Eating well to get better
While you were in intensive care you will have received your food as a liquid. You may have been fed through a tube inserted into your nose and down into your stomach, or by a drip straight into your vein. Your body will have used its stored fat and muscle for energy to help fight your illness.
You may have difficulty eating because:
- you don't feel hungry;
- your mouth is too sore to eat;
- food tastes different; or
- it hurts to swallow.
Try starting off with small portions and eating more often throughout the day. Instead of having full meals, have small meals and two or three snacks each day. You can buy specially prepared milk drinks and desserts, like the ones you were given in hospital, which contain lots of vitamins and minerals.
Take your time when eating and relax afterwards to avoid indigestion.
If some foods taste very salty or sweet it is likely that your taste buds are taking time to get back to normal. This is common and will soon improve – don't add extra salt or sugar to your food.
If you enjoy drinking alcohol, check with your doctor that it is safe to drink it with the medication you are taking and that it will not have a bad effect on your condition. Even if it is safe, don't drink too much.
Sometimes, taking strong antibiotics and steroids can lead to infections, such as oral candida (thrush in your mouth), which can give you a thick white substance on the roof of your mouth and tongue, making it painful to swallow. If you think you might have thrush, your GP will be able to treat it easily.
During your recovery you must make sure you drink enough. Take care not to become dehydrated. Dehydration can:
- dry out your skin;
- make you produce less urine, which can have a bad effect on your kidneys; and
- make you feel very weak and tired.
Drink regularly throughout the day so you don't become dehydrated. You can have hot drinks as well as water and squash.
If you need more support or have symptoms that you're worried about, you should see your GP.
You should also talk to your GP if:
- you have trouble getting back to your normal weight;
- your bowel movements don't return to normal;
- there is blood in your urine; or
- you get severe indigestion.
Your GP may be able to offer you advice or refer you to a dietician.