February 12, 2016

Feeding Tube AwarenessAs we celebrate Feeding Tube Awareness this February, take a moment to reflect upon how far tube feeding has come since its beginning, approximately 3500 years ago.

The first recorded attempt to provide some type of tube feeding dates back to ancient Egypt! They used reeds to give rectal feedings of chicken broth, wine and eggs. This was the tube feeding method of choice for the next 2000 years—we’ve come a long way!

In the 1700’s, leather was used to create a flexible, hollow tube that patients would swallow. Then a syringe was used to deliver blended food to the stomach. Physicians played around with blends of wine, eggs, jellies, and milk. Popular food blends in the 1800’s included mixtures of thick custards, mashed potatoes, and predigested milk. Isn’t it interesting that today, the big buzz word in tube feeding is blenderized diets? Truly, what once was old is new again.

During the first half of the 20th century, the methods of administration for tube feeding improved greatly with the introduced of soft, flexible tubes. Perhaps the biggest advance was in the identification of the components of a healthy diet. Many vitamins and other micronutrients were discovered which were essential in combating the malnutrition. Yes, the emphasis in medical nutrition was on malnutrition, not obesity!

In the 1960’s, the first man had walked on the moon, and scientists were trying to develop “space diets;” the best possible diet or nutrition that produced the least amount of waste. Little did we realize that these early experiments would be the foundation of our present day tube feeding formulas.

Today, the science of enteral nutrition (tube feeding) centers on the development of products for all types of disease conditions. Formulas are individualized for disease states, different patient populations as well as promoting healing within the body. That is a long way from infusing wine and custard!

So give your tubie a smooch, and give thanks to all the people throughout history who made tube feeding what it is today:  Nutritious, safe, and most of all, life preserving.

Janice Fordyce, MS, RD, CNSC