What Is Enteral Nutrition?

Enteral nutrition is an imperative part of modern day medicine. When people who are suffering or have suffered in the past from an illness that does not allow them to consume food and receive nutrition in a normal way, enteral nutrition gives them the ability to relieve the necessary nutrients to live. In a normal person, digestion occurs when food that has already been consumed is broken down in the stomach and the bowel. It is then absorbed in the bowel. Once absorbed these products are carried through the blood to all the parts of a person's body. 

Enteral nutrition, also known as tube feeding, distributes nutrition through a specially made liquid food mixture that is given to a person via a tube that goes into the person's small bowl or stomach. Normal standard mixtures contain the daily nutrients for a person to survive, carbohydrates (sugar), vitamins, fats, and minerals. Predigested feeds may also be given in certain situations, most commonly for patients suffering from inflammatory bowel disease or pancreatic insufficiency. These feeds are designed to improve nutrient absorption through the use of nitrogen. Enteral nutrition may be administered in a hospital situation or through a home care group, depending on the circumstances.

Who Can Benefit from Enteral Nutrition?
Enteral nutrition is given to people of all ages, from infants to the elderly. People receiving tube feeding can continue to live off of the nutrients they receive for as long as the tube feeding is necessary. The person receiving this feeding must have a digestive system that is functioning at least partially. Although enteral nutrition may be a lifelong need for some people, typically, the need for enteral nutrition is short lived and the tube is removed as soon as the person is able to digest foods normally again. 
Some instances in which this type of feeding may be necessary are: people unable to eat properly due to an illness, persons with difficulty swallowing or a decreased appetite, or patients recovering from a surgery that interferes with their ability to eat. Additionally, a low flow enteral feeding, is sometimes used in conjunction with parenteral nutrition, which is the process of feeding a person intravenously in order to avoid the typical process of consumption and digestion, in order to maintain the full function of a patient's gut and reduce their likelihood of contracting cholestasis. Cholestasis is a condition in which bile is unable to move from the gallbladder to the duodenum. 
How does Enteral Nutrition Work?
There are different types of tubes from which tube feeding can be given. One type of tube is placed through the person's nose and into their stomach or bowel. This tube is called a nasoenternal, or nasogastic, feeding tube. The other most common type of feeding tube is called a jejunostomy tube, or a gastronomy tube. This tube goes directly into the skin and into the person's stomach or bowel. It is the job of a certified health care team to decide which tube is most beneficial to a person during their illness or following a surgery.