7 Things Everyone Should Know About Enteral Nutrition

When it’s tough to eat by mouth, enteral nutrition is an option. Also known as tube-feeding, it may be recommended by a doctor if you’re getting fewer nutrients than you need because of a medical condition that makes it hard for you to swallow or digest food. Myths about tube-feeding, however, are common. Here are seven facts you need to know about enteral nutrition.

It’s Not Just a Last Resort 

Enteral nutrition may be life-long in some cases, but in others, it’s a valuable way of supplementing an oral diet until someone’s health improves enough to take in more food by mouth. The extra calories and nutrition help support the body through illness and contribute to faster healing.

It’s Pretty Easy 

Help from a dietitian to establish an optimal diet and feeding schedule is needed at first, but after that, tube-feeding takes no more effort than therapeutic diets eaten by mouth. Tube care is required daily, but takes just minutes.

It’s Not Hard to Learn 

With guidance from a healthcare professional, enteral feeding at home is easy. You’ll need to learn a few techniques and have a few supplies on hand, but with practice, most people get the hang of it quickly.

It Doesn’t Require Formula 

Formula is an easy way to deliver maximum calories and concentrated nutrients, but it’s also possible to feed breast milk and regular foods blended at home.

It Doesn’t Interfere with Activity

Today’s low-profile feeding tubes are discrete and don’t interfere with activities — even swimming is not restricted. For those needing continuous feeding via pump, backpack models make it easy to stay active.

It Doesn’t Always Mean You Can’t Eat 

Enteral feeding doesn’t always mean eating is off limits. If tube feeding is recommended to shore up nutrition because of illness or because you can’t eat certain foods safely, eating by mouth doesn’t interfere with enteral nutrition and is encouraged in many cases.

It Probably Won’t Cause Diarrhea 

Enteral feeding has a reputation for causing diarrhea. This is especially true for sick patients who are just getting started, but like a diet consumed by mouth, it usually takes just a few adjustments to get it right, and stools will return to normal.

The idea of enteral feeding is intimidating for some, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s just one more tool in a doctor’s bag of treatments that can help you get well faster or stay healthy longer. Life will change a little, and there will be adjustments to make, but with planning and support, it’s a manageable process.