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Red curry is one of my favorite meals, but the last time I ordered it I didn't notice that the noodles weren't gluten free. The dish was wonderful, but now I'm paying the price for having eaten part of it. Even if you don't have celiac disease; recovery meals will also work well for people who are suffering from coughs, colds, the flu, or need a liquid diet like my brother who recently fractured several facial bones. Few people plan on becoming ill, it strikes when we least expect it so I like to keep these things on hand so I don't have to run out when I'm not feeling well. I recommend making your own meals, but if you aren't in the habit of cooking your own stocks, and you don't own a juicer, store bought options exist, and have the advantage when it comes to shelf stability.

Recovery meals are a way to replenish lost electrolytes, restore fluids, give your digestive system a break, and in general nourish yourself via as many feedings as you require before your health returns. Illness is not the time to stress your body any more than you have to so if you have the luxury of staying in for naps, baths, and mindless entertainment, please do. If you feel as if you must venture out, these meals travel well provided you have several leak proof containers. I have a Thermos brand insulated beverage container that has been with me for at least a decade, another nice option is a glass canning jars with the seal and screw top lid. I like those because the contents are easily identifiable, they're inexpensive, and the airtight seal keeps juices fresh if you need to prepare them in advance.

Ideally people are consuming carbohydrates, proteins, and fats with every meal. During my recovery time I start with thin liquids, and work my way back up to incorporating protein into my diet. Your body needs protein to function, but stock is a protein sparer, and your body can utilize fat better than it can proteins and carbs so please don't skimp on fats or you'll decrease absorption of your fat soluble vitamins when you need them most. If you do make your own stock, a test of its nutrient density is the viscosity of the final refrigerated product. As unappetizing as it is when I pull it out, I'm so grateful for the brown gel that melts down into a serving of stock when my digestive system has been under attack. I salt my broth, and squeeze a lemon over it for taste, don't feel like you have to though.

The framework for a recovery meal is simple. Experiment with quantities and ratios to find what works best for you. Each of my meals include the following:

  1. Juice (Preferably fresh)
  2. Broth/Stock (See chicken feet for my recipe there)
  3. Digestive tea/tisane (I prefer water to be hot, and not boiling when I prepare these)

Combinations that I use frequently are:

  • Chicken broth with carrot juice and a warm camomile infusion. Carrots are a great source of beta-carotene which is a Vitamin A precursor. Vitamin A is fat soluble so you'll want to add a fat source to your broth if you're using a store bought version as those tend to be very low in fat.
  • Beef broth with apple juice and a ginger tisane. I add a squeeze of lemon to each of these, and sometimes a spoon full of honey goes into my tea if my throat has been affected.
  • Miso soup is another thing that I try to keep on hand. Not all varieties are gluten free so check your labels if you're sensitive or intolerant. Miso travels well and mixes easily with very warm water. Tea and miso pair well, and you can pretend you're on an Asian kick if you'd rather not explain why you're eating the way that you are. If you're in the United States, pineapple juice is sold in small travel sized cans, so you could pack that as a lunch when you're at work.

Once you have the routine down, be creative. I know I'm getting better when I start getting sick of the things I've been living on, and want to add new items. If your digestive system can handle it, you could drink tomato juice with beef broth and enjoy hot water over fresh parsley for a tummy soothing treat. Another idea is cranberry juice with chicken broth and a warm peppermint beverage, slowly add things back as they are tolerated. Once you're well enough to start enjoying solid foods, try not to rush back into anything. Incorporate bits of chicken, beef, or fish to your clear soups. Egg drop soup and Bieler broth are graduate foods you could level up to if the clear and cloudy fluids are not enough for you any longer. The goal is to give your body a break from the digestive demands most meals make while still meeting your nutritional needs.

Most of us are trying to be budget conscious; buy fresh seasonal fruit if you're juicing at home, watch for sales on soup bones, and store bought stock and bottled juices if you're not the make your own type. For those with a well stocked spice rack; you can soak cardamom seeds in hot water, ditto for fennel seeds, and any type of dried fruit will sweeten hot water as it cools. You can add cinnamon sticks and nutmeg to warmed apple juice or cider, use what you have to care for yourself to the best of your current ability. I have an old fashioned hot water bottle that I use to ease pain, I also have several essential oils that are my go to favorites when I'm not feeling well. You know yourself best so consider treating yourself to the best quality you can afford because you may think that money is important when you're not well, but you will really notice the difference when your entire system is compromised.

As many of you already know, I am not a doctor, and I don't play one on TV, so please don't consider this a substitute for medical advice. On the other hand, I've been to specialists who have never spoken to me about how to care for and feed yourself or a loved one during an illness. A lot of people are confused about nutrition when there is no need to be. All food can be classified as: a fat, a carbohydrate, or a protein. Your body is very forgiving which is not an excuse to abuse it as you only get one life to live here on this earth. My brother is currently on a liquid diet because he can't chew anything, and he's made fun of the things that I serve and keep in my refrigerator and pantry, but he was extremely appreciative when I came over to his place armed with a wide variety of nutrient dense foods, and simple recipes. Coconut milk is a great source of fat that is also vegan, you can use lemongrass to make broth, and sea vegetables like kombu as well. I personally am not vegan, but if that's your thing, you can sip on vegetable stocks, and use olive oil or palm oil as other fat sources. 

The best way to care for yourself is to eat as well as you can when you are feeling well so the intensity and duration of your illnesses are minimized. Previously a gluten attack would have laid me up for days. I called in sick to work this morning after a sleepless night, went back to bed, and I have no regrets. Your body is yours, learn as much about it without worrying and stressing out because that won't be good for you either. Illness is a time to rest, to regroup, to reflect, and to remember good times even if your illness is of the chronic variety. It's often difficult to cook and care for people with food issues, try to be the kind of patient you would want to care for, and consider dropping off clear stocks, fresh juice, or even a box of plain herbal tea, simpler is better here, if you'd like to try and do something nice for someone who has these types of attacks. They're different for everyone, but I'm in quite a bit of pain as the gluten travels through my alimentary canal so my patience isn't what it normally is when I'm sick.

The internet can be a fabulous resource, it can also be full of quackery, misguided information, and ideas that are flat out terrible. Know yourself, know your body, learn what works for you, and realize that we all make mistakes, and forgiveness is one of the most precious gifts you can give yourself, or the person who has misdiagnosed you, served you food that made you miss work, or maligned you in some other way. Your body has taken an internal beating so be nice to it while you're recovering. Simple meals at the frequency you desire, warm baths or relaxing showers as you are able, clean sheets, comfy clothes, your favorite books, soothing music, people to visit with who recognize your restrictions, and gratitude for those in your life who care enough to travel with you as you journey down your individual path to recovery.

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