Queasy cuisine?

Simple Miso Soup

A friend called me up today to get some advice on what to give her neighbor with advanced cancer who can’t keep any food down. Not wanting to watch him waste away, she hoped to provide some kind of nourishment he might be able to stomach. From my recent experience with Tad when chemo left him queasy, I was able to offer a few ideas. Any of the nutritious options mentioned below can be sipped through a straw, if desired. The key when someone is sick is to go slowly, timing sips a minute or two apart, until it’s obvious he or she can handle it.

1) COCONUT WATER (also called coconut juice) is an isotonic beverage that is great for restoring electrolytes and generally feeding the blood. It is suddenly available all over the place, in some regular supermarkets (here in the Bay Area, at least) as well as healthy food markets. There are organic brands available, and all brands that I’ve run across are unsweetened. It’s a light and tasty beverage that Tad has used to good advantage when eating solid food doesn’t seem wise. (Can be mixed with other juices, if desired, for taste.) We’re not talking about coconut milk here, which is made by blending up coconut meat and water; it’s generally too fatty for sensitive stomachs. Look for coconut water or coconut juice, and ask your favorite grocery store to start stocking it if it’s not there yet.

2) MISO SOUP A tub of light miso from your healthy food market or an Asian specialty store will last you a long time. It is good for so many things (miso tahini sauce, anyone?), but for someone who’s nauseated the best bet is a simple broth made by stirring a teaspoon of miso into a big mug of steaming hot  (not boiling) vegetable or chicken stock, or plain water. That’s it; couldn’t be simpler. Miso is a fermented seasoning paste made from soybeans, and because it’s fermented it is alive with healthy  microorganisms that can help repopulate the gut with beneficial flora when nausea and/or diarrhea have wiped them out. (Another way to describe this type of food is probiotic.) The paste is salty, so it’s a savory alternative to sweet drinks, and that provides a welcome bit of variety to the person on a liquid diet.

3) KEFIR is another food alive with probiotics. It is akin to yogurt but  less sour in taste and more liquid in consistency. Lowfat is probably best to avoid problems with digestion. Add fruit juice as desired to make the taste more interesting. Good choices are unsweetened papaya, pear, or grape. They are low in acid so good for upset stomachs. By the way, probiotics are available in capsules. If the kefir is not well tolerated, you can open the capsule and dissolve the contents in a glass of water. This will help the gut get back in balance.

Herb teas offer micro-doses of health-promoting plant compounds, so make them part of the daily regimen. As a person gets more interested in food, try fresh vegetable juices, thin soups made of well-cooked veggies and grains, and smoothies made of yogurt/kefir with fruit and protein powder added.

People with cancer have a tendency to lose weight and this can become an overall failure to thrive. It’s important to resist this trend as best you can.

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