmers?
*Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast; or for some people it’s Broth, Rice, Applesauce, Tea, or a combination of those, or some other things entirely. As long as you spell BRAT, apparently, it’s acceptable. In that case, I’d prefer Beer, Raspberries, Apple Pie, Tacos.
**You don’t have time to make food for THEM! You’re SICK, damn it! WAAAAAALLOW.
***Susette might be illegitimate, but she’s still a minor.