PEG feeding tube and oral eating

Time and time again, when I talk to others about PEG feeding tubes, I come across two statements. Either “I don’t need a feeding tube, I can still eat properly” or “I don’t want a feeding tube, I like eating far too much”. I can totally understand both statements. After all, I was also at this point once and was afraid of a feeding tube (more on this in the next post). However, if you look at the whole thing rationally, the picture quickly changes.

“I can still eat”

Whoever suggests that a feeding tube could be a sensible therapeutic measure will have reasons for this suggestion. Making excuses with “I can still eat properly” is often just that: An excuse. I was also still able to eat “properly” back then. But it always took forever. And, even if I didn’t want to admit it to myself, I choked more and more often. I don’t need to tell anyone that this was no fun. In a situation like this, a feeding tube can be a great relief. It can also minimise the life-threatening risks of choking and the consequences.

Enjoyment and food consumption

I actually think “I like eating far too much” is a lie. To those around you, but above all to yourself. If a feeding tube is indicated, then eating is no longer much fun. I am by no means denying that you no longer enjoy the flavours and perhaps even the different textures of food. The surrounding aspects, such as the preparation or sharing a meal with family or friends, can also be a lot of fun. I absolutely agree! However, enjoyment and eating, the intake of food itself, are completely different things.

The good news

But after these hard truths, here’s some good news: Just because you have a feeding tube doesn’t automatically mean that you can no longer eat orally (i.e. through your mouth). After all, your mouth is not stitched shut after the procedure. But thanks to a feeding tube, you no longer necessarily have to eat (or drink) orally. You only do it when you feel able and want to. After all, the supply of calories, nutrients and hydration is ensured via the tube. Oral food therefore only has to fulfil one purpose: To provide enjoyment.

Of course, it always depends on the individual clinical condition as to what is still possible in each individual case. In this context, I can only recommend working with a good speech therapist from my own experience. More on this elsewhere. But let me give it away: There is often much more possible than you might imagine if you haven’t had to deal with this topic before.

But you don’t have to

All the other things that might be fun about eating (looking for recipes, shopping, cooking, etc.) can still be done with a feeding tube. So can sitting at the table with family and friends. Whether you have nothing at all, just a small glass of your favourite drink, a plate of soup, a single fish finger or just a small bowl of specially prepared oral food in front of you is completely irrelevant. Believe me! After years of repeating such rituals, it’s just an idea in our heads. I’ve been through it all in the last 20+ years and will be pleased to tell you more about it in other articles. Just because you have a PEG feeding tube doesn’t mean that you can no longer eat orally. But you no longer have to.