Enteral Feeding refers to the consumption of food using the gastrointestinal tract (i.e. mouth, esophagus, stomach, and intestines). This may mean that nutrition is taken through a tube that goes directly to the stomach or the small intestine. Often also referred to as ‘tube feeding’, enteral nutrition uses a liquid mixture that functions as a food replacement. Moreover, tube feeding can be administered through different types of tubes, such as the nasogastric or nasoenteral (via the nose) or the gastrostomy or jejunostomy (via the skin into the stomach or small intestine) tubes.
Enteral feeding is often prescribed to people who have trouble absorbing necessary nutrients or ingesting food as a result of surgery or a medical condition. It is also worth noting that enteral nutrition may be used for any age group. The nutrition used will vary in the amount of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals it contains, depending on the age, weight, height, and other characteristics of the patient.
6 Main Types of Enteral Feeding
Enteral feeding is generally classified into 6 main types depending on the origin of the tube and where it ends. Each of these may have their own subtype depending on the exact end. The medical professional will choose the tube type needed and how long it will be required depending on digestive abilities. An enteral formula is also chosen based on your condition. The 6 main types of feeding include:
NGT/Nasogastric Tube: this tube starts in the nose and ends in the stomach.
OGT/Orogasgtric Tube: this one starts in the mouth and ends in the stomach.
Nasoenteric tube: similar starting point as the NGT but ends in the intestines.
Orienteric tube: similar starting point as the OGT but ends in the intestines.
Gastrostomy tube: placed through the skin of the abdomen going straight to the stomach
Jejunostomy: similar to a gastrostomy tube but goes straight to the intestines instead of the stomach
4 Tips for Enteral Feeding
As enteral feeding is a little different from traditional feeding, there are some key tips to remember to keep yourself safe and healthy while going through the process. These tips are designed to help you manage your daily feedings with proper care and caution.
The formula used to feed enterally should be kept at room temperature. This is because cold formula can be uncomfortable to feed and lead to an upset stomach. As much as possible store your unopened formula in the pantry or in a place that will keep it at room temperature.
When you are about to feed yourself or someone else, remember to practice good hygiene. Always wash your hands before feeding. This will ensure that no contaminants enter the formula. It is also important to always check the expiration date of the formula before consuming it. Make sure you also clean the top of the can with a cloth before opening it and place a towel on your lap before setting up the feed to catch any drippings or splashes.
Once opened, cans or packs should be stored properly in the fridge. They should be covered with plastic wrap or foil and stored for up to 24 hours inside your refrigerator. About 30 minutes before feeding, take out the can to bring it back to room temperature. Make sure to check its temperature before feeding.
Make sure when you are feeding that your head is elevated at least 45 degrees and to remain upright for at least an hour after each feeding. Staying upright will prevent aspiration, which is a condition where the liquid inside the esophagus is unintentionally inhaled into the lungs.
As much as enteral feeding may be complex at the start, it is an essential method to remain healthy and steadfast amid any conditions. It is often used short-term only but in other cases, it can be used to improve the life quality of people who have critical or chronic conditions. Enteral feeding can be a challenging adjustment but with your medical team and loved ones, it can make the adjustment successful and a little easier.