Homemade tube feedings using blenderized foods is an emerging area of interest among people in the tube feeding community, including those with long-term feeding tubes. For some, blending personal tube feeding formulas may be ideal, but it’s important to understand exactly what you can put through your feeding tube and the potential risks associated with this approach.
What Can You Put Through a PEG Tube?
Aside from fluids and medications, a feeding tube is the vehicle that provides your body with essential nutrients to meet your individualized nutrition needs. These enteral feedings or “tube feeding formulas” are delivered in a liquid form through your feeding tube.
Depending on your medical condition or nutrient needs, there are many different types of enteral nutrition formulas available to choose from:
- Standard Formulas – appropriate for those with normal digestion, including tube feeding formulas such as Nutren®, Isosource® 1.5 Cal, Compleat® Standard 1.4, and Fibersource® HN.
- Elemental and Semi-Elemental Formulas – Ingredients are broken down into their simplest form so they can be more easily digested and absorbed for those with impaired gastrointestinal (GI) function. Examples of the formulas include Vivonex® RTF and Peptamen®.
- Blenderized Formulas – manufactured enteral formula which contain a blend of ingredients from real foods. Compleat® is an example of a manufactured blenderized nutritionally complete formula.
- DIY Blenderized Food – homemade meals or whole foods that have been pureed/liquified for enteral feedings
- Other Specialized Formulas – created for those with specific nutrient needs
Who Would Benefit from Blenderized Feedings?
For those that have the desire, skills, necessary equipment, and adequate nutrition knowledge (and/or access to a registered dietitian nutritionist’s guidance), do-it-yourself blenderized foods can be a great option to integrate into your enteral feeding routine. They can serve as either replacement feedings or as a supplement to your formula feeding.
People living active lifestyles at home with a feeding tube may find that incorporating real whole foods as part of their diet helps to bring a sense of normalcy to mealtime and further improves their quality of life. Being able to enjoy the same foods as family members or friends also can help eliminate or minimize the stigma around feeding tubes. Caution must be taken to make sure that homemade blenderized feedings contain adequate protein, fat, calories, fiber, vitamins, minerals and fluid.
Who Would Not Benefit from Blenderized Feedings?
Blenderizing your own diet can be time-consuming and requires careful planning. In addition, ingredients have to be blended well enough to easily flow through various sizes of feeding tubes. If you have time constraints, a small diameter feeding tube or specialized nutritional requirements, you may not be a candidate for blenderized feedings.
What are the Risks of Blenderizing Foods at Home?
There are several risk factors that you should take into consideration when deciding whether to blenderize foods for your enteral feedings. Potential complications of using blenderized tube feeds through a PEG tube may include:
• Inadequate Nutrition and Fluid Intake
- There are significant nutritional differences when it comes to preparing your own blenderized feedings at home versus receiving a standardized tube feeding formula.
- For those with higher calorie or specialized nutrient needs, blenderized foods may not provide sufficient nutrition.
- It’s important to maintain an adequate hydration status and electrolyte balance through your enteral feedings. DIY blenderized feeds can vary tremendously in water and electrolyte content, which may lead to dehydration over time.
• Risk of Bacterial Contamination
- Bacterial contamination is one of the biggest concerns when it comes to blenderized foods for enteral feedings via PEG tubes.
- Preparing blenderized formulas at home requires additional awareness when it comes to practicing proper personal hygiene and food safety practices.
- Industrial-strength blenders are recommended for making blenderized tube feeding formulas at home.
• Clogged Feeding Tube
- If the blenderized food is not smooth or thin enough, this can cause issues with tube clogging.
- When your feeding tube gets clogged, it can cause a multitude of delays, including the inability to take your medication on time and altering the timing of your hydration and nutrition regimen.
This approach isn’t right for everyone, especially if you struggle with impaired GI function or issues with tube feeding tolerance, which may require a more specialized formula. Talk with your doctor or registered dietitian nutritionist to determine the best type of enteral feeding that will best align with your health goals.