A thermos flask can be useful to keep drinks, soups or food in, because they can keep things hot (or cold) for several hours, which can save you or your carer time and energy. Plates with a lip are available which make it easier to eat certain foods with one hand (e.g. lying down). There are also non-slip mats to stop the plate sliding around. If eating a complete meal is difficult, try to eat little and often. This could be better for anybody, particularly if low blood sugar is a problem; although it’s not so good for teeth. Make sure you always have some food with you especially if you often feel faint. Keep an overnight snack by the bed. It might be worth taking water to drink when you go out. Soft food can be very helpful when recovering from a collapse, saving energy for something big or if you are too ill to chew. Wide straws are useful for soups. Plastic cutlery, plates and cups are lightweight and also quieter than metal and china. A variety of adapted cutlery can be obtained some of which is bent at a particular angle. Others have built up handles for people with weak grip, although they may be heavier than standard cutlery. If you need an assistant to feed you, the long handles of knickerbocker glory spoons may save them having to lean over you. If you have a willing assistant and not too many allergies, food can play an important part in quality of life, especially if you spend a lot of your energy eating. Try out new foods and recipes, use an attractive bowl or cup, have sandwiches cut into interesting shapes. If you want to eat cornflakes but find them too crunchy, leave them in a bowl of milk until they get soggy. Heated meusli also loses some of its chewiness. People with very severe difficulty eating may benefit from liquid oral feeds or naso-gastric tube feeding.
People on restricted diets may have a higher chance of developing an intolerance or allergy to that food, so try to eat as varied a diet as possible. Wheat and dairy products are the two most common intolerances, and many people with M.E. find it better to avoid caffeine, sugar and alcohol. If you suspect you may have food allergies or intolerances it might be worth seeking advice. A GP can refer you to a dietician.
- ‘Soft Options – for adults who have difficulty chewing’ by Rita Greer ISBN 0-285-63447-X. This book has recipes and advice on how to adapt foods to make eating easier. Here are some tips from the book: A bowl and spoon are easier to manage than a plate with a knife and fork, but there is still quite a long way from the table to the mouth. If the bowl is held near the mouth then the problem is not so great. A spoon of a size between a teaspoon and a dessert spoon with a matching fork will probably be of most use. Some people who have difficulty chewing, require extra liquid with their food. This can be in the form of a sauce, gravy or a drink with the food. ‘Soft Options’ eaters should be encouraged to savour the non-chew food by holding it in the mouth and moving it around with the tongue if possible. It is important to lubricate the food with saliva that contains enzymes to start off the digestive process. There is a knack in feeding someone else with food. It needs to be doe at the right pace, with the correct-sized spoonful. The food needs to be put into the person’s mouth, not just to the lips, with a large napkin to catch the inevitable spillage. Sitting facing someone to feed him or her is more difficult than at their side. The temperature of the food should be appropriate for the person being fed. If feeding takes a long time due to difficulties, divide hot food into two amounts and keep one half warm while you feed the first half. Food that is puréed or finely chopped will go down to half its original size. Bear this in mind when dishing up, as it is very easy to overestimate the portion and give people far too much. It is always worth taking trouble to present food attractively, especially if it is of a new kind.
- A subscription magazine for people with food allergies/ intolerance is available from: BERRYDALES PUBLISHERS, 5 LAWN ROAD, LONDON, NW3 2XS Tel: 020 7722 2866 Website: www.inside-story.com
- THE SOIL ASSOCIATION, BRISTOL HOUSE, 40-56 VICTORIA STREET, BRISTOL, BS1 6BY Tel: 0117 9290661 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.soilassociation.org Can supply information about organic produce. Their guide (£5 inc. p&p) has a comprehensive list of outlets and organic box schemes.
- The book "E for additives" by Maurice Hanssen, £6.99 has information about different additives.
YAO Diet in M.E.