Special Diets/soft food nutrition
Can you suggest some ideas around a diet of soft foods due to inadequate teeth for chewing. I am interested in an anthroposophical approach to this and particularly wonder how I can meet this challenge in a way which invites my soul to be grateful for the food I am consuming, instead of the grieving which is accompanying meal times.I find the loss of ability to eat a hearty meal, raw foods or even bread to be very demanding and I feel socially hindered. I am also concerned that I am missing out on certain nutrients. One main concern though is that I need to puree or juice many ingredients and the fast and furious action of an electric blender seems to shred the plant and fragment its life forces thereby changing its vibrations before I even place it in my mouth. I have tried being thankful for the "mastication' processes which enable me to ingest the food but I find I am having difficulty changing my whole attitude to harmonise with a new way of eating. I know many people in my situation and this area seems to be unsupported by research. It seems most people are expected to get a denture and carry on as before ---but I wonder if the body in fact needs this change of diet in order to deal with the digestion of soul and world issues which are ingested on a daily basis.
I love your question, which shows such (natural) intelligence and true inquiry; but, of course, I sympathise deeply with your harsh ordeal. I can tell you, I’ve had my own set of powerful soul- confrontations though that odd and demanding pearly gateway at the mouth. So I hope to answer you with sufficient experience and pre-cogitated thought.
I find your wording excellent when you describe the teeth as the primary station of all digestion, both soulful and worldly. It is (almost always ) a daily demand that we engage our teeth, which is almost a bit banal when you are faced with problems limiting your ability to engage them wholeheartedly. There are plenty of nasty ailments which affect our ability to eat at all or enjoy the act, but there are also accidents and circumstances, each creating a slightly different message to you from your spirit. I don’t mean to pry into the reasons for your issues, but a little more background (incl. your age) could have helped me expand on the topic further. For now, may I remind you to open up the picture of the teeth to include not only your whole mouth/throat area as well as your whole digestive process (starting with your visual sense and sense of smell, which stimulates digestive processes in th liver and more obviously in the salivatory glands) but also the world designed around eating outside you. You have indicated already the impact of social aspects. But for yourself there is also the entire dynamic of the food-chain and energy return cycle to contemplate. Why does man eat at all?Will there come a time he need not at all? How is that possible? Why is that desirable? These are very anthroposophical questions.
It is most inconvenient how people do not respect that you may have limitations when it comes to partaking of meals. It is a primitive sense of community building which underlies THEIR distress, In effect they lack the sophistication to include all at our table, whether they actually eat the food on it or not. There are OTHER ways to partake in the community spirit. By paying attention for example, listening and sharing your own experiences. You can bring your other senses to the table, aside that of taste! But it is terribly tiring at times how people have this need to feed you for them to feel good about themselves. If you are an inedian (a breatharian, or have a light-diet) it is even worse! But this is rare. It might be supportive to you to compare your story to that of someone with such a diet. Especially regards the subject of social acceptance. I can mention the fairly extreme journey of ex-rugby player Gensis Sunfire, but also the anthroposohic Mr.Werner and Judith von Halle (a visionary to boot). What is not so uncommon anymore is being exclusive in your diet, be it raw food, fructarian or liquidarian. More and more people have odd allergies and intolerances or survive terminal illness or live up to really old ages, and we have to chill a bit about all their odd eating habits and just tell them to pull up a chair and share our space for a moment in peace and support.
We must not forget to realise that the advice available to anthropsophical nutritionalists must also be kept updated. Rudolf Steiner could not proscribe or advise well into the 21st century (and never assumed to). Times change. But you remain right about the battering effects of the blender, which any decent chef also laments for exactly the same reason: it debases the foodstuff somehow (which is reflected in taste and structure). It is vital to health to experience at the level of the mouth (head pole) a vast variety of qualities. Or our head becomes a big stomach: in effect our senses turn to slush, and lose their discriminating ability. In the lower pole it is natural to have soup and smooth mixtures. It is also why we can survive on intravenous nutrition and it may be healthier than the smoothies we make.
If this may be a bit exaggerated, I mean only to indicate we must balance out the science of vitamins and minerals (the physical building blocks) with the more intangible factors. When it comes to bulking up an emaciated person or revitalising a chronically ill patient, it can be useful to reach for some super-food powders, like almond, rice, hemp, or pea protein. A spoonful of acai powder when fresh berries are not readily available (carbon neutrally) can also be acceptable. A teaspoon of pollen keeps the winter blues away, if you ask me!
A green smoothie can make a fine light meal, especially when chewing lettuce of spinach or seaweed is just not an attractive option (also not in cold winters for those of us with good teeth). The nutrional value of a smoothie may outweight the negatives of the slash and pulp method required. You can invest very powerful energy in the making of this otherwise barbarous sounding meal by choosing your ingredients carefully, and lovingly washing them or considering their life-story (know where your products come from if they are powdered). Not all the ingredients can be 100% “kosher” all the time. It’s hard to achieve in most places for most of us. But we can always pay 100% attention to our attitude regards nourishment. We eat to live. When the inverse becomes a trend (life-style choices which make food pivotal in a fairly decadent way) we might be on the wrong path (of no return?).
The next step up from a smoothie is to make “baby food” in an anthroposophic fashion. There are porridges and yoghurts. Add ground nuts, coconut, mashed fruits and pre-soaked (dried fruits and) flattened oats for an amazing mixture of textures and flavours for the tongue and the mouth while sparing your teeth the hard work. You could feel perfectly normal eating such a meal.
For hot meals with vegetables and pulses or possibly soy (eggs should be super versatile), it is always advised to use a potato masher or a ricer and prepare everything from scratch (no powders). This infuses the servings with light and life and love besides offering a very gentle textured and sensory challenge for the mouth, the eyes, even the sense of touch with the hands - why not! On that note, actually, may I mention that it’s good for western folks to break bread with our hands and pick from dishes sometimes too, although learning to eat with a knife and fork is also part of a training for the soul some of us in this world need to undergo. It troubles me that eating with the right cutlery is an artfulness on the decline. Having said that, I wonder if you may be able to help yourself find some new joy by using your hands more; just to make them your helpers in chewing: they tear a little piece of wholesome bread off for you and in that process you enter a dialogue with your body. It would be a therapeutic exercise mainly if bread is still too tough going for you.
Your soul has to learn to find the right new tone to speak to your mind and help it change its attitude about the process of eating. Up till now it may have been fairly automatic for you (at least your expectation to enjoy it was) . It will be a matter of endurance at times, as you proceed to coax yourself to accept your new limitations and you will have to develop a new bridge between outer and inner worlds. There is a story of children who survived near starvation during the War II because the nuns managed to feed them one berry a day (on top of a bowl of gruel). How’s that for a super food! Food then becomes a holy sacrament, like a wafer.
Taking your time to chew on something more challenging (but again, I’d need to know what exactly is your prognosis/or stable situation) can be curative or important to the maintenance of the teeth and/or gums. We loose what we don’t use, after all. It may also be important to learn more about which foodstuffs help to keep the mouth alkaline and fresh and prevent further issues (sores etc). An apple a day may not necessarily be the best thing for teeth anymore! (Too much fruit causes temendous erosion – go easy on fruit juices; find revitalisation in herbs and spices, ginger tea, cinnamon cocoa with honey or barley, millet, rice, almond or hazlenut milk, ). Realise also that chewing with gums is very possible, but again it depends on the condition of your gums and they might need to harden a bit first (as for the aged). Wala has some very good gum care products in their prescription line (available without prescription from some online chemists). Essential oils with sage and mhyrr or aloe vera mouth care products might also be gentle soothers and helpers – but it depends on the medical story of your situation.
I appreciate none of this is easy to get used to, no matter how old or young you are – but if you are younger it is harder to deal with still, because teeth have so much to say about growing older and death processes. They ask us to consider what is perishable and what needs to be sacrificed for eternal life and what remains dead forever. Eating gives us lessons in trans-substantiation and resurrection (beginning with digestive sap into an organism for a living-being).
Teeth are such dead stumps at the end of it but in a living mouth they are rooted to our silicon nerve system and messengers of very mysterious codes. I think we are not ready to decode them all. But if you have certain teeth missing or a particular disease you get some clues. (This I can help you decode, for I have an interesting book on that).
In the meantime, you have to listen very closely to your nutritional needs and also learn to say “stuff you all” to your dinner companions, for now at least, and ask them to be considerate with you, instead. This is to also put your suffering in service to a greater whole which may sound odd but is noble in the long run. They can be considerate, compassionate, by not projecting their own dispair onto your situation (they do this because cannot afford to think how they would cope in your shoes and dread the worst for themselves). They can learn to breathe and relax and be grateful for your company. They will learn to admire your inventivity: how you manage to eat very wholesome meals, if smaller ones and more slowly, but with vibrant colours and daily variety.
In many ways they can join in with your meals. There are loads of fun soups you can make which look totally “normal” and are packed with everything. You can dice up vegetables, throw in soft vermicelli or quinoa, buckwheat, rice or any other grains which will cook up nice and soft. There are plenty of oven bakes which require minimal mastication if you do the pre-work with a knife (your way of chewing if done with loving care!). You can puree potato with celeriac for a topping on lentil dhal. Carrots and kale or sauerkraut mash up into a hearty meal – I don’t know if you eat meat, but mincing meat should not be a problem for anyone, and the soft texture of fish should be a treat.
As you say, you may miss chewing heartily, but that will change over time. You will become more refined in your tastes both literally and soulfully. Also, try to shift “bulk work” to a new body area. Or find a new point of entrance for the nourishing world: thorugh learning new skills, drinking in music; digesting adventures. Learn to use your fingers more, maybe, in a compressing and then consolidating manner (clay modelling); or work with textiles with different textures. Take up painting which disolves paint and then recomposes a picture. Don’t forget to stimulate the rest of your body with digestive exercises (in Taoism or Yoga we find many) so that you change expectations across the board, while still maintaining a healthy appetite. Also take plenty of rest and meditation which is another way of processing sense experiences (a whole meal in itself). Little psychological chinks (or big ones) in the cable often underly dental issues – so set to work valiantly on what you can. At the same time draw some attention away from the head pole and nervous system and keep rooting (maybe a pun intended...) and connecting with the earth. Working with animals and gardening, or long rambling walks can be very helpful in this.
It may take a while to develop a new self-discipline and new soul exercises to boost your willing-faculty, which will guide you in search of healthy nutritional sources. But in the end you will discover a new kind of fulfilment or satisfaction. To those who cannot come along with you on this arduous journey (hard mainly because of the resistance in others and your old mindset) you can only say, sorry, I have further to fly; and you must not let them drag you down. It’s going to be a lot of hard work, but it can open such beautiful new dimensions of spirit for you. That is the gift eating is meant to extend to the soul. Often we don’t take this at all when we wolf down indiscriminately or become pious about our diets with too much pomp and circumstance. Keep packing the creative forces into your life with colour, smell, sound, and the promise of relief therein.
I support you all the way and am open to any more questions.