Table of contents
The process of enteral nutrition is more common than you think. Individuals of all ages can benefit from this method to get important vitamins and nutrients each day. Also known as tube feeding, this type of procedure is essential for those who are unable to eat naturally.
Factors like surgeries, illness, lack of appetite, poor digestion, or swallowing issues can pose problems with traditional eating. By enlisting this method, individuals can continue to get the nutrition they need until they can resume regular eating habits.
What is Enteral Nutrition Exactly?
Enteral nutrition refers to any method of nutritional support for individuals that are using the gastrointestinal tract to deliver essential vitamins and nutrients. There is no one way to distribute these nutrients as some people will get all of their daily calories this way, while others will only need a portion through enteral feeding.
It can be a short-term feeding method for individuals recovering from a medical condition, and they can resume eating normally later when it is deemed possible. Some people will require more long-term enteral nutrition, including disabled individuals with movement issues or physical limitations.
There are instances where people will need this feeding method to extend or enhance their life. Someone who is critically ill or who cannot maintain regular daily nutrition on their own can benefit from enteral feedings.
Why Would You Need Enteral Nutrition?
A health care professional will evaluate in detail what the health situation for an individual is before deciding on enteral nutrition. There are several reasons why someone would require this type of feeding method, including:
- Inability to swallow due to a stroke
- Serious illness, including cancer or a critical injury that can impede the eating process
- Neurological disorders that can hinder taking in enough calories each day to thrive
- Some gastrointestinal disease or problems
- Inability to eat, typically in infants or very young children
If the body does not take in enough nutrients that it needs each day, an individual is at risk for malnutrition, weight loss, dehydration, and other serious health problems. Enteral nutrition can help avoid these consequences despite contributing factors that can keep an individual from eating.
Types of Enteral Feeding Methods
There is more than one method to receive nutrients enterally. Depending on the situation, an individual can use one of six different ways. These include:
- Gastrostomy tube: placed directly through the skin of the abdomen to reach into the stomach
- Jejunostomy tube: placed directly through the skin of the abdomen to reach the intestines
- Orogastric tube: placed in the mouth and ends in the stomach
- Nasogastric tube: placed in the nose and ends in the stomach
- Oroenteric tube: placed in the mouth and ends in the intestines
- Nasoenteric tube: placed in the nose and ends in the intestines
A medical professional will determine what will be best for the individual based on their digestive capabilities, and the length of term enteral feeding will be necessary.
The Benefits of Enteral Feeding
There are some obvious benefits to this feeding method, including receiving the required daily amount of nutrients each day. Other advantages of enteral nutrition are:
- Avoiding dehydration or malnutrition
- Decreasing the risk of food aspiration
- Maintaining consistent body weight, energy levels, and improve immunity
- Cut down on the times of meals
- Eliminate the risks of chewing, swallowing, or choking problems from traditional eating methods
- To administer medications
If you are not sure if this method is right for you, talk to your certified medical professional. They are there to help you make the best choice for your overall health.
Disadvantages of Enteral Nutrition
With any medical intervention, there are associated risks and disadvantages. Individuals can have varying complications, depending on the type of feeding method used. Some of these side effects are minor and can be resolved as feeding progresses.
- Irritation at the insertion area
- Infection at the insertion area or the tube
- Dislodgement of the tube
- Blockage of the tube from inadequate flushing
- Nausea or vomiting from receiving nutrients too fast, in large amounts, or if the stomach is not emptying quickly enough
- Diarrhea from an all-liquid diet or corresponding medications
- Food aspiration in the lungs
- Refeeding syndrome, characterized by an electrolyte imbalance after starting enteral feeding
While enteral nutrition is a helpful method for many individuals, it is not for everyone. Some individuals who have bowel or intestinal problems will not benefit from this feeding procedure. Bowel obstructions, low blood flow to the intestines, or intestinal diseases like Crohn’s are not ideal for enteral feeding.
Enteral nutrition can be a helpful way to receive essential vitamins and nutrients for an individual who cannot otherwise eat on their own and follow a recommended healthy diet regime. Illness, injury, or medical conditions can impede the eating process, requiring the intervention of a feeding tube.
This feeding method can be a short- or long-term process, depending on the cause for the administration. Many individuals who use enteral feeding methods recover successfully and can resume traditional eating methods under their doctor’s guidance.
It is any form of feeding through a tube that goes to the gastrointestinal tract.
Anyone who cannot eat traditionally, or is suffering from a serious illness, injury, or disease and cannot take in enough nutrients on their own.
Food aspiration is one of the major problems that can occur from enteral feeding.