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Wednesday 29 December 2021

A medical diversion

We are what we eat. And we eat what we choose. Sounds simple.

But suppose our favourite dish is Beef Wellington (Fillet of beef wrapped in puff pastry round a heart of paté, served with a “double” sauce) and suppose in one microsecond we find Beef Wellington detestable. Serves us right say the veggies. But there’s more.

Suppose a whole load of savoury delights – bacon, lamb chops, ham, cod, pheasant, sausages, you name it – also become detestable in that same microsecond (0.000 001 sec). And suppose many comparatively bland staples like stone-ground bread go the same route. 

For this is no ordinary “mental” non-preference. As the previously loved food is brought close to our lips our throats contract, we are overcome with nausea, and there is no way we can admit it to our mouths, never mind swallow it.

This is a side-effect of bowel surgery. And if that were all, we might accommodate it. But it isn’t.

Our bowel has been badly treated and needs re-training for its job, the processing of food. But how can we give it food when all the above and many more (including vegetables, cake, all processed chewables, and the blandest of the bland – buttered crackers) are no longer fit for purpose?

Our relations and friends are solicitous. We dream up stuff that might be acceptable, they bring us a sample, it is sorrowfully rejected. We become desperate. An over-ripe pear, cored and quartered, goes down well, as, later, do six green grapes. But fruit isn’t entirely recommended by medical dietary experts. A cherry yoghurt is consumed but doesn’t offer the bowel much to work on.


Watch this space.


  1. Replies
    1. Sir Hugh: Couldn't stand milk - in any form - even before all this.

  2. My wife is having similar problems. Her operation involved cutting a hole in the roof of her mouth to remove the melanoma, taking a portion of muscle from her thigh and fitting it in the hole, where it will grow to fill it and then "it will be as good as new", to quote the consultant. Also he cut into the side of her neck( a 4 inch length wound) to remove the lymph glands to check them for cancer spread.

    Consequently she cannot eat solids as her mouth is tender and gullet inflamed. Even scrambled egg is out. Like you, she longs for "proper" food but has to exsist at present on soups, (chicken especially - Jewish mothers swear by it for invalids), yoghurts, raw eggs and early baby foods, which look like the contents of a baby's nappy when served - but she says are palatable and nutritious.

    In addition, following removal of part of her pancreas last year, she needs to take a supplement with all meals (derived from pigs' pancreases) for digestion. These have been in capsule form, but she cannot swallow such at present. So the bitter granules are mixed in a spoon with yoghurt to help them go down.

    I am learning to be a nurse and invalid chef (slowly). But the clips on her neck wound will be removed today and she says that her gullet seems less inflamed. So scrambled egg may be soon on the menu!

    1. Avus: The difference in my case, I think, amounts to a change in personality. At the moment, and in 95% of cases, I not want food; it revolts me, yet this must somehow be overcome. And without tastes developed over decades I am no longer RR as known.

  3. Sounds challenging, and a little scary. Most any vegetable soup can be put in the blender. You'd still get the fiber and nutrients. Sir Hugh's porridge recommendation sounds like a good one, too. Especially if the grain is oats. Maybe try some of those canned protein shakes they sell? Sorry to be one of those tiresome people who comes up with "ideas" you have already thought of. I know you and your family will come up with something you can eat.

  4. Colette: You're not in any way tiresome. If I can define my needs they seem to be foor that is bland yet stodygy. Liquidy things are one obvious solution but I'm not sure they're good for building up my wasted muscles. Within the next thirty minutes I'll be trying a baked potato - with butter but without the skin.

  5. I hope you find delicious and nutritious things to eat while your body heals. I'm trying to remember the things that Roger ate while he was recovering from colon cancer surgery. I'm sure it's much like the bland, stodgy, liquidy things you are already eating. The blender is a wonderful device. Take care there.

    1. robin andrea: Unfortunately the blender just hides the fibrous bits that the bowel doesn't approve of, it doesn't do away with them. Amazingly it turns out that some tinned fruit is more aceptable than fresh.

  6. As a long time adventurer in matters of digestion thanks to ulcerative colitis, I recommend (milk-free) porridge mixed with applesauce, mashed spuds/celeriac/parsnips etc. with butter and seasoning to taste or as may be accepted by the bowels, alphabet pasta soup, rusks (the German Zwieback) dipped in tea, also baked spuds, pumpkin, whatever root vegetable and then mashed - gives you an illusion of eating something tasty. And rice porridge - I tried that in Singapore and it has its merits.
    I am also a great fan of miso soup but realise it's an acquired taste.
    There have been weeks when I mostly live on porridge which I usually call my Celtic periods, knowing that the ancient Celts lived on oats as a staple while creating wonders like the Book of Kells.

    1. Sabine: Porridge (without milk) seems a potential goer, especially given the news that tinned fruit could be added without problems.

      I never knew what miso soup was, am just about to Google it. Seems it's more of a base into which other items can be tossed. I'll look into this.

      I am hugely grateful for these hints from a fellow sufferer. Speculative point : we were offered cheese sandwiches (Dull. Dull) in hospital. But I'm wondering about one toasted.