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Hospital Food In The USA


Suvir Saran
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The last few days in the hospital have been sad for the family.

It is always difficult to have one you love in a hospital.

What makes this worse for us is that my father (who eats a few tablespoons of whatever he craves) is eating almost nothing.

He has lost his appetite. He finds the food they send him terrible at best.

Remember he is ovo-lacto-vegetarian.

In India this is a very vast world of options... in the US, it means vast limitations.

What can one do?

I have been so moved by it that I have called a publisher back in NYC and secured authorization to do a story about this.

Now I worry about what my family and I could do to ensure my father gets nutrition even though he finds the food served not to his taste.

Any ideas? Suggestions? Tips? :unsure:

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Suvir, hospital food sucks. Can you smuggle in home-cooked dishes that will tempt your dad? Or charm the hospital into serving them to him instead of the usual swill? Try offering a sample to the nurse or dietitian on duty - bribery can be effective.

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Suvir, hospital food sucks.  Can you smuggle in home-cooked dishes that will tempt your dad?  Or charm the hospital into serving them to him instead of the usual swill?  Try offering a sample to the nurse or dietitian on duty - bribery can be effective.

Actually my father had given the nutritionist a lesson on how to prepare Aloo and Palak Kee Tikkis (spinach and potato cakes).

Just an hour ago, the kitchen sent a late meal of just that.

They were good. He was full from what he ate and hated.

My mom and I ended up eating some of it.

We called to thank the chef, Mark for his gallant and generous efforts.

My father also volunteered my mom and I as teaching chefs for the kitchen staff to use to understand spices and herbs.

The nutritionist has said she will speak tomorrow with the executive chef and see if she can organize that.

It is that part which I have been given the green signal to make notes on and work on for a story that will be published after this ordeal.

Bribery was not needed.... he is a charming man.. the entire nursing staff visits him and comes to him to hear jokes. He is their charmer... and he is inspiring in his wit and brilliance even as he battles life and death.

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You should try being hospitalized in Japan.

The worst food I have ever eaten in my life and no substitutions or specially made food here!

You are served the same thing as everyone else in your "category" and no ands, ifs, or buts.

When I was hospitalized with severe morning sickness during pregnancy #1, it didn't matter that just the smell of the rice would make me vomit, they would still bring it to me and requests for bread were turned down because it wasn't on the menu for my "category" that meal! :shock:

Suvir your father is very lucky the hospital is so accomodating, I hope he gets well soon!

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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Suvir:

My mother spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals in the last years of her life, so I am quite familiar with the horrid hospital food dilemma. More often than not, getting her to eat anything that came on those sterile trays was a feat in itself. I used to smuggle in her favorite things (that weren't "off" her dietary restrictions, of course) just to get her to eat something. Perhaps you would have some luck doing the same, in addition to educating the hospital staff on preparing his favorites.

Although your assessment that being a lacto-ovo vegetarian leaves nothing but a wasteland of choices in "American" foods is not inaccurate, perhaps there are at least a few things that are already on the hospital menus that your father might learn to like such as egg salad, fruit compotes and puddings, fresh vegetables and salads, soups, etc. Maybe you can ask the nutrition staff to see their entire "repetoire" of menus and pick some things off of there that might be more to his liking. Even if you can't make special requests on a daily basis, perhaps if you befriended the nutritionists as well as the chef, you could get some inside information in advance letting you know which days particular items will be available.

Best of luck with this latest dilemma. I am sure you'll solve it in a typically creative manner...In fact, you already have! :smile:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Suvir:

My mother spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals in the last years of her life, so I am quite familiar with the horrid hospital food dilemma.  More often than not, getting her to eat anything that came on those sterile trays was a feat in itself.  I used to smuggle in her favorite things (that weren't "off" her dietary restrictions, of course) just to get her to eat something.  Perhaps you would have some luck doing the same, in addition to educating the hospital staff on preparing his favorites.

Although your assessment that being a lacto-ovo vegetarian leaves nothing but a wasteland of choices in "American" foods is not inaccurate, perhaps there are at least a few things that are already on the hospital menus that your father might learn to like such as egg salad, fruit compotes and puddings, fresh vegetables and salads, soups, etc.  Maybe you can ask the nutrition staff to see their entire "repetoire" of menus and pick some things off of there that might be more to his liking.  Even if you can't make special requests on a daily basis, perhaps if you befriended the nutritionists as well as the chef, you could get some inside information in advance letting you know which days particular items will be available.

Best of luck with this latest dilemma.  I am sure you'll solve it in a typically creative manner...In fact, you already have!  :smile:

Katie,

Yes he is willing to eat puddings but complains they are too starchy. He is TOO much.. he understands it all.. sometimes I wonder if it is too bad that he is so together mentally. He is so used to my mother, panditji and I baking and preparing confections at home that store bought puddings are good for a first bite, and then he can tell that they are low-fat, corn starch laden or made with sugar substitutes. He is bad.. even as he is so sick, he keeps us on our toes... we cannot pull wool over his eyes. He finds the gelatin here not the same either...

He finds the soups smelly for they have garlic powder in them. He has always enjoyed food. Never cooked but lived with chefs and a family that love food and indulge in it passionately. The chef prepared a tomato soup that was clear and light for him, but instead of salt the chef added Mrs. Dash seasoning. It made my father reject it just by smell.

He loves eggs... loves bhujia (scrambled eggs) and omlettes, but again he loves them with flavor. For him fresh cilantro, some hint of cayenne and freshly ground black pepper are a minimun. In fact red onions, tomatoes, green chiles and other spices add to the enjoyment. How are we going to educate chefs in hospitals to do all this? Maybe I will make a small effort, and that can be the story I work on.

Thanks for the hint about working in advance to understand if they have daily specials. Good Idea! I shall see what I can do.

Thanks for your kind wishes. I am hoping life has some grand plan which has this period of trials for us as a family but much joy afterwards. The hope of knowing there is a better tomorrow is the only source of strength and courage we can have as we try and smile for him. He looks as bad as any living being can.

I am amazed at this mans spirit to be so strong and determined about such trivia even as he is so weak. It is that spirit to only want the best that I hope can make him come through this battle victorious.

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He loves eggs... loves bhujia (scrambled eggs) and omlettes, but again he loves them with flavor.  For him fresh cilantro, some hint of cayenne and freshly ground black pepper are a minimun.  In fact red onions, tomatoes, green chiles and other spices add to the enjoyment.

You have to speak to the nutritionists immediately. Whomever said that the hospital decides your "dietary category" and then there are no deviations from it was correct. This is no doubt the only way to administratively manage so many sick people at once of course, but makes things quite difficult for folks like your father. Make certain that they understand his dietary restrictions and that he does LOVE the scrambled eggs, omelets etc. Tell them NO seasoning and get their permission to bring in some homemade or commercial Indian seasonings that he WILL eat. Certainly if having them prepare absolutely plain boring omelets that he can season to his own liking will get him to eat some protein, they will be happy to allow it. A sick patient eating vs. NOT eating is kind of a no brainer, even for the rigid and bureaucratic environment of a hospital. It sounds as though the staff there has been quite accomodating so I am certain you would have some luck with this approach.

Best wishes to you and yours,

Katie

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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It sounds as though the staff there has been quite accomodating so I am certain you would have some luck with this approach.

Best wishes to you and yours,

Katie

They have been very accomodating indeed.

And yes I shall be more aggressive in the next week.

Thanks for your wishes.

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perhaps a little secret stash of fresh ground dhania, cumin powder and black pepper and fresh cilantro to be used as garnishings on the hospital food will alleviate your father's distress, suvir.

atleast until the hospital realizes the errors of their ways and lets you take over the kitchen!

i belong to a group that cooks twice a month at the local ronald mcdonald house (cheap, clean accomodations for parents whose kids are in the nearby hospital) and we make it a point to serve meals which are not only warm and nourishing but flavorful and creative.

http://www.projectflavor.org/

the heartfelt and sincere thanks and compliments we get are a true testimony to the healing and comforting power of food - it is so incredibly surprising to me that while medical science has progressed to a point where they can prove the obvious medical/threapeutic benefits of such abstract things as music and art, hospitals, the very centers of healing, continue to serve unspeakable food.

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perhaps a little secret stash of fresh ground dhania, cumin powder and black pepper and fresh cilantro to be used as garnishings on the hospital food will alleviate your father's distress, suvir.

atleast until the hospital realizes the errors of their ways and lets you take over the kitchen!

i belong to a group that cooks twice a month at the local ronald mcdonald house (cheap, clean accomodations for parents whose kids are in the nearby hospital) and we make it a point to serve meals which are not only warm and nourishing but flavorful and creative.

http://www.projectflavor.org/

the heartfelt and sincere thanks and compliments we get are a true testimony to the healing and comforting power of food - it is so incredibly surprising to me that while medical science has progressed to a point where they can prove the obvious medical/threapeutic benefits of such abstract things as music and art, hospitals, the very centers of healing, continue to serve unspeakable food.

Thanks for the link indiagirl.

How nice to hear that you are doing this. Amazing!

I shall do just what you suggest. In fact once I begin writing my piece, I shall ask if I can include what you do into it. It sound perfect.

I intend to cook in the hospital kitchen with the chef, create some recipes that are at once healthy and tasty. Lets see what we come up with. If it is as exciting as I and the publisher think it could be, we will have a story to publish.

And as far as my dad is concerned, I took him some Chaas (spicy buttermilk) today. It has made his day. It teased his palate into wanting to eat... I enjoyed seeing him smile as he took sips of this wonderful but so simple an item.

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Is anyone non-Indian familiar with Cutlets or Tikiya?

In India they are made with a potato base to which is added a mix of vegetables and spices and herbs.

Today the chef made my dad cutlets. They were good. If he had made these before, he would have known how to handle the vegetables. He cut them into small squares whilst in India we grate them. So as to make a mush that is as smooth as can be. It also helps to bind the flavors and the spices.

Has anyone seen any such thing made in the American Kitchens? What are they called?

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i belong to a group that cooks twice a month at the local ronald mcdonald house (cheap, clean accomodations for parents whose kids are in the nearby hospital) and we make it a point to serve meals which are not only warm and nourishing but flavorful and creative.

Well done to you India Girl. Thats a fantastic project to be part of. To do it voluntarily does you much credit.

40 meals for less than £35? Quite a feat in itself :smile:

I doff my hat to you.

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Suvir-

As a healthcare attorney who represents a number of hospitals (and knowing how the different departments -- including nutrition/dietetics -- work), you need to stay on the same path that you have started. Charming them and offering to teach them will continue to get results. As others have suggested, if the kitchen is in a bind, ask for the plain renditions of the dishes and add seasonings after the fact. It won't be as good, but it should still be palatable to your father. You are fortunate that you are in a hospital willing to work with you to this extent. We have had to deal with situations that were not handled such as this, and food is always a major area of complaint among patients. Not surprisingly, and I don't think a formal study has ever been completed, but there is anecdotal evidence indicating that the better the hospital's food (and their willingness to accomodate individual patients' requests), the lower the incidence of malpractice claims made against the hospital. Hospitals are recognizing that they're in a competitive service industry, and if they can make the patient happy, they'll get more business and fewer complaints (and fewer lawsuits, too).

Keep us posted on this, Suvir.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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I will try and make this as on-topic as I can.

It is about hospital food. Food talk it is.

The Executive Chef at this hospital where I am at came over to meet me just some minutes prior to me coming to the library to come online.

He was amazingly pleasant and charming.

I am meeting him and the weekend chef tomorrow morning. We are going to work with spices my father is familiar with and create a menu plan that the kitchen staff will then adhere to.

Things could not be better.

What stuff do you think would be good for me to share with the chefs tomorrow? Any recipes I should remember? Ideas of what might be great for someone that enjoys Indian food and is in hospital?

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I doff my hat to you.

thanks, scottishchef. it is lovely to have hats doffed at you for something you love doing.

:gracious bow:

:big smile:

(ps - did you like our logo?)

suvir, excellent news about the hospital. take it over, dude. you will be doing a service to many patients to come!

in terms of healing/comforting foods, a couple i forgot to mention in the previous post:

khichadi (mixed lentils and rice, all cooked together with spices)

kadhi (soup like and made of yougurt and chickpea flour)

perhaps you could share with the chefs, the differenes in techniques that make life so difficult for your dad. pointing out that most often than not it is the techniques and seasonings that break a dish, not the base ingredients themselves, would go a along way, it think.

over cooked green beans vs. lightly sauteed green beans with a little cumin and fresh coconut. that type of thing.

not that you need very much input from the rest of us!!

anyway, share the menus you plan, with us here, suvir. it will be interesting.

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I doff my hat to you.

thanks, scottishchef. it is lovely to have hats doffed at you for something you love doing.

:gracious bow:

:big smile:

(ps - did you like our logo?)

suvir, excellent news about the hospital. take it over, dude. you will be doing a service to many patients to come!

in terms of healing/comforting foods, a couple i forgot to mention in the previous post:

khichadi (mixed lentils and rice, all cooked together with spices)

kadhi (soup like and made of yougurt and chickpea flour)

perhaps you could share with the chefs, the differenes in techniques that make life so difficult for your dad. pointing out that most often than not it is the techniques and seasonings that break a dish, not the base ingredients themselves, would go a along way, it think.

over cooked green beans vs. lightly sauteed green beans with a little cumin and fresh coconut. that type of thing.

not that you need very much input from the rest of us!!

anyway, share the menus you plan, with us here, suvir. it will be interesting.

Thanks Indiagirl!

Khichadi was in my list... though he is not allowed to have protein.

Not too off topic really, since the liver is the most food vital organ, liver failure can alter what and how one eats forever.

The doctors say that even after a transplant, life can never come back to normal at least in terms of diet. It changes.

And the same is the case for those that are living donor liver transplant patients. They will never taste or eat food the same way.

I am not sure what we will accomplish tomorrow, but it will be about how to make the food they make more flavorful. And just as you suggest, it would be my attempt to share those techniques that can very quickly make something the chefs are doing already become more appetising to a patient like my dad.

I have enjoyed making Karhi and Chaas (both yogurt based sauces). He is happy eating them.

Aloo and Paalak Tikkis are a big hit with him. The chef over the weekend happened to be vegetarian and the executive chef has told me that it was fun to have had a lesson from the patient on how to make vegetarian hospital food more appetizing.

Keep the tips coming..and yes I will share with you all the things we prepare.

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I think it will be important for you to understand the hospital's limitations, particularly with ingredients and the time of preparation. As much as it would be preferable to use fresh coconut, for example, that may be an ingredient -- like many fresh ingredients -- that would be difficult for the hospital to obtain and maintain. Plus, the time involved may be prohibitive.

However, Suvir, you are indeed fortunate to have found a hospital willing to make such efforts to take care of its patients in this manner.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Unless your father has strict dietry restrictions from a medical point of view, I see no reason why the hospital would object to your bringing in food. I've certainly done that before.

It seems fine for now.

But I am working on the diet for after the operation.

They will not allow food from home after that... he is at very high risk for infections.

I was thinking of taking him some home made lemonade tomorrow.

Actually this evening the executive chef sent for dinner two very nicely made Aloo Sabzi kee Tikkis (potato and mixed vegetable cakes) as we had told him this morning.

They are very accomodating. It is one comfort of being at a good facility. And the tikkis tasted nice. They also added cilantro into them as we had suggested.

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This is an interesting topic. But, it must be so painful to experience.

Does he like lassi's? With buttermilk or yogurt? Mango? Salty? Sweet?

I am familiar with cutlets only because my bf is south indian, but I can' think of an american equivalent.

Suvir, you said that his protein intake is limited. Would the drs. allow rasam? I will try to post a recipe, though it won't be an exact one, but the only one i have written down.

I wish the very best to you and your family. It does sound like you are in capable and caring hands.

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This is an interesting topic.  But, it must be so painful to experience.

Does he like lassi's?  With buttermilk or yogurt?  Mango?  Salty?  Sweet?

I am familiar with cutlets only because my bf is south indian, but I can' think of an american equivalent.

Suvir, you said that his protein intake is limited.  Would the drs. allow rasam?  I will try to post a recipe, though it won't be an exact one, but the only one i have written down.

Please share the recipe of rassam you have.

Rassam is one of the few things he really loves.

I make him a tomato rassam. It is without lentils and tamarind.

Both things that are not good for hepatic patients.

He also loves drinking Chaas which his doctors are also enjoying. I make it by adding 4 times more water than there is yogurt. I add toasted cumin powder and black peppercorn (crushed of course) a pinch of black salt and some salt.

Cutlets also make him happy.

I am sorry that we are talking of hospital food and in this particular thread it is difficult to keep the thread moving without my making it personal.

I shall try and not make too many personal references.

And I know you are all wishing me.. please feel free to continue sending me PM's and emails for that goal. That will keep our chats focussed about food and food related thoughts.

What else should one make for a hepatic patient??

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  • 4 weeks later...

Suvir,

Hospital food in the UK is pretty grim. Generally supplied by external contractors, it is mass produced slop.

ScottF is in hospital at the moment (In surgery now infact :unsure: ) His dinner last night, served from a huge heated trolley was meatballs (unknown meat - we couldn't decide),plain boiled rice and sweetcorn. Pudding was a small cup of jello. Cutlery supplied was 1 fork and 1 spoon (no knife)

Needless to say, I shall take Scott his dinner in tonight. :wink:

Hope all is well with you and yours.

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Suvir,

Hospital food in the UK is pretty grim. Generally supplied by external contractors, it is mass produced slop.

ScottF is in hospital at the moment (In surgery now infact :unsure: ) His dinner last night, served from a huge heated trolley was meatballs (unknown meat - we couldn't decide),plain boiled rice and sweetcorn. Pudding was a small cup of jello.  Cutlery supplied was 1 fork and 1 spoon (no knife)

Needless to say, I shall take Scott his dinner in tonight. :wink:

Hope all is well with you and yours.

SamanthaF, you could find out what the meat was.

In Denver, they give us a list which states all of that.

All the best to ScottF and you. :smile:

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What else should one make for a hepatic patient??

Parsley, dandelions and mint, chopped as minimally as possbile if at all.

Parsley is a nutrient powerhouse w/ high levels of beta carotene, vitamin B12, chlorophyll, calcium, more vitamin C than citrus fruits, and just about all other known nutrients. Physiologically: restores digestion, supports the liver, kidneys and adrenal glands, purifies blood and body fluids.

Helps body’s defensive mechanisms; chokes negative bacteria. A great immune booster. Parsley is just like an immune-enhancing multi-vitamin and mineral complex in green plant form. It is one of the most important herbs for providing vitamins to the body. Parsley is made up of proteins (20 per cent), flavonoids (maintain blood cell membranes, antioxidant helper), essential oils, iron, calcium, phosphorus, manganese, inositol, sulphur, vitamin K, beta carotene, and especially vitamin C.

     

Parsley is a ‘warming’ food, pungent with a slightly bitter, salty flavour. It is moistening, nourishing and restoring. In addition to providing essential nutrients, it balances and stimulates the energy of organs, improving their ability to assimilate and utilise nutrients.

•    Parsley enriches the spleen and stomach, thus improving digestion.

•    It enriches the liver, thus nourishing the blood and body fluids.

•    It benefits the kidneys and uterus and has a beneficial effect on the adrenal glands.

     The high vitamin C, beta carotene, B12, chlorophyll and essential fatty acid content render parsley an extraordinary immunity enhancing food. If you want to boost your immune system, then parsley is the answer.

Valuable Nutrients

     Parsley contains particularly high levels of the following nutrients:

     Beta carotene

It is an adequate source of beta carotene, which the body needs for the correct use of protein. This nutrient will benefit the liver and also protect the lungs and colon.

     Chlorophyll

Parsley is abundant in chlorophyll, thus purifying and inhibiting the spread of bacteria, fungi and other organisms. When tested in laboratory research, chlorophyll from parsley showed slight anti-bacterial and anti-fungal activity. Thus, it may be used to enhance immune response and to relieve mucus congestion, sinusitis and other ‘damp’ conditions. A food which exhibits anti-bacterial activity can, therefore, aid digestive activity. Gastrointestinal organ function is not choked by negative organisms. Parsley may be used medicinally in cases of cystitis, since it has an anti-bacterial effect, and the ability to flush out waste. Chlorophyll, high in oxygen, also suppresses viruses and helps the lungs to discharge residues from environmental pollution.

     Vitamin B12

Parsley contains traces of B12 producing compounds. Such compounds are needed for the formation of red blood cells and normal cell growth, important for fertility pregnancy, immunity and the prevention of degenerative illness. The action of vitamin B12, however, is inhibited by birth control pills, antibiotics, intoxicants, stress, sluggish liver, and excess bacteria or parasites in the colon or digestive tracts. Parsley helps to counteract these inhibitors.

     Fluorine

Fluorine is an important nutritional component abundantly found in parsley. Fluorine has an entirely different molecular structure from chemically-produced fluoride. Tooth decay results from a shortage of fluorine, not fluoride. It is the combination of calcium and fluorine which creates a very hard protective surface on teeth and bones. Fluorine also protects the body from infectious invasion, germs and viruses.

Essential Fatty Acids

Parsley is also a source of alpha-linolenic acid, an important essential fatty acid that is too frequently deficient in today’s diets.

The Therapeutic Benefits

Digestion

Parsley is an excellent digestion restorative remedy. It promotes intestinal absorption, liver assimilation and storage. A vast majority of people today have weakened digestive function and impaired toxin elimination, Therefore, any extra help in that area is a welcome addition. Because of its high enzyme content, parsley benefits digestive activity and elimination. The parsley root in particular strengthens the spleen, and can, therefore, treat malabsorption, bad breath, weight loss, loose stools, anorexia and fatigue. It also improves the digestion of proteins and fats.

Liver

In the Manual of Pharmacology, physicians claimed that parsley is very effective in remedying liver disease. It enriches the liver and nourishes the blood. Parsley helps reduce liver congestion, clearing toxins and aiding rejuvenation. Stamina loss and low resistance to infection, point to a sluggish liver. This can manifest itself in blood deficiencies, fatigue, a pale complexion and poor nails, dizzy spells, anaemia and mineral depletion. In women, parsley improves oestrogen and nourishes and restores the blood of the uterus. Conditions like delayed menstruation, PMS, and the menopause (dry skin, irritability, depression and hair loss) can often improve.

Kidneys

Parsley is effective for nearly all kidney and urinary complaints. It improves kidney activity. Parsley is not a treatment for severe kidney inflammation, but it can help eliminate wastes from the blood and tissues of the kidneys. It prevents salt from being reabsorbed into the body tissues; thus parsley literally forces debris out of the kidneys, liver and bladder. It helps improve oedema and general water retention, fatigue and scanty or painful urination. It is an eliminant that used in conjunction with complete nutritional programmes to aid the dissolving of gall stones and in cases of gout.

Dandelion nutrients include: biotin, calcium, choline, fats, gluten, iron, linolenic acid, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, B1, 2, 5, 6, 9, 12, E, P, zinc, A, and C. In China it is called huang-hua-tii-ting and is considered one of the six most important herbs in Chinese medicine.

Culled from various sources.

All my wishes for a quick and complete recovery Suvir.

Edited by lissome (log)

Drinking when we are not thirsty and making love at all seasons: That is all there is to distinguish us from the other Animals.

-Beaumarchais

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Just stumbled onto this thread. Having spent a month in hospital a few years ago undergoing nasty chemical therapeutics I'll add my two cents.

Eat the eggs they serve you at breakfast (especially if, as in my case, they were real, not reconstituted). It is the only real food you will ever see. The accompanying soggy toast kept covered with the eggs should be avoided at all costs.

Also to be avoided are all the expensive nutritional drinks they will foist on you when you begin to gag on the regular chow. Show your nurses the ingredients listed on the can and they will then not hound you to drink it. I enjoyed building things with the unopened cans. Sympathetic nurses may offer to heat you up some Campbell's soup in the local microwave.

After much consultation concerning your eating disorder the nutritionist will make sure you're served day old separated milkshakes made especially for you, with bad ingredients, to regain your appetite and keep you nourished.

PJ

"Epater les bourgeois."

--Lester Bangs via Bruce Sterling

(Dori Bangs)

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