Feeding Tube: A Guide To Living With Feeding Tubes

It’s well-known that we need food to survive. For those who have illnesses that prevent them from eating normally, maybe it’s due to a decrease in appetite, an issue with the small intestine, or a food swallowing issue, there are other ways to get the nutrition that a person needs to feel energetic and healthy each day. 

Enteral Nutrition, otherwise known as a feeding tube, is a way for people to get the nutrients they need without putting themselves through physical and mental stress. If you are nervous about how others will react to your feeding tube, don’t be. This is something that is going to be great for you! It will open up your world to new possibilities by providing a way for you to stay healthy and active without pain.

feeding tube

Why A Feeding Tube

Neurologic and neuromuscular disorders, inability to swallow, anatomical and post-surgical malformations of the mouth and esophagus, cancer, Sanfilippo syndrome, and digestive disorders can all call for a feeding tube. 

Trouble swallowing can mean choking on food and fluids, when food "goes down the wrong tubes" and things are inhaled into the lungs instead of being swallowed. Therefore, a feeding tube provides the patient with a tube that runs through your nose or down the throat and into your stomach and intestines directly to give carbohydrates, protein, and fats to the body without requiring any chewing or swallowing before the food enters the digestive tract.

The Insertion Process

The type of feeding tube depends on your illness and your needs. You will receive one of two feeding tubes, either one through the nose into the stomach or one directly into the stomach through the skin. 

Your doctor performs a gastrostomy using an endoscope, which is a flexible tube with a camera attached. During the procedure, the doctor will insert a feeding tube into your abdomen. Once it’s placed into your abdomen and connected to your stomach, the tube is secured with a sterilized dressing, and an X-ray will be performed to confirm proper placement. 

The procedure often takes less than 1 hour to complete, and you can usually be back at home the same day. You may be given anesthesia for sedation to make you more comfortable, and you may also receive painkillers through an iv line. 

Once the surgery is complete, it is in your best interest to consult with a dietician to figure out the best way for you to feed yourself. It might take some time to get comfortable using your feeding tube, but it’s worth it in the long run. 

Getting Food and Medication

You will be able to see the feeding tube after your procedure, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of! The goal of the feeding tube is to make supplying yourself with nutrients easier. Each feeding tube has a cap at the end of it to avoid anything from leaking out and onto your clothes. This cap also comes off when receiving food or medication. 

Feeding yourself through a feeding tube means receiving the proper nutrients to feel sustained throughout the day. 

Formula for consumption should be at room temperature when it’s entering the tube, and then refrigerated after for up to 24 hours before being discarded. It may take time to get a hang of things, but it will become easier! Soon you might feel comfortable enough to go out to eat with your friends and feed yourself, no worries attached.

Bolus feedings use a pump or syringe to push the formula several times a day, similar to while a feeding pump or the gravity method can also be applied to administer a "meal". 

When medicating yourself, there are several things you need to make sure you are doing. Before and after you take medicine, you should be flushing the tube with warm water to make sure that the medication is not getting stuck inside of the tube. 

Often, a doctor will prescribe liquid medication instead of pills, because pills should never be put down the tube whole. If you crush the pills up, again, make sure you are flushing the tube with water. 

Problems With Your Feeding Tube

Blockage is one of the main issues that might come into effect with your feeding tube. When feeding yourself, it is essential that the consistency of the food that is being inserted into your tube is not going to be thick enough to the point that it clogs the tube

You should not be mixing your food formula and medication together as it may cause blockage. If you think that your tube is blocked, try to flush it out by using water. If this does not work, please contact your doctor. 

Other risks and potential complications of feeding tube placement that can occur are leakages and the tube falling out. If either of these two things happen, please contact your doctor immediately. If your tube is leaking, it may not be fitted properly, or it might be blocked. If your tube has fallen out, do not try to reinsert it. Instead, contact your doctor to have it reinserted. 

Be sure to speak with your doctor about changing your feedings or medication if you are experiencing diarrhea, cramps, vomiting, swelling in the abdomen, a fever or are unable to have a bowel movement.

Types Of Feeding Tubes

  • Jejunostomy tube (J-tube) - Through small incision allows for direct access to the jejunum
  • Gastrostomy tubes (G-tube)
  • NJ-Tube (Nasojejunal tubes)
  • NG-Tube (Nasogastric tube)

In Summary

Having to live with a feeding tube does not mean that your life is over. Just because there are more steps you have to take to provide nutrients to your body does not mean that your life is going to get harder. In fact, living with a feeding tube opens you up to new experiences. 

The issues that are being taken care of when you receive a feeding tube are ones that can be debilitating, so if comfort and health is what you wish to accomplish, think of receiving a feeding tube as the first step. 


Tube Feeding: Living With a Feeding Tube | Michigan Medicine

PEG Tube, Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy | Cleveland Clinic

What Is Enteral Nutrition | ASPEN