By Claire Kariya, RD
While there are many different tube feeding approaches, the option of blenderized tube feeding is becoming increasingly popular. With blenderized tube feeding, you can have fresh homemade meals, and experience health benefits such as better tube feeding tolerance and bowel regularity. For family members, blenderized tube feeding provides the satisfaction of contributing to the health of tube fed loved ones through better nutrition. In my experience, transitions to blenderized tube feeding have been very rewarding. For example, I had the pleasure of working with an adult who had an esophageal surgery that required a six-month period of tube feeding. He had difficulty tolerating higher tube feeding infusion rates when on traditional formula and disliked the product ingredients. After changing to a blended diet, he was able to tolerate an infusion rate that was four times higher than when he used formula. This reduced his daily time on tube feeding so significantly that he was able to spend much more quality time with family. Additionally, he experienced improvements in his energy level and strength and was able to enjoy an active lifestyle.
Would I benefit from a blended diet?
If you feel that you or your tube fed loved one may benefit from a blended diet, talk to your health care team. Remember that it’s not unusual for clinicians to have limited experience with blenderized tube feeding and may be hesitant for you to try it. When having these conversations, be sure to express how important it is to you that the option of blenderized tube feeding is explored. Indicate that you are willing to prepare blended food, even though this will require more time and effort. To help reduce concerns of nutritional inadequacy, be open to progressing slowly towards a blended diet. You could suggest starting out by adding just a few tablespoons of blended food to your usual formula. Most clinicians would be agreeable with this cautious approach. Over time, with the support and advice of your health care team, you could incorporate more and more blended food into your diet. Another approach is to use a nutritionally complete commercial blenderized tube feeding product, rather than homemade blended meals. This way, your nutrient intake will be more easily monitored by your health care team. There’s no question that everyone deserves a tube feeding plan that aligns with their personal preferences and health goals. Whether you eat by mouth or by tube, it’s natural to want to make your own choices about what food you consume. Blenderized tube feeding offers a unique opportunity to have a truly personalized diet. The possibilities are endless.
Claire Kariya is a Registered Dietitian and blenderized tube feeding expert who believes that whole food should have a place in tube fed diets. Her goal is to support patients and families interested in blenderized tube feeding and help increase acceptance of this practice among health care providers. Claire has authored a blenderized tube feeding recipe book The Original Natural Tube Feeding Recipe Book and created www.naturaltubefeeding.com, a website providing blenderized tube feeding information and resources.