Do you have a chronically or terminally ill person in your life who you’d like to help but simply don’t know how? Do you ever wonder what you can do to make that person feel better or encourage him or her to hang in there?
Years ago, after starting my small nutritional practice, I hoped to add to my understanding of health issues by volunteering at a hospice in the city where I lived at the time. I committed myself to working with and being around those who were at the end stage of their lives, and it seemed overwhelming to me. Looking back, I now see death and chronic illness as part of life, and I’m very grateful I was trained for this special task. I spent almost two years working with the terminally ill, and I think all practitioners should volunteer at least six months to a year in this setting. It forever changes your perspective and allows you to see first-hand what’s vitally important to those we serve.
It was eventually determined that my role as a hospice volunteer would be to assist the dying rather than console the grieving. We were on call 24-7 in the event we might be needed to see a patient through those last few hours. For the most part, I spent my time visiting patients at home. This gave relatives some respite for a good part of the day while I sat and talked with their chronic or terminally ill loved ones.
Our conversations ranged far and wide: religious subjects, paranormal experiences, concerns over things left undone, and of course the actual fear of dying. Many of them also wanted to talk about things that pressed on their conscience. I recall so vividly how one lady in particular couldn’t let go until she paid off a certain debt she’d incurred. Although she was very much at the point of dying, she held on for what seemed like an interminably long two months, until one of her relatives promised to pay off the debt. Within the hour, she quietly slipped away.
In another unusual incident, one of my clients told me she’d just spoken to her husband—who was already deceased. Despite feeling better than she had in months, she told him she’d be joining him shortly. She then asked if I would hold her hand, and I did. As a pleasant smile came over her face, and with her family by her side, she died quietly less than 15 minutes later.
Those moments are forever impressed in my mind and soul.
Surprisingly, a few of the patients I was assigned to rebounded for whatever reason and continued to live for a relatively long period of time. A few even made it out of the hospice and went home. For both them and their families, my duty became one of making sure they received the kind of nourishment that would help them get their strength back after their protracted or ongoing illness. I undertook this task outside my sphere as a volunteer, and it was much more hopeful—for them and me.
Now I’ve drawn upon these experiences to outline some nutritional suggestions for the chronically ill or dying, and also offer some thoughts on dealing with their emotional needs.
A major problem many people have during this time is constipation. Yes, it’s not something we like to talk about, but constipation is an uncomfortable condition that prevents sufferers from stemming the tide of ill health. It’s especially difficult for those who can’t be active and worse for those who’ve never needed help in that area. But the suggestion I’m going to make actually works! How do I know? Well, a few months back, a very close relative of mine came for a visit. He complained constantly of problems he’d endured for years with constipation. Unfortunately, he wasn’t amenable to taking any of the fine whole food products available from Standard Process. Aside from my obvious suggestions of fermented foods, hydration, fiber, and good fats to help lubricate the gut, I was frankly at a loss.
At the time I was doing research for a gluten article (which I eventually submitted to Sally Fallon Morell for publication in the quarterly journal Wise Traditions). One of the people I consulted was Monica Spiller, a chemist and grain expert. Spiller suggested I read What’s with Fiber, a book she wrote with her husband, Dr. Gene Spiller, PhD, in 2005. In it, they suggest that the tartaric acid in raisins, along with whole grain bread fiber, may be effective for those who experience consistent constipation.
Puzzled at first, I eventually came across this same recommendation for raisins at various websites. I immediately put my relative on a daily routine of several thick slices of manna bread baked with raisins and a tall glass of kefir. Bingo! After the third day of this regimen, no more constipation! Even a handful of raisins seemed to help. He used a popular organic commercial brand of manna bread with raisins and carrots, which you can find at most health food stores if you prefer not to make your own.
For those people who resist treating such difficulties with food or simply can’t eat the sugar in raisins, I recommend some awesome Standard Process whole food supplements at the end of this article.
Another question to consider is which foods contain high nutrient value but won’t burden the gastrointestinal tract? I can’t personally think of anything more nourishing than a puréed soup made from meat stock. Nourishing Broth by Sally Fallon Morell and Kayla Daniels, PhD, contains some mind-boggling information regarding how meat stock, gelatin, and bone marrow can heal and nourish not just the gut but also many other parts of the body.
I also strongly recommend my favorite multivitamin supplements from Standard Process—after checking with your holistic practitioner first. These whole, full-bodied supplements are pleasant tasting and easy to digest:
Cyrofood Powder: With concentrates from powerfully nourishing foods such as wheat germ, fish liver lipoids, liver, mushrooms, and other nutrient dense whole food substances, this product is a powerful multivitamin. Combined with pure bone meal, which contains marrow, this powder is both highly nutritious and easy to use. It’s perfect added to raw milk, juices, porridge, and easily ingested foods like cottage cheese. It’s particularly indicated for chronic or degenerative diseases or lowered resistance. And this super whole food supplement isn’t just for people with a serious illness—it’s also great for children, teenagers, and adults who could use a powerful multivitamin-type food supplement that can be easily incorporated with beverages, including cultured milk products, cereals, soups, and other ordinary foods. To preserve its raw state, don’t add it to anything hot.
Digestive Aids: Along with the practitioner’s experience and needed chiropractic adjustments, Standard Process offers a variety of highly effective supplements for constipation and other conditions. Your holistic practitioner may have other recommendations, but I’ve personally had good results treating constipation with the following: Zypan, Lactic Acid Yeast, Fen-Cho, and Disodium Phosphate.
Emotional Help: When treating people suffering from a chronic or end-stage illness, it’s critically important that practitioners and caretakers do the one thing essential for alleviating stress: listen. Young or old, most people at this stage are in need of what’s called a “life review.” This practice can benefit even older relatives who aren’t facing an end-stage illness. As we grow older, we often feel left out or perceived as boring by the family circle. No special talent is needed to be a good listener, but there are six words you can always count on to encourage the sick or elderly to talk about their inner-feelings or their past: who, why, what, where, when, or how. When you begin a question this way, conversation will flow freely. How did you learn to fix cars? Where were you married? What are your favorite foods? This is also a great way to learn about somebody new. Everyone wants to be known by others.
Foods for Healing and Comfort
Following are a few easy starter recipes uniquely suited for the person who needs high-nutrient value, easy-to-digest foods—but even a child will enjoy them!
This powerful smoothie is filling and easy to digest.
1 cup raw milk or fermented orange juice
1 tablespoon Cyrofood Powder
½–1 tablespoon coconut oil, softened or gently liquefied
½–1 tablespoon organic raw honey
- Place raw milk or fermented orange juice in Vitamix or blender.
- Add Cyrofood Powder and coconut oil. Blend for several minutes. Pour into a glass and enjoy.
Liquid Salad Smoothie
You can take any recommended whole food supplement from Standard Process with this refreshing liquid salad.
1 medium avocado
1 garlic clove
½–1 teaspoon Celtic salt, to taste
1 teaspoon organic lemon juice
½ cup spring water or more, depending on desired consistency
1½ teaspoons organic virgin olive oil
- Place all the ingredients in Vitamix or blender. Add more water if necessary.
- Blend until the ingredients are drinkable and it’s at the desired consistency.
Liver Pate (Traditional Cook Version)
This delicious, nutrient dense, and easy-to-make dish tastes a lot like liverwurst. Try serving it on a slice of whole grain bread, pita, or crackers, slicing it for sandwiches, or just eating it cold or warm with some fermented sauerkraut or a nice helping of fermented veggies. You can also cut it up into small squares and toss with a good salad or Greek dressing.
1 lb. or more liver (beef or buffalo are my favorites)
½ cup chopped white onion
¾ cup Ghee or butter, softened to room temperature
2 tablespoons raw cream (optional)
1–2 teaspoons red chili flakes, depending on desired spice level
2 teaspoons Celtic salt
Organic wine to taste (optional)
- Cut off the tough ring around the liver with a very sharp knife. Toss it or feed it to your pet.
- Bring a pot of water to boil. Carefully place the liver in the boiling water. (No need to cut it up into smaller pieces if you’re squeamish.)
- Turn heat to medium. Boil softly 8-10 minutes. Don’t overcook as this will make it tough. Take it off the burner and drain the water.
- Zip all of the remaining ingredients up in the food processor until you have a paste-like substance. If desired, add some organic wine before processing. This will change the taste, so you’ll have to experiment.
- Blend the slightly boiled liver along with the paste in the food processor.
- Spread the mixture into a small narrow pan to about 1-inch high. Smooth it out. Cover the pan with Saran wrap (this brand contains no BPA). Store in the fridge until it hardens. Serve warm or cold.
What makes liver so wonderful? Quite simply, it contains more nutrients, gram for gram, than any other food. In summary, liver provides:
- An excellent source of high-quality protein.
- Nature’s most concentrated source of vitamin A.
- All the B vitamins in abundance, particularly vitamin B12.
- One of our best sources of folic acid.
- A highly usable form of iron.
- Trace elements such as copper, zinc, and chromium. In fact, liver is our best source of copper.
- An unidentified anti-fatigue factor.
- CoQ10, a nutrient especially important for cardiovascular function.
- A good source of purines, nitrogen-containing compounds that serve as precursors for DNA and RNA.
To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:
- chemical- and hormone-free meat
- wild-caught fish
- pasture-raised, organic eggs
- whole, unrefined grains
- virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
- whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
- pure, clean, spring water
- sea salt
- raw and/or cultured milk and cream products
Photo from iStock/Lighthaunter