Over the weekend I got a frantic call from a friend.
A woman we both know had been diagnosed with C-Diff. The pharmaceuticals weren’t working. She was losing weight and strength quickly and everyone around her was deeply concerned.
While C-Diff is hopefully something that very few of us will ever have to deal with (it is brought on when a strong dose of antibiotics are taken, which then kill the beneficial bacteria in the gut, leaving the body open to infection by Clostridium difficile), there have been so many stomach flus and bugs this year that I thought it might be time to revive the lost art of… invalid food!
(I know this is terribly unexciting to both your eyes and your taste buds, but having this information on hand when you need it can be a game changer.)
If you’ve read your Victorian romances, you’ll remember that the dying heroine always has someone offering her a sip of Barley Water to wet her throat or spooning gruel past her parched lips.
Healing recipes are no longer learned at our mothers’ knees, but they are still well worth having in your repertoire.
Helping someone stay nourished and hydrated is a big step toward helping their body have the strength to heal.
I have 5 very simple recipes that I turn to when someone is ill:
#1 Barley Water
6 c. water
1 c. barley grouts
Most grocery stores will have barley in some form—get what is available. If it says “pearled”, that means the outer casing has been removed. If possible, try to get un-hulled or pot barley.
Bring the water to a slow simmer and keep it barely bubbling until the barley begins to soften. Put a lid on the pot and let it sit, off the heat, for 20 minutes. Strain out the barley and drink the water (as much as you want). You can also do this in a slow cooker.
Barley water is cooling (so great for a fever or inflammation). It is also very nurturing to the intestinal tract.
Add lemon and honey or some mint or ginger to taste.
Concerned about gluten?
If you have Celiac, move on to #2. If you have a gluten intolerance, experiment with barley at some point when you are not ill. I have been off wheat for 20 years and, over the years, as gluten-free has become an accepted monicker, have started using those words for ease. But the truth is, I am not gluten intolerant, I am wheat intolerant. Our wheat has been bred to have an incredibly high gluten content and it’s in everything, which can lead to intolerance. The levels in barley are completely different. You can read more about barley here.
#2 Bone Broth
Bone broth is rich in minerals and collagen. It is easy to digest and is a panacea for the whole body.
When someone doesn’t have the strength to deal with making bone broth, I have them get miso.
Miso is a fermented food which is easily digested and rebuilding for the gut. You can buy it already made from a local Japanese restaurant. Buy a few containers so you can keep sipping!
#3 Slippery Elm powder
You can get this at Herbiary or a health food store and make into a gruel in the same way that you would make cream of wheat (i.e., gently simmer in water until the water has evaporated to the desired consistency).
Slippery Elm is endangered, so I save this for severe intestinal issues or for people who have lost a great deal of strength. If need be, you could live on Slippery Elm gruel for quite some time; it’s nurturing and soothing, helps rebuild the mucosal linings that make up the intestinal walls, and tastes vaguely like maple syrup.
Any flavor that sounds appealing!
Kefir is a probiotic rich drink that feeds the beneficial bacteria in the body. Our immune system is supported by these beneficial bacteria; if you have had a stomach virus, these helpful flora will be depleted.
Congee is a rice porridge that is eaten in Asia.
It is a wonderful vehicle for herbs and medicinal mushrooms. It is also very soothing to the stomach, so wonderful for someone who is under the weather.
1 cup short grained white rice
8 cups water or broth
1 tsp. salt
– Rinse the rice in a colander.
– Put the rice in a saucepan with a heavy bottom. Put in water and rice and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover, and simmer for 1 hour stirring occasionally. The liquid will become thick and porridge-like.
Put rice and water into a crock-pot and cook overnight.
It’s smart to keep some of these basic ingredients in the house so that you have what you need if you suddenly find yourself queasy. I freeze bone broth to have it on hand for just such emergencies. Because, really, who wants to run to the market when their belly aches?
Hopefully you won’t need this list, but bookmark it just in case… and share it out!