Scientific Saturday: tube feeding

I’m unsure if anyone celebrates Scientific Saturdays? It’s kind of like Hamish & Andy’s Pants Off Fridays, but without the funny jokes… And with pants on.

Yeah I just made up the term. But it sounded cool.

So anyway… here is a scientific read for your Saturday morning. Filled with long, hard-to-pronouce words and a quick lesson in human anatomy to help celebrate Feeding Tube Awareness Week.

The Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation is dedicated to increasing awareness of feeding tubes and enteral nutrition.

What is enteral nutrition, you ask?

Well contrary to popular belief, as dietitians we don’t just point the finger on all the not-so-healthy food choices you might make. Sometimes it’s not even about real food at all. There is a small portion of the population who require a short-tern or long-term alternative to eating real food. And well, they will need the help of a dietitian to do this.

Enteral nutrition is the process of delivering a nutritionally complete formula directly into the human gastrointestinal tract through a tube. So basically (if absolutely necessary) a person can live a nutritious life with a liquid being fed directly into their stomach.
There are quite a few forms of tube feeding, some that require surgery and others that do not.

Two very common forms of tube feeding occur by either placing a tube through the nose or straight into the stomach.

Nose feeding

Either a nasogastric tube, nasoduodenal tube, or nasojejunal tube is placed through the nose into the corresponding place in the stomach or bowel.

The higher up the tube is placed (e.g. in the stomach), the more nutrients can be absorbed. But sometimes when patients experience reflux or other issues, the tube needs to be placed further down (e.g. in the small bowel).

Nose feeding tends to be used for short-term tube feeding patients.

Tummy feeding

Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy (PEG) is when a tube is placed directly into the stomach. A Percutaneous Endoscopic Jejunostomy (PEJ) is when the tube is placed into the jejunum (small bowel).

Tummy tube feeding is a little more invasive than nose feeding and tends to be used for longer-term tube feeding.

Why would someone need tube feeding?

In some circumstances, patients may not be able to eat or drink for extended periods of time. For example in adults that have just had a stroke, it sometimes may not be safe to eat or drink so they might require tube feeding to provide them with nutrition until their eating and drinking abilities return back to a safe level.

There are many health or medical conditions that might lead to someone requiring tube feeding.

So help me celebrate Feeding Tube Awareness Week.

If you know someone who is tube fed, or you are interested in finding out more, head over to the Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation website.

Now that our science lesson is over, enjoy your Saturday!

– Jenna






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