If you’re a tube fed adult or you have an adult tube fed loved one, you may have wondered if tea or coffee can be consumed through a feeding tube. I’ll be answering this question in detail in this post, so read on if this topic interests you.
At the end of the post you'll find the recipe details for this Pumpkin Spice Latte that is designed for tube feeding but is absolutely delicious to share with those who eat by mouth:
Many people cherish their morning (or afternoon or evening..) coffee or cup of tea. The smell of fresh coffee brewing or the aroma of tea steeping in the teapot evokes a comforting and cozy feeling for many people. With so much of our daily routines centering on food, there is a profound impact when a person loses their ability to eat by mouth and requires a feeding tube for their nutrition.
A Hard Transition
My patients often express a sense of disbelief and sadness that their favourite foods will no longer be able to be enjoyed by mouth as they face the prospect of long term tube feeding. These conversations are never easy and my heart goes out to anyone who experiences this potentially devastating situation. I work with tube fed people every day and strive to help make tube feeding more positive by explaining the option of blenderized tube feeding- where blended food and fluids are included in their diet rather than relying solely on tube feeding formula.
You Have A Choice
I tell every tube fed person that they can still have the foods that they love, if they decide that they might still have a sense of enjoyment if those foods now go into their feeding tube instead of into their mouth. Of course it’s not the same thing at all, but for some people it can be very reassuring to learn that the foods that they enjoy can still be included in their diet.
Tea and coffee are good examples of this. That familiar smell of coffee brewing or tea steeping has the potential to produce positive emotions, trigger warm memories and may even awaken a person’s appetite. Why would that be important?
Appealing Food = Improved Digestion
I strongly believe that if a person smells and sees yummy food, their brain tells their body that it’s time for a meal and the process of digestion gets a kick start (I may write about this in more detail in a future post). When a tube fed person experiences this, I believe that they are more likely to tolerate their tube fed meal. I think that this may be one of the reasons blended diet are consistently better tolerated than standard commercial formula, with a growing number of research studies as proof.
Potential Benefits Of Coffee And Tea
There are other potential benefits to including coffee and tea in a tube fed diet. There’s the invigorating effect of caffeine that can boost a person’s mood and energy. For some people, coffee and tea can stimulate a bowel movement…a good thing for people who tend to become constipated. Also, caffeine has a diuretic effect so if you need help producing urine or tend to carry excess fluid in your body, this could be a benefit.
Check With Your Doctor Or Dietitian
I must reiterate that before making any changes to your tube feeding regime (or that of your tube fed loved one), make sure to check with the healthcare team as there may be reasons why certain foods may not be suitable for everyone. Coffee and team may be a problem for some people so make sure to get the ok from the healthcare team before starting the coffee maker or getting out the teapot.
Tube Feeding Considerations
If you or your loved one is tube fed and would like to enjoy tea or coffee, here are some things to consider:
- Most people can have coffee or tea through a feeding tube- remember, a feeding tube is essentially just another mouth!
- Ask your healthcare team if there is a reason why you might not be safe to do so and if they say no, please ask them to clearly explain why. A policy against blenderized tube feeding is not good justification and should be challenged, but if there is a medical reason why tea or coffee is unsafe, please respect that. Hint: If you were eating by mouth, would you be allowed coffee or tea? Ask this question….the answer may be very revealing!
- Your coffee or tea intake should be reasonable- up to 2 cups per day is generally safe.
- Go with decaf if you’d like to avoid the effects of caffeine
- Coffee or tea can be given straight into the tube by pump, gravity or syringe flush. Ask your healthcare team if you're unsure about the infusion rate/speed.
- Enjoy your tea or coffee black, with milk or cream, or blended up with food. Blending with food is probably easiest on the stomach.
- Never ever feed hot tea or coffee (or anything hot or frozen for that matter!)
Here It Is - The Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe!
Here is a highly nutritious way to include some coffee in your tube feeding. It’s absolutely delicious tasting for anyone who would like to drink it by mouth (either hot or cold), but the beautiful colour and aromatic coffee and spices make it an enjoyable meal for people who are tube fed.
¼ cup canned pumpkin
1 cup whole milk or plant-based milk alternative (soy milk is most similar in nutritional content to cow's milk, learn more by reading this post)
1 tablespoon almond butter
2 teaspoons brown sugar (This can be omitted if you wish to avoid added sugar, or, if you have a very powerful blender, you could substitute 1 pitted date)
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder (optional)
Put all ingredients into a blender and blend until a smooth liquid texture is achieved. If you would like to enjoy this recipe by mouth, it can be warmed or enjoyed cold. For tube feeding, blended food should be at room temperature or lukewarm.
This recipe makes about 350 mL and provides approximately 300 calories, 12 g protein, 23 g net carbohydrate, 4 g fibre, 17 g fat, 308 mg phosphorus, 591 mg potassium and 112 mg sodium.
Thank you to Isabelle Cortejos-Noble, nutrition student, for her assistance developing this recipe!
If you're looking for more dietitian tested and approved recipes, you may wish to consider purchasing the Natural Tube Feeding Recipe eBook. There are 20 blended recipes - 5 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 5 dinners and 5 snacks. Each is designed to be highly nutritious, and the perfect texture for tube feeding. There is also plenty of information to help you be successful using blended food for tube feeding.