For those who struggle to eat, enteral feeding formulas offer a healthy, nutritious alternative. Packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, enteral feeding formulas come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you need an organic formula, something for diabetes, or basic enteral nutrition, we’ve got you covered.
What is enteral feeding?
Enteral feeding refers to methods of feeding that use the gastrointestinal route (either through the mouth or through a tube). Most often, when people talk about “enteral feeding,” they actually mean “tube feeding.” Tube feeding is a process of obtaining food and nutrition through a tube, instead of a traditional diet. Enteral feeding is always doctor-prescribed and should never be attempted without a medical professional.
There are a few different kinds of feeding tubes like:
Nasogastric tubes (NG Tubes)
- This kind of tube is inserted through the nose and ends up in the stomach. The term “nasogastric” literally means nose (“naso”) to stomach (“gastric”).
- These tubes are most often used for short-term feeding, not long-term support
- These can actually be inserted without anesthesia - swallowing reflexes pull the tube down into the stomach
J Tubes (Jejunostomy)
- A J Tube is inserted into the upper small intestine
- J Tubes are designed to bypass the stomach
G Tube (Gastronomy)
- A G Tube is a tube inserted surgically in the stomach
- These are typically used for more long-term feeding
Enteral Feeding Formulas
The term “enteral feeding formulas” refers to the nutritional liquids that are put through enteral feeding tubes. Enteral feeding formulas need to support an entire diet, so they’re packed with all the vitamins, minerals, calories, and protein that people need to survive and thrive.
There are many kinds of enteral feeding formulas, to support many different nutritional needs, but you should never decide which enteral feeding formula to use without a doctor’s suggestion or consent.
Your doctor will decide which enteral feeding formula is best for your needs.
What are the different kinds of enteral feeding formulas?
Again, it’s up to a doctor to decide which formula is best for you, especially with so many options available. Enteral feeding formulas include:
Compleat, Compleat Organic Blends
These are made from real food blends, and include protein, fats, fiber, and key vitamins and minerals. Available in Plant-Based or Garden Chicken Flavors
This enteral feeding formula is designed specifically for those with diabetes or stress-induced hyperglycemia
Isosource, Isosource HN, Isosource 1.5 Cal
This enteral feeding formula is designed for those that need extra protein
Peptamen, Peptamen 1.5
This formula is designed for people that have a damaged GI tract, and would have trouble processing the other enteral feeding formulas
This formula features a very high protein blend ideal for high protein needs or those with wounds (pressure injuries, burns, surgical wounds)
This formula is designed for diets that require very high fiber and protein, or for bowel management.
Glytrol and Glucerna
These formulas is specially designed for hyperglycemia, diabetes, or glucose intolerance
This formula is designed for severely damaged GI tracts, such as after surgery, intestinal failure, or pancreatitis
Jevity, Jevity 1.2 Cal, Jevity 1.5 Cal
This formula provides complete nutrition with extra fiber added
This formula is ideal for low-calorie, high-protein needs
This formula is ideal for people who are having low-volume feedings, but need a high-calorie and high-protein diet
This formula is specially designed for those on dialysis
Nutren, Nutren 1.0 Fiber, Nutren 1.5, Nutren 2.0
These formulas are ideal for complete nutrition, extra fiber, and high-protein needs
Who should use enteral feeding supplies?
Enteral feeding formulas are first and foremost doctor prescribed - you should never use an enteral feeding formula without the express direction of your doctor.
In general, enteral feeding formulas are used for people:
- Who cannot meet their nutritional needs with food alone
- Who are getting some calories but no protein
- With a decreased appetite
- In drug therapy, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy
- Who have an inability to swallow
- In a coma
- Who have altered taste sensations
- Who have an impaired mental status, like dementia
- With cerebral palsy, Chrohn’s disease, pancreatitis, GI cancer, cystic fibrosis, or short gut syndrome
Who shouldn't use these?
Enteral feeding formulas are not a good choice for:
- Anyone that has not had strict instruction from their doctor
- Those who are able to meet their nutritional needs through food
- Those who prefer or enjoy eating meals / solid food
How does enteral feeding work?
The key to enteral feeding is the formulas need to supply 100% of your daily nutrients. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t also eat solid meals. If your doctor has said that solid food is okay (and you don’t have a damaged stomach or GI tract), it can be helpful to consume meals as well as enteral nutrition.
It’s also true that for many tubes - the nasogastric kind - you can likely insert the tube yourself (with doctor permission and direction, of course). The muscles that help you swallow food will push the tube down after you slide it into your nose.
Types of enteral feeding:
Enteral feeding typically happens in three different ways:
Pump feeding involves adding formula to a bag (or using a bag that comes pre-prepared with formula) and feed over an extended period. This kind of feeding usually takes 16-24 hours, and is typically used on bedridden patients.
Gravity feeding is a little quicker, but still takes some time. This kind of feeding is usually done through the night, so that the person being fed can go about the rest of their day in the morning.
This is the quickest feeding option, and is done multiple times a day. Formula is poured into a bag, and held by hand (instead of left on a pole). It takes around 15-20 minutes to consume 8 ounces this way, so this kind of feeding typically happens twice at breakfast, twice at lunch, and twice at dinner. Since the feeding pattern is similar to traditional mealtimes, many parents like this method better than the other options.
How shouldn’t I use enteral feeding formulas?
When you’re using enteral feeding formulas make sure that you:
- Are following the maintenance instructions laid out by your doctor
- Don’t add nutritional drinks and shakes in the long-term, as the added sugar can lead to discomfort
- Use the formula recommended by your doctor
What features exist?
Organic options offer formulas that are made from real, blended food. These are ideal for people that want to avoid processed foods.
Ready to hang
Most enteral feeding formulas come in cartons (which can be emptied into a feeding bag), or pre-made feeding bags that are ready to use
Some enteral feeding formulas have “flavors” because some users claim they can taste the formula in other parts of their body, like the gastrointestinal tract.
Some formulas contain added fiber, to help with digestion.
Specific enteral feeding formulas - like Diabetisource - are designed to help control blood sugar for those managing diabetes.
Some formulas - such as the ones that say “1.5 Cal” or “2 Cal” are more calorically dense than other formulas. These are ideal for weight gain or treating malnutrition.
Low calorie options are ideal for those looking to manage or lose weight
Some enteral feeding formulas contain prebiotics, which held build up bacteria in the colon
Some of the formulas are “low-reside.” This is just another way of saying that these are low-fiber options. Sometimes, doctors might prescribe low fiber diets to give the gut a rest or chance to recover.
Kosher, Halal, Gluten-free, and lactose intolerance options
Most enteral feeding formulas are Kosher, Halal, Gluten-free, and suitable for lactose intolerance. Check specific product descriptions for more information.
Our customers love brands like Compleat, Jevity, Nutren, and more - refer to your doctor’s advice when deciding which is the best for your needs.
It may sound strange, but some people actually drink enteral feeding formulas! They have a very mild taste, and can provide some quick, added nutrition. Many people heat up the more savory formulas, like Compleat, and eat them as a soup.