Why Ensure is not the magic bullet for sick people suffering from appetite loss.

So a few years ago, here is what happened:

If ONE more health professional asks me if I’ve tried Ensure with my mother, I will (fill in the blank)…

Yes, it was really beginning to anger me when a medical professional, hearing about my elderly mother’s appetite loss for the first time, asked me if I had tried Ensure with her.

In fact, this became predictable.

The second the words came out, “Have you tried…”

I’d cut in with, “Yes, yes, and it doesn’t restore her appetite…”

“…Ensure?”

I’d think, Heaven, please help me.

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My mother struggled with appetite loss about three weeks after hip replacement surgery following a fracture.

This situation had me deeply worried, because a 116 pound, 5’4 elderly woman cannot afford to lose more weight when she has very low muscle mass.

Getting her to eat was a battle. Not only did she claim that eating made her vomit, I actually witnessed upchucking episodes.

My elderly mother had developed an aversion to food, not just some mere “I’m not very hungry” feeling.

“Get that away from me!” she’s snarl when we offered her eggs, rice, fish—foods she’d normally eat. She was growing weaker, withering away.

And yes, I tried Ensure.

What the health professionals failed to realize is that all the added vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber in a bottle of Ensure are worthless if the patient refuses to ingest anything edible!

  • If someone refuses to eat or drink calories, then they’re refusing, period.
  • Hovering a glass filled with Ensure before them won’t change this!

I couldn’t get my mother to drink a bottle of Ensure any more than I could get her to eat a bowl of mac ‘n cheese. I was lucky if she sipped three tablespoons’ worth.

She was eating barely enough for basic sustenance, but before this appetite loss became life-threatening, her appetite began returning—with the help of the drug Effexor (which she had been off of since the surgery).

Bottom line: If some kind of physical and/or psychiatric pathology has made eating highly aversive to a patient, Ensure—which is essentially liquid candy with synthetic vitamins and minerals tossed in—shouldn’t be seen as the magic cure to a lost appetite.

Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  

 

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Top image: Shutterstock/CGN089