Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
My father had a total gastrectomy 2 weeks ago. He has been tube fed up until a few days ago at which time they started giving him a pureed diet. What will his diet have to consist of long-term? Will he be able to eat meat without pureeing, etc? Since there is no stomach, how do things get digested? Do you have a suggestion on this subject?
Katrina Claghorn, MS, RD, registered dietitian at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, responds:
Your father should be following a postgastrectomy diet. He should be eating small, frequent meals. Since he will only be able to tolerate small portions initially, it is important for him to eat snacks or drink a supplement such as Boost® or Carnation® instant breakfast between meals. Most people can tolerate regular foods well, however diarrhea may occur after drinking milk or eating a food that contains a lot of simple sugar. If this happens, switch to lactaid milk and avoid sweets (or use sugar free equivalents). Taking a multivitamin would help prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and your father may eventually need vitamin B12 injections (his doctor will be watching an indicator of his vitamin B12 levels).
Amazingly, food can be digested without a stomach. Other areas of the gastrointestinal tract take over much of the digesting process. It is generally recommended that the foods, which are harder to digest such as raw vegetables, ones that contain a lot of fiber, or are very spicy, be avoided. However, it is amazing what some people are able to eat eventually. If your father is unable to maintain his weight and is having difficulty with gastrointestinal symptoms have your doctor refer him to a registered dietitian who can develop an individualized meal plan and counsel him on ways to control symptoms.