Mya Care Blogger 06 Mar 2024

Proper nourishment is fundamental for good health and well-being. However, eating and digesting food through traditional means may be challenging for some individuals. In these cases, enteral and parenteral feeding can provide the necessary nutrients to sustain life.

This article will explore the world of enteral and parenteral feeding, including the benefits, challenges, and resources available for those who rely on these methods for nourishment.

What is Enteral Feeding?

Enteral feeding, or tube feeding, delivers nutrients directly into the digestive tract through a tube. The process involves administering an enteral feeding formula via a feeding tube. Tube feeding occurs through the nose, mouth, stomach, or small intestine. Formulations contain all the essential nutrients a patient needs to sustain themselves.[1]

Enteral feeding is typically for individuals who are unable to eat or swallow due to medical conditions such as coma, dysphagia, neurological disorders, or gastrointestinal issues.

Depending on the individual's needs and medical condition[2], several types of feeding tubes are available for enteral feeding. These include:

  • Nasogastric (NG) Tube: A thin, flexible tube is inserted through the nose into the stomach for short-term enteral feeding.
  • Gastrostomy Tube (G-tube): A tube is inserted straight into the stomach through a small incision in the abdomen for long-term enteral feeding.
  • Jejunostomy Tube (J-tube): A tube is inserted into the small intestine through a small incision in the abdomen for individuals unable to tolerate feeding into the stomach.

Care for feeding tubes is vital to avoid complications and maintain their efficacy. Essential tips include keeping the tube clean, flushing regularly, and inspecting for leaks or blockages. Monitor for signs of infection like redness, swelling, or tube discharge.

The Benefits of Enteral Feeding

Enteral feeding offers several benefits for individuals who cannot eat or swallow, such as:

  • Improved nutrition
  • Reduced risk of aspiration (food mistakenly entering the airway)
  • Maintaining gut function
  • Improved quality of life for patients unable to eat

Drawbacks of Enteral Feeding

While enteral feeding offers many benefits, it also comes with limitations. Some common drawbacks include:

  • Difficulty adjusting to the tube
  • Tube dislodgement
  • Skin irritation
  • Limited mobility

What is Parenteral Feeding?

Parenteral feeding, or intravenous (IV) feeding, delivers nutrients directly into the bloodstream through a catheter. This method circumvents the digestive system and can help when the digestive tract cannot absorb nutrients properly.

Individuals with severe malnutrition, intestinal failure, or other medical conditions that preclude them from receiving satisfactory nutrition benefit from parenteral feeding.[3] Some examples of such conditions include abdominal surgery and extreme lack of oxygen to the intestines due to obstruction or blood loss.

Parenteral Formulas

Choosing the right parenteral nutrition formula is essential. The correct formula will meet the person's nutritional needs, medical condition, and age. They often consist of glucose, nitrogen, glutamine, various lipids, as well as vitamins and minerals.[4]

In some cases, additional supplements may be necessary, for example, in patients who are starved and have low thiamine levels. Electrolytes added to PN or IV fluids can help to replace losses from wounds, drains, vomiting, and diarrhea. Insulin is required in patients with inflammation or metabolic issues and should be administered separately from PN.

The specific requirements for these nutrients can vary depending on the patient's condition. A healthcare professional can give guidance. The formula may need monitoring and regular adjustments to provide the best nutrition and overall health.

Risks and Complications

Potential risks and complications of parenteral feeding include[5]:

  • Severe dehydration
  • Blood clots
  • High or low levels of sugar in the blood
  • Lack of essential vitamins and minerals
  • Bloodstream infections
  • Allergic reactions
  • Lower kidney function and impairment
  • Emotional and psychological distress

Long-term complications include bone and liver diseases.

Close surveillance and proper care are essential to avoid and manage these risks. Healthcare providers must regularly assess and collaborate with a multidisciplinary team for the safety and well-being of patients on parenteral feeding.

Managing Parenteral Feeding at Home

Parenteral feeding begins in a hospital or clinic. Proper training and support make transitioning to home parenteral feeding possible[6].

For individuals who rely on enteral or parenteral feeding, working with a healthcare provider is required to guarantee they receive the nutrients needed for optimal health. Checking in with your provider includes regular monitoring and adjustments to formulas or feeding schedules as indicated.

Before transitioning, it is crucial to get advice on the following points from your healthcare provider:

  • Properly storing and handling supplies
  • Maintaining a sterile environment
  • Monitoring for complications

Beyond the Tube: Transitioning to Ordinary Eating

Tube feeding is necessary to ensure survival, yet it cannot substitute ordinary eating for life without consequences. It is best for the patient if they can wean off to resume normal eating.

Switching from tube feeding back to everyday consumption is a patient process.[7] Here are some tips that can help:

  • Talk to your doctor and involve family members and caregivers in the discussion.
  • Make sure it is safe to resume oral intake by consulting specialists like a speech-language pathologist and a registered dietitian nutritionist.
  • Transition from tube feeding gradually, with the help of your dietitian, by increasing the amount of food and liquids consumed by mouth.
  • Keep a log of the formula taken through the tube and everything you eat and drink. Also, track your weight.
  • Notify your healthcare professional of any issues experienced during the transition, such as swallowing difficulties, gastrointestinal problems, or weight changes.
  • Be patient, as it may take multiple attempts to transition to oral intake successfully.

Resources and Support

Living with a feeding tube presents challenges, but individuals can still live fulfilling lives with proper care and support. If you need help with enteral or parenteral feeding, there are plenty of resources and support groups for you.

Your number one resource is your healthcare provider. They can offer targeted guidance and support for managing enteral and parenteral feeding at home.

You can also search for online communities, patient groups, and organizations providing extra support and educational materials about enteral and parenteral feeding.


Enteral and parenteral feeding are essential for providing proper nutrition to individuals who cannot eat or swallow. While these methods may present challenges, individuals can thrive and live fulfilling lives with appropriate care, support, and resources. By prioritizing proper nutrition we can empower individuals with feeding tubes to nourish from within and live their best lives.

To search for the best Dietitian/Nutritionists in Croatia, Germany, India, Malaysia, Slovakia, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, the UAE, the UK and The USA, please use the Mya Care search engine.

To search for the best doctors and healthcare providers worldwide, please use the Mya Care search engine.


  • [1]
  • [2]
  • [3]
  • [4]
  • [5]
  • [6]
  • [7]

Disclaimer: Please note that Mya Care does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information provided is not intended to replace the care or advice of a qualified health care professional. The views expressed are personal views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Mya Care. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen. Do not reproduce, copy, reformat, publish, distribute, upload, post, transmit, transfer in any manner or sell any of the materials in this blog without prior written permission from