By Molly Patrick
Jul 20, 2019
I knew jack about tube feeding, let alone plant based tube feeding, when Dirty Girl Leslie Bienz joined our community back in 2018. Now I know that tube feeding is the way to deliver food and nourish the body when a person is not able to chew or swallow any, or enough, food by mouth. There are all sorts of reasons why a person might need to be fed using a tube, and there are different types of tubes used depending upon where the food, often in the form of manufactured formulas, will enter the body.
Leslie is intimately familiar with what is called enteral tube feeding – when formula or blenderized food (high-powered blenders unite!) is fed through a tube that enters the body along the digestive tract. Her struggle to nourish her son, Bradley, using enteral formula led to an eruption of emotion followed by fierce determination to find a better way.
Not only did she find a better way, but now she helps other people learn how to feed real food (encouraging plant based tube feeding) whenever possible and is an advocate for improving the enteral nutrition recommendations given by our medical system.
Her willingness to share her experience, one that brings out all the feels, is a gift. These days Leslie and Bradley are a force of love and inspiration in our community and I know you will feel the same once you hear their story.
Here’s a note from Leslie before you press play and watch our chat.
“Bradley was born nearly 3 months early with a congenital heart defect. He suffered a stroke when he was 10 weeks old that has drastically affected the left side of his body. He spent most of the first year of his life in the hospital, including a 165-day stay in the NICU and PICU before going home for the first time after his birth.
Bradley developed a sensory disorder called oral aversion due to these medical traumas and was fed with a feeding tube until he was almost 4 years old. He suffered from violent vomiting for many months until I discovered that I could feed real food through his feeding tube by blending it up in a Vitamix blender. I was stunned as I had no idea this was even an option. Deep down, I knew it was going to be our answer.”
Closed captioning available.
Leslie shared this summary and update after we recorded the interview.
“After feeding Bradley a plant-based diet through his feeding tube, I witnessed his health and life transform right before my eyes. He stopped vomiting and became a completely different child. Today, Bradley is 5 years old and in excellent health. He recently learned to walk independently, overcoming enormous obstacles caused by his stroke.
He no longer has a feeding tube and eats everything orally now. He learned to eat using only nutritious food such as whole grains, fruits, nuts, seeds, and vegetables, and he is rocking his plant-based life. Today, he and I are working tirelessly to improve the nutritional recommendations for tube-fed people and to help parents help their children to eat more plant foods.”
“When I joined the CFDG Facebook group, Bradley’s feeding tube had just broken and fallen out during the night. He had made a lot of progress with oral eating by then so I decided we would try and manage without it rather than putting him through another surgery.
I want to express how much this group has meant to me. All professionals were insisting I had to give up on the idea of Bradley eating a healthy diet because his tube came out too early and I would have to accept that he would have to eat basically junk food.
I was DEVASTATED. I reached out to the group and I expressed that I wanted to try. And also that I was terrified. I was terrified that I was wrong, and that I would fail. But the CFDG group believed with me that he could do it. And that I could do it.
None of what I feared came to pass. Bradley absolutely did great eating from the meal plans. He could only eat puréed food back then. So I puréed the meal plan food. And he ate it. I didn’t have to turn to the high sugar diet I was told he would have to eat. He ate the meal plan food.
Now, he has recently learned to eat non-puréed food. I actually have some prepacked puréed food that I just yesterday decided to give away to a Tubie family because I know for sure Bradley won’t need it anymore.
When I say I would do anything for Team Dirty, I say this with tears in my eyes. I truly mean anything. This group has been a place to receive the support I needed through uncharted territory as I worked to teach Bradley how to eat nourishing food.
And the food is so delicious, it allowed Bradley to prove that children with feeding disorders do NOT have to eat nearly pure sugar to overcome their disorder. I sometimes wonder how it would have gone had I not discovered this FB group and the meal plans. Thankfully, I’ll never have to know.
You can read more about Leslie’s support and advocacy efforts to keep the focus on feeding real food whenever possible at her Crunchy Tubie Mama site.
And! For those of you with kids, Leslie has published books for young children and middle schoolers that weave in the theme of plant based eating (some even have recipes) as well as books for adults on plant based tube feeding.
Leslie’s tenacity is the spark we all have inside of us to challenge convention when you KNOW deep inside there MUST be a better way. Leslie, hats off to you! Keep doing your thing, my dear. Bradley, I can’t wait to chat with you one day for our blog. You have a fighting spirit and an awesome momma by your side!
This week’s recipe is delish for breakfast or anytime! And…you guessed it…it will blend up for tube feeding. Leslie tells us:
I can assure you, nearly any food can be fed through a feeding tube. I’ve only ever heard of blackberries, raspberries, and the seeds of a cantaloupe causing issues. I have heard of practically everything else under the sun being fed through a tube. You just put some liquid in the blender, add the food you want, blend until there are no particles, and it’s ready. Boom. 🙂
Do you have experience with tube feeding? Talk to us in the comments below, we would love to hear about it.
This post is not sponsored by Vitamix.
Dry Mixture Ingredients
- 3 3/4 cups rolled oats (360 g)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg powder
Wet Mixture Ingredients
- 2 cups non-dairy milk (475 ml / plus extra for thinning out as the batter thickens)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 4 large dates, pitted and soaked in warm water for 10 minutes (65 g)
- 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (300 g / about 3 bananas)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla
Dry Mixture Instructions
- In your blender, place the rolled oats, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon powder, salt and nutmeg powder. Blend until the mixture is a powder. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside for now while you make your Wet Mixture.
Wet Mixture Instructions
- Place the non-dairy milk and lemon juice in a bowl and stir. Set aside for 5 minutes.
- Drain the dates (discard the soaking water) and place into your blender, along with the mashed banana, vanilla and the non-dairy milk / lemon mixture that you set aside earlier. Blend until smooth.
Assemble and Cook
- Pour the Wet Mixture into the mixing bowl with the Dry Mixture and stir until just combined (don't over mix).
- There are two ways to cook your Pancakes. You can either use a nonstick skillet or you can use the oven. We got you covered with instructions for both.
Nonstick skillet instructions:
- Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop up some batter and pour it into your hot skillet, forming a circle about 3 to 3 1/2 inches across. Add 1 to 2 more circles of batter if your skillet has room.
- Cook until the edges begin to dry, about 3 – 4 minutes. Using a thin silicone, plastic or wood spatula, flip over each pancake and cook for 1 additional minute, or until golden brown.
- Move the pancakes to a serving plate and repeat this process until all the batter has been used. You should have about 20 pancakes when done.
- Preheat the oven to 350 °F (175 °C) and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop up some batter and pour it onto your baking sheet, repeat, leaving about an inch or so of space between each pancake.
- When both baking sheets are full, pop them in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, until the pancakes are cooked all the way through. Allow them to cool for several minutes, before you lift them off the parchment paper with a spatula.
- Serve your pancakes with fresh fruit, chopped nuts and a drizzle of maple syrup.
Wishing you a happy week. May it be filled with hope catching your eye.