Unhappy with your tube feeding formula? Feel better with blended food for tube feeding

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When you got your feeding tube, your healthcare team probably started you on a synthetic commercial tube feeding formula (also called enteral formula).

You know – the stuff in a can, or that drinking box carton. You open those same cans each day, and pour that beige liquid into your feeding bag and in it goes. 

You can feel it gurgling around inside, and it doesn’t make you feel satisfied or nourished. 

Sometimes it actually makes you feel downright ill and you want a tube feeding formula alternative. 

What if I told you there was something different?

Something that could make you feel better, have less of an issue with your digestion, and bring back the joy of food again – even if it is going through your feeding tube.

Have you heard of blended food for your feeding tube?

You can blend food for your tube feeding

Blenderized tube feeding (BTF) means you can cook your food like you would if you were eating it by mouth. 

You can blend food up with some liquid so it’s nice and smooth. Then you can put it through your feeding tube just like you do with your formula.

One option is to make meals with your family and blend the same meal for your tube feeding.

You could also make large batches of food and blend all your meals for the day in a big batch. You then eat (through your tube) portions of your blend throughout the day.

Some tube feeding formula companies have also started to make commercial blended formulas made from real food.

Using blenderized tube feeds in your tube feeds could make you start to feel better (1). 

It’s NOT all or nothing! Even using a portion of blended food can start to make a difference in how you feel.

There are so many options available to you!

Blenderized tube feeds vs standard tube feeding formula

If you’re here, there’s something that just isn’t sitting well with you about your tube feeding formula. 

Maybe because:

  • How it makes your body feel
  • You’re not so happy about the ingredient list
  • You have food allergies or food preferences that don’t align with the tube feeding formula ingredients
  • You miss cooking your meals
  • You miss sitting down to share a meal with family or friends

Whatever it is, you’re questioning if there’s something else you could be eating through your tube.

Standard commercial tube feeding formulas have a role for certain medical conditions or when someone is seriously ill in hospital. 

I’ve used them for years as a dietitian working in a hospital. We don’t even have an option for blenderized tube feeds in my hospital. I’m hoping they are in the future!

I’m a registered dietitian in support of blenderized tube feeding

As a dietitian, I value the nutritional benefits of real food and what it has to offer such as antioxidants, phytonutrients, and fibre, to name a few.

There are also other non-nutritional but equally as important benefits to blenderized tube feeding.

Benefits such as:

  • Seeing the beautiful colours of food
  • Being able to enjoy the smells in the kitchen
  • Sharing meals with your family and friends

Is this sounding like something you want to try? Check out another blog I wrote that discusses these benefits of blenderized tube feeding in more detail.

I believe there are benefits to including real food in your tube feeding that are both nutritional and non-nutritional.

Despite the benefits, you may just be looking for an alternative that makes you feel better. Let’s talk about what can be making you feel unwell.

Why is my gut not happy with my tube feeding formula?

To be fair, we can’t blame all your GI upset on your feeds. 

There are lots of other factors that can be making you feel bloated, or have diarrhea when you are on feeds – like medications you are on, how fast you are taking your feeds and something called the osmolarity (concentration of particles) of your formula (2).

If you are having GI issues, it’s a good idea to review possible causes with your dietitian before changing anything with your tube feeding formula, or feeding schedule. 

We can look at what is in your formula that MAY be contributing to your “tummy troubles”.

Standard commercial tube feeding formulas are made up of varying amounts and forms of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fat) as well as vitamins and minerals.

These macronutrients as well as vitamins and minerals provide your body with what it needs to survive. But is your body thriving and feeling well?

Carbohydrates are an important source of energy for your body to function but certain carbohydrates, referred to as FODMAPs, may be contributing to your GI upset (bloating, gas, diarrhea)(2, 3, 4). 

You may have heard of FODMAPs before – FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. 

These are short chain carbohydrates sometimes added to tube feeding formulas. They are present in variable amounts depending on your formula. 

These FODMAPs in your tube feeding formula may be causing you more issues if you have a history of IBS. Even if you don’t have IBS, FODMAPs are something to consider if all other causes have been ruled out (5).

Removing or limiting FODMAPs could help improve your GI symptoms (2, 3, 4). 

Your dietitian may have you trial a formula without FOS (fructo-oligosaccharide), fiber, inulin, and sugar substitutes to see if your symptoms improve (3, 5, 6)

You could also talk to your dietitian about the option for blenderized tube feeding. It allows you to fully customize the foods you are eating through your feeding tube. You know you are eating foods you can tolerate.

Talk to your healthcare team about a blended diet

If blenderized tube feeding (blended food) is something you think you’re interested in, start by asking your healthcare team if it could work for you.

A registered dietitian should be involved to help you figure out what your nutrition needs are and if blenderized tube feeding is right for you.

Unfortunately, I’ve heard from many people that say they’ve received push back from their healthcare team about blenderized tube feeding. 

I find this disappointing to hear that you’re not getting the support you deserve.

Research tells us that even if your healthcare team isn’t on board, you’re doing it anyway. 

I get it – I’m a supporter of getting the benefits from real food, no matter if you receive your food through a feeding tube or you eat by mouth.

You deserve a choice to nourish your body the way you see fit. It’d be comforting to know that you were getting the advice and support you need along the way.

If at first you get a no from your healthcare team, talk to them about why not. It may be that they just don’t know much about it. 

If it’s more to do with your medical condition, then it’s worth more of a discussion. 

They may also think you are at higher risk of blocking your feeding tube or foodborne illness, and not getting the proper nutrition. 

The good news is that there’s more and more research supporting blenderized tube feeding and dispelling some of those myths of blenderized tube feeding. 

I’ve also written more about the myths surrounding blended food for tube feeding in another blog article. You can take some points to discuss with your healthcare team and to help get the support you need.

You want to get started on blended food? 

I’m a registered dietitian and supporter of blenderized tube feeding

I have worked in a hospital for over 15 years and blended food was never something we could offer in the hospital. I’m hoping to change this!

But once you are home, it is much more feasible to make your own blended tube feeding.

I would recommend finding a dietitian to support you at home with blended food for your tube feeding. They can help make sure you’re getting the nutrition your body needs to grow and thrive.

If you are not happy (for whatever reason) with your current tube feeding formula and you want to try blended food for tube feeding, download my FREE GUIDE to getting started. This guide will help you get started and give you tips so you are not spending all day in the kitchen preparing your blends.

Imagine feeling better and enjoying your food again!

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