Food Allergies and Blenderized Tube Feeds

In America it’s estimated that food allergies effect 32 million people, including those with feeding tubes. There are many benefits to making your own blenderized tube feed (BTF), or blenderized diet, but one of the most appealing reasons for many is that by making their own tube feed formula, they can guarantee that certain allergens can be avoided.

What is a Food Allergy?

A food allergy happens when the immune system overreacts to a specific protein in a food and identifies it as harmful. The body will then react to this protein with mild (tingling, itching, swelling, hives) to severe (trouble breathing, loss of consciousness, shock) symptoms.

Example: A dairy allergy means the body would have a reaction to all foods containing dairy, such as butter, yogurt, cream cheese, sour cream, cheese, milk, and buttermilk.

What is a Food Intolerance?

A food intolerance, or food sensitivity, occurs when the digestive tract has difficulty digesting (or breakdown) a specific type of food. This often lead to gastrointestinal symptoms (gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea, etc.). Food intolerance are much more common than food allergies and most occur often with dairy products.

Example: A dairy intolerance means the body could handle some dairy products in low amounts, such as cheese, butter, and yogurt, but would have a reaction if exposed to too much dairy, such as a glass of milk or bowl of ice cream.

The Big 8

While food allergies can occur with any type of food, there are 8 types of food that are most likely to cause allergic reactions. The Big 8 include:

  1. Cow’s Milk
  2. Eggs
  3. Peanuts
  4. Tree Nuts (almonds, cashews, etc.)
  5. Fish (salmon, tilapia, etc)
  6. Shellfish (shrimp, crab, etc.)
  7. Soy
  8. Wheat

4 Tips for Managing Food Allergies in Blenderized Tube Feeds

  1. Only introduce one new food item at a time. By adding one new food at a time, every two days, then if a reaction occurs it will be very easy to identify the food that caused it.
  2. Read food labels. When adding a food that has a food label, make sure to read all of ingredients in the ingredient list. This can also help to identity what ingredient is causing a reaction, especially since some foods contain unexpected ingredients.
  3. Beware of cross contamination. Make sure any kitchen surfaces that are being used to prepare a blenderized diet are cleaned or kept separate from items that come into contact with known food allergens. For example, someone that has a wheat allergy will need to use a separate toaster than one that is used for toasting wheat bread.
  4. Talk to your doctor or registered dietitian. If a reaction occurs, do not assume you have an allergy or intolerance and begin eliminating foods without talking to a health care professional. If an entire food group needs to be cut out of the diet, a registered dietitian can help you find other food sources to replace those missing nutrients.

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