Help for stomach issues
May 16, 2011 9:26 AM   Subscribe

Today, my SO went to the doctor about the stomach upset she's been experiencing over the last few weeks and was diagnosed with gastritis. Please help us deal.

Over the past while, the girlfriend has noticed anywhere from mild to severe stomach upset / gas / pain / cramps after eating certain things.

She's long had issues with dairy (is lactose intolerant, but generally stuff like cheddar is fine), and pork almost instantly upsets her stomach (beef, chicken, seafood is all fine).

Lately, Coffee (aka, the life blood) has been causing issues, and so she's switched to tea which is generally ok.

This morning she was diagnosed with Gastritis and the doctor said "no dairy except hard chesses in moderation, no spice, no alcohol, no coffee, no citrus, no soda, no tylenol, and 6 small meals a day."

We share cooking duties and are fairly open to new things, but I really need help in thinking up ways to still have good meals with these restrictions. I'd love to hear about all of your favorite recipes that can be made within this framework, or simple ways to modify recipes to fit this mold.

The tough ones are going to be citrus and spice, I use lots of both when I cook. Specifically it'd be great to hear about ways to prepare salmon fillets and chicken breasts that don't involve citrus or dairy (including side dishes even). I'd also love to hear experiences from anyone who dealt with this.

posted by utsutsu to Food & Drink (15 answers total)
You could clarify with the doctor, but "no spice" is probably intended to mean "avoid hot peppers" rather than eliminating, say, cumin or garlic.
posted by rkent at 9:33 AM on May 16, 2011

Best answer: The doctor said no Tylenol but didn't say no NSAIDS, aspirin, or ibuprofen? That's really weird.

And yeah, I would think he meant spicy spices, not all spices.

There are lots of ways to prepare chicken and salmon without citrus or dairy. I've been eating a lot of salmon with pesto, lately. And craving barbecued chicken. But geez, there are so many options that I'd really just suggest googling some baked chicken and fish recipes for ideas.

If I were her, I'd try taking Lactaid before eating dairy and see if that helps. But that's just me.
posted by amro at 9:42 AM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are a lot of stir-frys that would work. I like chicken with bellpeppers, mushrooms, string beans.

In terms of salmon, it can be good with asparagus, olive oil, and a little salt.

Has she been tested for H. Pylori?
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:56 AM on May 16, 2011

Has she been tested for H. pylori? That's an easy check, with a fairly easy cure. Bacterial infection was the cause of my problems a few years ago. Took about six months to get back to normal.
posted by bonehead at 9:56 AM on May 16, 2011

Best answer: How long did your doctor say she should continue this diet for?

I ask because gastritis simply means inflammation or irritation of the stomach, it doesn't suggest any specific pathology or underlying cause. It's so much of a diagnosis as it is the medical term for the symptoms your GF was experiencing. The diet your doctor recommended sounds more like something he/she would suggest as an immediate measure to help ease symptoms and let your SO's stomach calm down before looking to see if there's something more lasting going on. The foods he suggests she eliminate are just tough on people's stomach in general. Typically, if the stomach distress subsides, your GF could start easing the aforementioned foodstuffs back into her diet once she was feeling better.

I really wouldn't start planning any long-term changes of your normal diets until you've gotten a real, specific diagnosis. If it's just an acute episode, she should be able to start eating normally again as soon as she's been feeling better. If it turns out to be recurrent, than you really want to find out what's behind it.
posted by patnasty at 10:13 AM on May 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

"it's so much of a diagnosis" = "it's not so much of a diagnosis." dur.
posted by patnasty at 10:14 AM on May 16, 2011

Well, herbs are good with both chicken and fish. Mint goes surprisingly well with chicken for example. And dill with salmon. But, experiment.

Would balsalmic vinegar work instead of citrus in some things?

And yes, it would be a good idea to rule out H. pylori.
posted by plonkee at 10:15 AM on May 16, 2011

Best answer: Certain foods irritate a lot of people with stomach problems. But - as you have seen, not all of the common irritants irritate your gf. (She appears to be able to drink caffeinated? tea, but not coffee, for example). She might just have to experiment on herself to see what's what.

What the doc said about "eat none of [this stuff]" lists a lot of the things that commonly irritate. I had not hear that tylenol was a big stomach irritant, as amro said, but yeah, the first thing docs look for is "do you take a lot of NSAID painkillers?" since this is a common cause of stomach irritation.

I deal with my own gastritis every day. For years I've been eating 'small meals', although personally I consider it sort of snacking throughout the day, eating lunch as my 'largest' meal. I think some people call this 'grazing'. There's tons of healthy, easy snack things she could be eating throughout the day that would not be a full meal (nuts/nut butters, veggies, fruits, beans, decent cereals w/milk replacements, high quality bread), although none of this information really helps you with fish & chicken recipes. : ) Also, don't eat within 3 hours of bedtime.

It is true she could be getting gastritis as a result of h.pylori - or not. Stomach things are sometimes tricky.

In general, if you don't already do this, I'd strongly advise 1. cut way down on processed/pre-packaged foods 2. exercise regularly 3. get enough sleep
posted by bitterkitten at 10:16 AM on May 16, 2011

Note: Bell peppers irritate my gastritis like NOTHING else.

Call the doctor and make sure he meant Tylenol and not NSAIDs like ibuprofen/Advil and Aleve/naproxen. Usually those of us with gastric issues are instructed to avoid NSAIDs and can only take Tylenol.

Spice probably means spicy spice. Herbs are A-OK. You can probably cook with citrus peel, since the acid is in the juice. A bit of zest in your olive oil on salmon or chicken breasts, maybe a tiny bit of tarragon? Yum.

How no dairy are we talking? Anything with lactose in it? Because it hides EVERYWHERE. I rememember when my mom cut all lactose out of her diet and we had to get rid of certain brands of canned tuna. Salami has dried milk in it as well.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:29 AM on May 16, 2011

Response by poster: I only have second hand info at the moment, so it's entirely possible or likely that he doc also advised no NSAIDS, aspirin, or ibuprofen.

I guess I injected the word diagnosis into things. She is being tested for bacterial causes. She's been sensitive to certain things for years, but this latest bit has just been in the past few weeks. I made a slightly spicy stir fry the other night that was easily within her range of normal spice tolerance, but this time it just wrecked her. I believe his advice on diet restrictions is "for now" and it'll get revisited in a few weeks / when test results get back.
posted by utsutsu at 11:08 AM on May 16, 2011

Response by poster: hit enter too soon!

re: spices - I'm glad to hear it's likely just spicy spice that is banned. That opens up a lot of favorites. We'll have to experiment with somethings, like the bell peppers. We cook with bell peppers a LOT, so hopefully those work out.

re: dairy - before all this, she already avoided dairy because of lactose intolerance. Lactaid type stuff never really helped much. In general cheeses like cheddar, mozzerella, swiss are all fine. Any sort of soft cheeses, cream cheeses, cream, larger amounts of butter, or even high fat milk all cause intense discomfort. I'm used to this restriction already, so that's not such a big deal.

Thanks for all the insight so far folks. I really appreciate it!
posted by utsutsu at 11:13 AM on May 16, 2011

My sister had to go on an insanely bland diet and she ate a lot of stuff like ground turkey with rosemary and chicken breast with...uh...chicken breast. After a while she was able to gradually ease new foods into her diet and now she eats like a normal person again. So hang in there.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:29 AM on May 16, 2011

Dairy substitutes might be useful in a pinch. Rice/soy/almond milk? Tofu ice cream? Soy cheese, etc.
posted by goggie at 12:52 PM on May 16, 2011

Instead of butter, try Earth Balance margarine or a mix of EB and vegetable oil. Conventional mayonnaise might be out, but she might be able to have Vegenaise. Both of these can be found at health food stores and larger supermarkets and they're both really tasty.

You can make a creamy base for a sauce with some raw cashews and water pureed in the blender.

It sounds like, with the restrictions on coffee and citrus, that acid is a problem, so vinegar probably won't work either. But I second the citrus zest for flavor.
posted by zinfandel at 9:20 PM on May 16, 2011

Response by poster: an update in case anyone's interested...

After a few weeks on the restricted diet she went for a follow up and was advised to introduce things back in one at a time. Her tests did come back with very small amounts of H. pylori but the doctor didn't think it was enough to be the cause.

She's now successfully re-introduced a lot of foods and it seems to have just been a temporary thing.

Thanks for the help folks.
posted by utsutsu at 9:08 AM on June 21, 2011

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