Pancreas don’t care

We have had a rough fall with health problems for Kate, my baby girl, who resents it highly when I call her my baby girl.
She had a severe stomach ache back in October, with vomiting that wound her up in the hospital. She was diagnosed with pancreatitis, which is unheard of in 12 year olds. They sent her home, and she trick-or-treated on Halloween, but didn’t feel 100%.
A virus bounced her back into the hospital- not the pancreas this time, but dehydration. They chalked it up to her immune system being worn out from the pancreatitis, and an overreaction. When her brother got the same virus, but milder, we felt oddly reassured.
She was better, still not 100%, but we went into Thanksgiving break feeling good- she could catch up on missed schoolwork, sleep in and get better. Then the Saturday after thanksgiving, she got another stomach ache, started puking, and was generally miserable. When we took her to her pediatrician, he told us to get in the car and drive to the Children’s Hospital in Aurora, about an hour away. Our pediatrician didn’t have the authority to admit her, but he had been talking to a GI specialist, and they would be expecting her.
A week of driving back and forth, rating pain on a scale of 1-10 and watching cable TV. She was better, but still not well. x-rays, ultrasounds and an MRI followed, then a procedure scheduled. ERCP (huh?) a tube to look down and remove a stone from her pancreatic duct, turns out it wasn’t a stone, just a stricture, a narrowing, that was preventing the digestive enzyme from draining into her small intestine. Essentially, her pancreas was digesting itself. No wonder she had tummy aches.
The pancreas does 2 main things, I have recently learned. It makes insulin, so the body can use glucose, and it makes lipase, so the body can use fat. All that stuff you know about saturated fat versus unsaturated? Pancreas don’t care- fat is fat, and when fat goes through the stomach, pancreas releases lipase.

Before thanksgiving she had chicken fried steak and onion rings. Thanksgiving day, rolls and butter and
pie with whipped cream. Black Friday, a McDonald’s hashbrown and hot cocoa with whipped cream. Saturday, chicken Parmesan and shiny breadsticks.  So delicious. But agony for her almost-maybe-healed pancreas.

So, they placed a stent, and for the first time in months, she is pain-free.

And, on doctor’s recommendation, on a low fat diet- less than 15 grams of fat per day.

All these years I have been keeping sugar out of the house, we hardly ever drink pop, we eat plain, unsweetened cereal. It turns out I have been fighting the wrong demon. It was the fat that was hurting her.

So, how do we change our diets, lifestyles, to have much less fat than we were previously, much less than most people in the US eat? I am not cutting fat out of my diet entirely- my hair would fall out, for one thing. But to show solidarity, we are switching to skim milk, and nonfat cheese, and I don’t know what else, yet. The puzzle is, how to keep a girl going through her growth spurts healthy and happy on 15 grams of  fat a day.  Most advice on low-fat cooking is also low-calorie cooking. She needs to learn to love fruits and veggies, I know that much.

So, I will have to experiment with low fat stuff- some I can just substitute out, but some I will need to work on.

I was going to post a lowfat meatball recipe…but it needs work. A lot of work. Like…I’m not even going to put the pictures in.  Any tips? America’s Test Kitchen has a “healthy” cookbook, so I’ll try that. What else?


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ovariation
    Jan 13, 2013 @ 08:46:10

    Oh, wow. Poor girl. That’s a whole lot to deal with, but I’m glad they figured out the problem, and she’s feeling better. I imagine cutting out fat means cutting out a lot of proteins, too. Do you use quinoa much? It’s high in protein and can take the flavor of almost anything you add.


  2. Candace
    Jan 13, 2013 @ 20:23:19

    Hmmmm. This will be quite a challenge, but you are up for it. Off the top of my head, one of our favorite treats in the summer and for breakfast is a smoothie made with frozen berries, a banana and orange juice. There is not a lick of added sugar and no fat at all. You could play with the combination of fruit and juice all day. All it requires is a decent blender. It also helps if you add a bendy straw and a little umbrella, but that’s not necessary.

    The other recommendation I have is for an old cookbook called ” In The Kitchen With Rosie” by Rosie Daley. She was/is Oprah’s personal chef one of the times that Oprah was trying to lose weight. My family’s very favorite dinner comes out of this book: angel hair pasta with lemon and garlic. There’s lots of other recipes (49) actually that look really good (not weird). I’ll bet you could find it online for $.01. I would be happy to loan you my copy too. I’ll slip it in inter district mail. Just say the word.


  3. Mel
    Jan 13, 2013 @ 23:48:35

    The Weight Watchers website has some great recipes that are low-fat, low-calorie, but still taste good. Of course, WW has a ton of paper cookbooks, too, but the website will let you type in ingredients and off you a low-fat alternative to the recipe.


  4. Felecia
    Jan 15, 2013 @ 00:58:07

    WOW! that is so much to deal with. So, the thing I know from trying to cut some fats from my diet is that non-stick pans are a must and to remember that things that don’t have fat (like cheese) don’t melt. That said, there are so many ways to eat around low-fat if that is the only real restriction. You’re right, tho, fruits and veggies are a must. too bad she wasn’t already one of those teens that decides to be a vegetarian. the battle would be 1/2 won! SO SO GLAD she’s ok and that there is now a plan to work with. The not knowing is so much harder!


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