GERD Sounds pretty unappealing, but it’s not so bad

Another one from Israel’s blog in Providence (originally written October 2011):

As someone who believes in a holistic approach to eating, my ideal world is a place where everyone eats lots of beautiful colorful food that makes them happy around a huge table with laughing friends, and nobody ever gets sick. Of course, things are not that simple.

My partner Abigail loves cooking just as much as I do, and we have enjoyed and continue to enjoy countless meals together in our cozy kitchen. She is training to be a Doula, and is probably the most caring person I know, who has dedicated herself to facilitating the well being of others. This has sometimes been at the expense of her own health. Over the past several months, she has been experiencing a variety of stomach problems that have challenged us to become more creative at meal planning.

After a recent doctor’s visit, she was told that she would have to follow a fairly strict diet to get her stomach health back in order. This diet prescription means no acidic foods, such as tomatoes (Ghast!), wine, or garlic (Double Ghast!!). It also means no spicy foods, as well as reduced sodium, and fat.

This may seem like quite the challenge, and at first thought, it appeared that we would be stuck eating bland, grey foods for the next couple of months. I however, appreciate a good challenge.

Here are some guidelines that I came up with to ensure that Abigail’s new diet challenges would not affect the enjoyment that she gets out of food. These concepts can be applied to anyone who experiences frequent heartburn, or upset stomach. Obviously, I am not a doctor, and everyone’s body chemistry is different, so consult your physician folks when necessary.

But here goes:

Emphasize whole grains: 

Important for everyone, but this helps to make sure there is adequate bulk going on in the GI-tract, which increases satiety and promotes healthy digestion. The added fiber also helps to slow digestion of sugars, which can aggravate an upset stomach.

Use lots of fresh vegetables, lower acid fruits, and herbs for flavor:

Again, fresh vegetables are good for all of us, but ensuring variety and color, also ensures lots of different flavors. The herbs also pack flavor and aroma punches into dishes, which can be lacking for salt and spice in this kind of diet.

Roast and caramelize vegetables to develop flavor:

Roasting vegetables, such as brussels sprouts, one of my favorites, brings out lots of depths of flavor that cannot be brought to light from other methods. A deeply caramelized vegetable imparts a deep, rich, savory, and sweet flavor that I am more than happy to eat anytime, no matter what my dietary restrictions.

We were able to put together some pretty tasty meals, using these guidelines. We made some ravioli that we filled with roasted fennel and fresh herbs. We served that with a romesco inspired sauce made from pureed roasted red peppers, yogurt, pine nuts, and lots more fresh herbs. It was delicious. We also made scrumptious banana bread for breakfast one morning. Abigail found a normal banana bread recipe, and we added yogurt, substituted whole-wheat flour, and added in some walnuts. We also replaced the sugar with honey and reduced it by half. The bread was moist, tasty, and satisfying. We ate it with some fresh Courtland apple slices and a sunny side up egg.