How to Survive a Stay in Hospital and Recover FasterJulie Daniluk, R.H.N. May 1, 2012
(Updated November 20, 2021)
Introduction by Julie Daniluk RHN:
Fourteen years ago, my nephew Kaydn was diagnosed with renal failure at the age of eight. This required many visits to hospital for surgery, check-ups, tests, and kidney dialysis. My sister Lynn has literally lived in a hospital for weeks at a time helping Kaydn navigate the system. Recently, Lynn had a bit of time on her hands while waiting to speak to a doctor so she decided she would share her thoughts on one of our favourite topics of conversation when she and Kaydn visit their local hospital: the food!
Comments by Lynn Daniluk:
“The state of our society’s dysfunctional food system comes into sharp focus when spending even a few days in a hospital. I would hazard a guess that if patients actually ate the food they are given in the hospital, they would not be able to get well, not be able to move their bowels efficiently enough post-surgery to go home (yes, this is a prerequisite), and not be able to keep their blood sugar within a healthy range. Most of the heavily processed meals that are served to patients have been stripped of micronutrients, and are loaded with trans and/or rancid fats, sugar, artificial colours, additives and preservatives, and include a variety of GMO ingredients. Actually the list of additives is about the only variety you will receive when dining in a so-called institution of healing.
Hospitals do not follow Canada’s Food Guide: $2.40 per person per day is spent on feeding a patient. Kaydn’s first post-surgery breakfast consisted of one white flour pancake, fake syrup, tea, sugar, margarine, a piece of white toast, red-dyed jam, and a white muffin. In other words, sugar, sugar, caffeine, sugar, trans fat, sugar, coal tar by-product with sugar, and sugar.
Why are patients being served this type of food? Cost is cited as the key issue but there also seems to be a real disconnect about what a body requires in order to heal. Caloric intake becomes the focus, rather than the well-researched advice from the Canada’s Food Guide which clearly advises 7-10 servings of vegetables per day. Once you enter a hospital ward, all the knowledge that humans have about healthy food choices disappears into a black hole of Ensure meal substitutes. These little cans of trans fat, high-fructose, GMO corn syrup are a chemical nightmare to the body. “But they can sure put weight on!”
So why is one arm of the government giving us the sound advice of eating lots of vegetables, while another arm is feeding us enough refined carbohydrates to put a professional athlete into a diabetic coma? I have a couple of ideas:
Huge private food service companies are contracted by the government to produce meals en masse that are then heated and shuttled to patients’ rooms. Most hospitals no longer “cook” the food that is being served. Meals that are devoid of nutrients are cheap to produce, shelf stable, easier to heat and transport, and, most importantly, fit into the corporate model of a high profit, free market, economy.
If the government really wanted to save money they should do away with feeding people in hospital altogether! After years of watching hospital food carts before and after meal times, I would say that 70% of food is not consumed. Dietitians are then put in the unfortunate position of going from room to room asking patients why they did not eat their meals. If the answer is “I don’t like the food,” “I can’t stomach the food,” or “I have my family bring me great vegetarian food from down the road,” the dietitian will stand in front of them with a clipboard in hand and offer them other unpalatable choices.
Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, Fries
Hospitals assume that children will only eat junk food: when Kaydn was first diagnosed at the age of eight, a dietitian sat us down and handed over a sheet with a list of potato chips that were safe for him to eat. She stared blankly at us when we told her that we did not feed Kaydn potato chips. The first meal he was offered at the children’s hospital was a hot dog with french fries – not what you want to be feeding a child when he has been diagnosed with a critical illness.
First meal offered after his kidney transplant? Hamburger and french fries – even though the doctor had asked that Kaydn not eat fried, salty food.
What I do not understand is how a hospital can even justify feeding hot dogs to sick children. The evidence that we should not be feeding such substances to children has been around for decades.
In 1994, three different studies found that the consumption of hot dogs can be a risk factor for childhood cancer. All three research teams studied the relationship between the intake of certain foods and the risk of leukemia in children. The studies found that children eating more than 12 hot dogs per month have nine times the normal risk of developing childhood leukemia. A strong risk for childhood leukemia also existed for those children whose father’s intake of hot dogs was 12 or more per month. (1) (2) (3)
Researchers Sarasua and Savitz studied childhood cancer cases in Denver and found that children born to mothers who consumed hot dogs one or more times per week during pregnancy had approximately double the risk of developing brain tumours. Children who ate hot dogs one or more times per week were also at higher risk of brain cancer. (1) (2) Bunin et al, also found that maternal consumption of hot dogs during pregnancy was associated with an excess risk of childhood brain tumours. (3)
You have to eat, so what should you do?
Strategies for Survival
- Do not assume that hospitals will feed you or your loved one well. If your stay is prearranged, stock up on camping provisions. When Kaydn and I bunk down in a hospital, we basically consider it camping. We take a cutting board, small knife, a metal mixing bowl, and some basic ingredients such as a small bottle of organic olive oil, red wine vinegar, raw honey, raw nut butter, raw vegetables, fruit, gluten-free crackers, and lentil dip. When our family isn’t bringing food from home or from one of our favourite health food restaurants, we are thriving on raw trail mix, organic dehydrated soups, and salads.
- If your hospital stay is unexpected, ask friends and family to forgo flowers and bring you home-cooked meals instead. Most wards have a patient kitchenette and refrigerator where food can be stored when clearly labelled.
- If you have a friend or family member in the hospital with a sick loved one, be sure the caregiver is eating and resting. Sit them down and put some tasty food in their hands if you have to. Often caregivers will forget or be too distressed to eat and this will suppress their body’s immune function. The hospital is no place for a suppressed immune system!
- If at all possible be sure to take a high-dose probiotic supplement (50 billion or higher; one suggestion is “Ultimate Flora Critical Care” by Renew Life) to help kick your immune system into gear. Hospitals harbour some of the most dangerous microbes that adapt faster than modern medicine can keep up with. Avoid sugar and other refined carbohydrates as these suppress immune function.
- If you have no intention of eating the food from the hospital, be clear as to why. Start a dialogue about the quality of the food. Together, patients and their loved ones can change our sick hospital food system.
Can you imagine a hospital that serves food that feeds and heals the body? Can you imagine a hospital that educates patients about healthy food choices? I dream of the day when I can walk into a hospital and order a large organic salad topped with hemp oil and lemon while Kaydn sips organic chicken soup that feeds not only his soul, but his body.
The Real Food For Real Kids Mission:
The Toronto-based company, Real Food For Real Kids, has started a program called Real Food For Real Patients, https://www.rfrk.com. Seeing the need for healthy food to be included as a daily part of a child’s school life, Real Food For Real Kids originally created a catering business that provides high-quality food to Toronto-area daycare centres.
Real Food For Real Kids mission:
- Change the way children eat and understand food;
- Provide children with delicious, healthy, all-natural meals and snacks;
- Reconnect children and families to real food;
- Inspire future generations to make healthier choices, every day;
- Support local farmers and producers who are as committed to responsible and sustainable business practices as we are.”
Supplement Suggestions by Julie Daniluk RHN
Prior to Surgery: Be sure to discontinue Vitamin E and Omega 3s (which have blood-thinning properties) in order to prevent excessive bleeding during surgery. When asked if you are on blood thinners, be sure to list Vitamin E and Omega 3s and tell them when you stopped taking them.
Post Surgery: Ask your Naturopathic Doctor or Holistic Medical Doctor about taking:
- Zinc – promotes healing and increases immune function.
- Plant Sterols – increases immune function.
- Vitamin C – promotes healing and increase immune function.
- Electrolytes (caution if you are already on an intravenous drip containing electrolytes.)
- Garlic – to fight infection.
- Vegetarian protein shake, such as hemp or pea/rice protein – to help heal damaged tissue.
- Vitamin E (once it is established that risk of bleeding has passed) – to promote healing.
- Omega 3s (once it is established that risk of bleeding has passed) – to increase immune function.
- Plant-based Digestive Enzymes on an empty stomach (once it is established that risk of bleeding has passed). This will help to reduce swelling and promote healing.
Margarine – A QUESTIONABLE ‘FOOD’ FOR PATIENTS IN RECOVERY by Julie Daniluk RHN
It is well established that the process of hydrogenating liquid oil into a solid state creates trans fats that are dangerous to the body. From cancer to heart disease, trans fats have had an adverse effect on human health. These findings have prompted countries such as Switzerland, Denmark and Germany to ban the use of trans fats in the production of food.
In response to these concerns, the margarine industry has come out with a “soft” product that claims to be trans fat-free. Whether the margarine you use is hard (hydrogenated) or soft, the seeds that are used to create these products still need to be heavily processed in order to mimic the naturally occurring state of the saturated fat found in butter. In order for liquid oil, such as soy, corn, cottonseed or canola to resemble a spreadable product, it must go through a process of heat/solvent extraction that destroys the naturally occurring anti-oxidants in plants that protect the nutrient vitamin E from oxidizing. Invariably, artificial flavours and other chemicals must be added in order for the product to be perceived as palatable.
It is also important to note that most margarines are created from seeds that are taken from a genetically modified source. For more information, see Margarine Consumption and Allergy in Children, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11208657/
For a discussion of margarine versus butter by a naturopathic doctor, visit https://www.naturodoc.com/library/nutrition/margbutt.htm
- Peters J, et al “Processed meats and risk of childhood leukemia (California, USA)” Cancer Causes & Control 5: 195-202, 1994. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8167267/ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8167267/
- Sarasua S, Savitz D. “Cured and broiled meat consumption in relation to childhood cancer: Denver, Colorado (United States),” Cancer Causes & Control 5:141-8, 1994.
- Bunin GR, et al. “Maternal diet and risk of astrocytic glioma in children: a report from the children’s cancer group (U.S. and Canada),” Cancer Causes & Control 5:177-87, 1994.
Nutritionist and TV personality, Julie Daniluk is the award-winning, bestselling author of Meals That Heal Inflammation & Slimming Meals That Heal. Her 3rd book, Hot Detox, was on the Canadian Bestseller’s list for 11 weeks in 2017. Julie’s 4th book, Becoming Sugar-Free, will be released on September 7, 2021. Julie has appeared on hundreds of television and radio shows, including The Dr. Oz Show. She is in her 11th season as a resident expert for The Marilyn Denis Show. Check out more information at juliedaniluk.com and connect with her on Facebook & Instagram @juliedaniluk