Enteral Nutrition

When you are unable to take food by mouth, we help you get the nutrition you need.

Sometimes an illness, surgery or other problems can make it difficult or impossible for you, or a loved one, to take food by mouth. When this happens, enteral nutrition–or tube feeding–helps you get the nutrition you need.

With enteral nutrition, a liquid food mixture is delivered directly to your stomach or small intestine through a tube, or through oral supplements if you're able to swallow and take nutrition by mouth.

Our team provides you with the right knowledge and resources to independently administer enteral nutrition at home.

Watch: Enteral Nutrition What to Expect

There are many reasons a person may need enteral nutrition. These can range from an illness or condition to an injury or surgery. Enteral nutrition may be required if you or a loved one:

  • have a condition that affects your digestive system, such as pancreatitis, gastroparesis or Crohn's disease.
  • have head or neck cancer that makes it difficult to eat by mouth.
  • have part of your digestive system working, but you cannot eat enough to meet your body's needs.
  • are recovering from an injury or surgery that prevents you from taking food by mouth.
  • have been diagnosed with a condition such as short bowel syndrome or tracheoesophageal fistula.

Difficulty swallowing, lack of appetite, feeding problems in children and other factors may contribute to someone's need for tube feeding. If your digestive system is especially compromised, parenteral nutrition through an IV may be a better option.

Enteral nutrition offers many advantages for people who need it, including:

  • It gives your body the nutrition you need as you recover from an illness or surgery.
  • It lets you and your provider monitor your food intake and reduces the chance of possible risks.
  • It keeps your body strong and healthy when you cannot take food by mouth, so you can stay active.

The amount of time patients need enteral nutrition varies. You may receive enteral nutrition only for a short time until you can eat again. If you receive enteral nutrition for only a few days or weeks, you might use a nasal (NG/NJ) tube, which goes through your nose and into your stomach or intestine.

However, a feeding tube can also be your nutrition source for a longer period or even indefinitely, depending on your condition. For long-term feeding, a surgeon will create an entry in your abdomen to directly insert a tube.

By learning to administer enteral nutrition at home for yourself–or as a caregiver for someone else–you can continue to live your normal life and, in most cases, enjoy the activities you love.

Learn more about pediatric gastrointestinal tubes.

Tube Feeding Methods

There are different methods of administering enteral nutrition. These include gravity, syringe and pump feeding. No matter what method you use, you will need certain equipment.

A feeding tube creates a route to deliver nutrition to your stomach or intestine when you are unable to eat by mouth.

A feeding pump delivers nutrition through a feeding tube and into your body on a prescribed schedule. There are different types of pumps available. The feeding pump that is best for you will depend on a number of factors, including your feeding schedule and lifestyle. Not everyone will require a feeding pump for tube feedings. Your doctor or dietitian will decide what is best for your care.

Nutritional formulas ensure you receive the right balance of nutrients your body needs. Formulas can come in liquid or powdered form. Your provider will help you decide the formula that is right for you or your loved one based on your condition and your body's needs. When starting out with formula, it usually is best to begin with small amounts and work your way up to a full schedule.

Using Your Feeding Tube

Operating and Monitoring

Find guides and resources below based on how you are feeding:

What to Expect from Enteral Nutrition

There are many reasons a person may need enteral nutrition. These can range from an illness or condition to an injury or surgery. Enteral nutrition may be required if you or a loved one:

  • have a condition that affects your digestive system, such as pancreatitis, gastroparesis or Crohn's disease.
  • have head or neck cancer that makes it difficult to eat by mouth.
  • have part of your digestive system working, but you cannot eat enough to meet your body's needs.
  • are recovering from an injury or surgery that prevents you from taking food by mouth.
  • have been diagnosed with a condition such as short bowel syndrome or tracheoesophageal fistula.

Difficulty swallowing, lack of appetite, feeding problems in children and other factors may contribute to someone's need for tube feeding. If your digestive system is especially compromised, parenteral nutrition through an IV may be a better option.

Enteral nutrition offers many advantages for people who need it, including:

  • It gives your body the nutrition you need as you recover from an illness or surgery.
  • It lets you and your provider monitor your food intake and reduces the chance of possible risks.
  • It keeps your body strong and healthy when you cannot take food by mouth, so you can stay active.

The amount of time patients need enteral nutrition varies. You may receive enteral nutrition only for a short time until you can eat again. If you receive enteral nutrition for only a few days or weeks, you might use a nasal (NG/NJ) tube, which goes through your nose and into your stomach or intestine.

However, a feeding tube can also be your nutrition source for a longer period or even indefinitely, depending on your condition. For long-term feeding, a surgeon will create an entry in your abdomen to directly insert a tube.

By learning to administer enteral nutrition at home for yourself–or as a caregiver for someone else–you can continue to live your normal life and, in most cases, enjoy the activities you love.

Learn more about pediatric gastrointestinal tubes.

Tube Feeding Methods

There are different methods of administering enteral nutrition. These include gravity, syringe and pump feeding. No matter what method you use, you will need certain equipment.

A feeding tube creates a route to deliver nutrition to your stomach or intestine when you are unable to eat by mouth.

A feeding pump delivers nutrition through a feeding tube and into your body on a prescribed schedule. There are different types of pumps available. The feeding pump that is best for you will depend on a number of factors, including your feeding schedule and lifestyle. Not everyone will require a feeding pump for tube feedings. Your doctor or dietitian will decide what is best for your care.

Nutritional formulas ensure you receive the right balance of nutrients your body needs. Formulas can come in liquid or powdered form. Your provider will help you decide the formula that is right for you or your loved one based on your condition and your body's needs. When starting out with formula, it usually is best to begin with small amounts and work your way up to a full schedule.

Using Your Feeding Tube

Operating and Monitoring

Find guides and resources below based on how you are feeding:

Whether it is for yourself or a loved one, using a feeding tube at home may seem overwhelming at first. Your doctor and the home care team will make sure that you have the knowledge, resources, support and equipment you need to feel confident and comfortable.

Monitoring

Your enteral nutrition plan delivers enough nutrients to help you thrive. Your care team will monitor your progress to ensure your tube feeding provides the correct levels of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fat, protein and fluids and whether you are able to follow the plan. Working closely with you and your provider, your care team will recommend changes to your formula or schedule as needed.

Education

You will learn how to use your feeding tube and other equipment and supplies, as well as how to clean the items and resolve simple problems that arise. You will learn how to avoid infections at your feeding tube site and recognize them if they occur. For any questions or issues that arise, you can always contact your provider or dietitian via phone.

Free Virtual Consultations

IU Health Virtual Visits give you access to our highly skilled registered dietitians from the comfort of your home. With Virtual Visits, you can schedule free convenient, personalized consultations from your smartphone, tablet or computer. Download our PDF guide for information on how it works.

Refills: Formula and Supplies

Your nutrition team will make sure you always have the liquid food and other supplies you need. Supplies are delivered to your home once a month. A customer service representative will contact you about 5 days before your refill is due. A team member is available by phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help you with any urgent tube feeding problems.

Order your monthly refills through our online form or call 317.963.2488.

Support from IU Health

Whether it is for yourself or a loved one, using a feeding tube at home may seem overwhelming at first. Your doctor and the home care team will make sure that you have the knowledge, resources, support and equipment you need to feel confident and comfortable.

Monitoring

Your enteral nutrition plan delivers enough nutrients to help you thrive. Your care team will monitor your progress to ensure your tube feeding provides the correct levels of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fat, protein and fluids and whether you are able to follow the plan. Working closely with you and your provider, your care team will recommend changes to your formula or schedule as needed.

Education

You will learn how to use your feeding tube and other equipment and supplies, as well as how to clean the items and resolve simple problems that arise. You will learn how to avoid infections at your feeding tube site and recognize them if they occur. For any questions or issues that arise, you can always contact your provider or dietitian via phone.

Free Virtual Consultations

IU Health Virtual Visits give you access to our highly skilled registered dietitians from the comfort of your home. With Virtual Visits, you can schedule free convenient, personalized consultations from your smartphone, tablet or computer. Download our PDF guide for information on how it works.

Refills: Formula and Supplies

Your nutrition team will make sure you always have the liquid food and other supplies you need. Supplies are delivered to your home once a month. A customer service representative will contact you about 5 days before your refill is due. A team member is available by phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help you with any urgent tube feeding problems.

Order your monthly refills through our online form or call 317.963.2488.

  • How long will I need enteral nutrition?
  • What feeding schedule do you recommend?
  • What side effects will I experience?

Questions to Ask Your Doctor about Enteral Nutrition

  • How long will I need enteral nutrition?
  • What feeding schedule do you recommend?
  • What side effects will I experience?

Patient Stories for Enteral Nutrition

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Forms

Email Consent Form

Please review and sign this consent to allow email communication with your healthcare provider.

The Oley Foundation

The mission of this nonprofit group is to use education, outreach and networking to enrich the lives of people who need parenteral or enteral nutrition.

Syringe Instructions

Instructions from our IU Health Home Care team help you confidently manage a syringe/bolus feeding schedule.

Gravity Bag Instructions

Instructions from our IU Health Home Care team help you confidently manage a gravity bag feeding schedule.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Product Safety Notice

Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods. View full details.

Resources

The Oley Foundation

The mission of this nonprofit group is to use education, outreach and networking to enrich the lives of people who need parenteral or enteral nutrition.

Syringe Instructions

Instructions from our IU Health Home Care team help you confidently manage a syringe/bolus feeding schedule.

Gravity Bag Instructions

Instructions from our IU Health Home Care team help you confidently manage a gravity bag feeding schedule.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Product Safety Notice

Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods. View full details.