Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Jack Sprat Syndrome

I feel so bad.

For the last two days Fellow Traveler, who has an ileoostomy, has been suffering ill effects from the brown-and-wild-rice pilaf I made for dinner.

FT was just recovering from this major surgery when we met, so we have both been on an almost four-year learning curve regarding food. Some foods, like nuts, are an absolute no-no. Others, like mushrooms or berries, are fine going down one day...but the same things eaten a month or a year later can result in hours of agony -- or even a trip to the ER.

Usually FT can handle rice, even brown rice, with no problems. But not wild rice, apparently.

FT's general rules are to avoid fiber; to drink juices like V8 with high concentrations of vitamins and minerals; to eat lots of dairy, particularly cheese.

My dietary needs, ironically, are almost the exact opposite because of my hypertension and cholesterol management issues. I need lots of fiber; I need lots of vegetables and fruits; I need less animal protein and fat and more plant protein, meaning more whole grains and legumes, meaning...more fiber.

This is all the more ironic in a home where we enjoy food, care about it, love to try new foods.

But love conquers all; and we manage, and do so without having to make separate meals. It involves celebrating our commonalities (oatmeal, for instance, and Chinese cabbage -- of all things -- are good for and good to both of us), respecting our differences (I like to keep a supply of baby greens on hand in the fridge to make an impromptu vegetable course, and I've also been bumping up the cholesterol-fighting factor with a couple tablespoons of flaxmeal a day), compromise (tofu, while not my favorite foodstuff, is good for me and highly digestible for FT, so we're trying to incorporate more of it into our meals) and planning ahead (no weirdo/potentially problematic food before travel or important appointments).

People with ostomies have to contend with a lot, logistically and otherwise, not the least of which is perceived discomfort on the part of others. I remember mentioning something about FT's surgery to a former coworker who looked surprised...then confided to me that she too had  an ileostomy. We started sharing stories, food experiences, helpful hints. This woman told me it was a relief to finally be able to work with someone who understood, who wasn't "grossed out."  We ourselves appreciated the bed-and-breakfast owner up in Empire who, when we expressed some misgivings about her proposed menus because of some potentially difficult ingredients, was willing and even eager to substitute different recipes to accomodate FT's needs. "I love a good challenge," she told us.

To me our meals are a metaphor for our life together in general. To which I say, l'chayim and bon appetit!


LoieJ said...

I have digestion issues. I'll try to send you a link via FB's private message thing. There is soluble and insoluble fiber and it is possible that knowing the difference might make a difference in the comfort of digesting for FT.

Mary Beth said...

this is very lovely. :) As I move more and more toward a vegetarian lifestyle, and still cook for my carnivorous husband, I ponder how to meet in the middle.

Anonymous said...

Ugh! I completely understand your difficulties. My husband has Crohn's disease (digestive disorder), and over the years we've learned by trial and error what he can and can't eat. And food with lots of fiber is a big no-no for him too. What should I be eating? Pretty much the exact opposite of what he's eating. We eat a LOT of poultry and fish at our house. Then when you add in two kids who need to eat too, well, some days I feel like I'm cooking three entirely different meals to accommodate everyone.

I've found it pretty easy to come up with main dishes we can all agree on (i.e., poultry and fish), and then I just end up making a wider variety of side dishes -- usually simply-prepared vegetables and fruits, and then everyone can eat what they're able to eat.

I bet the wild rice was just too hard to digest for FT, even after it was cooked. DH figured out that most berries, except for blueberries, were off-limits for him. The seeds -- even those teeny little seeds on strawberries -- are apparently very difficult to digest. Popcorn hulls are just awful, so thank goodness he can now get puffcorn (hull-less popcorn) to eat instead. Anything that's fibrous has to be cooked really well, and then eaten sparingly (like celery).

I don't know how long FT has had her ostomy, but did/does she keep a food diary? That's helped my husband a LOT. It made it much easier to recognize foods that gave him fits.

Anyway, I don't really have anything constructive to add :-). I'm just glad to know another person shares my cooking difficulties :-).

Gilly said...

Tricky menu planning! We both have to be careful teeny seeds are a no-no for me, and almost anything can upset Mr. G on a bad day!

Still, life without challenges would be awfully boring!