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Sometimes, medical conditions leave people unable to eat any, or enough, food. They may have difficulty swallowing, decreased appetite, abnormality of the mouth or esophagus, or recovering from surgery. These challenges make it necessary to receive nutrition in a different way, such as enteral and enterostomy feeding. Enteral feeding is also referred to as enteral nutrition or tube feeding.

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1. What is Enteral Feeding?

With normal digestion, food enters the mouth and flows down the esophagus, where large food molecules break down in the stomach by gastric acid, which becomes a thick liquid called chyme. The chyme passes through the pyloric sphincter valve into the duodenum, where it mixes with enzymes and bile. Next, it passes into the small intestines, further breaking down the molecules and eventually being absorbed into the bloodstream. Enteral feeding is necessary for individuals who have a functioning GI tract but are unable to eat enough food orally. It involves delivering a special liquid food diet containing essential nutrients, such as carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, and vitamins, through a tube directly into the small intestine or stomach. The feeding tube is used for a few weeks, months, or indefinitely.

Enteral feeding tube

Kaipungyai / Getty Images

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This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.