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What is the best definition of nutrition?

    According to the World Health Organization, the term ‘nutrition’ is defined as the intake of food in relation to  the body’s dietary requirements. Good nutrition – an adequate, well-balanced diet which is combined with regular physical exercise – is the foundation of good health. Bad nutrition can lead to decreased immunity, heightened susceptibility to disease, diminished physical and mental development as well as lessened productivity.

    Put another way, nutrition (synonyms for which are nourishment and aliment) is the amount of materials – in other words, food – which is needed by organisms as well as cells in order to stay alive. In nutritional science and human medicine, if we were to speak about nutrition, it can be looked at as the science or practice of consuming as well utilising foods.

    In a hospital setting, the practice of nutrition may refer to the food needs of patients. This includes nutritional solutions which are delivered via an IV (intravenous) or NG (nasogastric) tube.

    Why would people need nutrition via an IV?

    Around 40 000 people in the United States rely exclusively on intravenous fluids (IV) in order to respond adequately to their daily caloric and nutritional needs. This process is known as Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN). There are several conditions that can made feeding through an IV necessary. These include:

    • Crohn’s Disease, 
    • Bowel obstructions, 
    • Shortened intestines, or 
    • Vascular disease which causes gangrenous intestines.

    If a patient needs TPN, their digestive tract can’t absorb nutrients properly. Depending on their diagnosis, eating small amounts of food might be possible. These patients who require IV feeding are often discouraged from drinking fluids as they’ll actually use more fluid while trying to process the liquids as opposed to what they take in. This will lead to dehydration.

    Why would people need nutrition via an NG tube?

    The term ‘nasogastric (NG) feeding’ describes a situation where a narrow feeding tube is put through a patient’s nose and is fed down into their stomach. NG tube can be utilised in order to give the patient fluids, medications as well as liquid food that is complete with nutrients. 

    The benefits of NG tube feeding

    NG feeding can give the patient the fluids and nutrition their body needs while they are unable to eat or drink adequate amounts. Reasons why an NG tube is used are, for example:

    • That the patient has swallowing problems, or 
    • That they have a poor appetite. 

    The risks of nasogastric tube feeding

    NG tube feeding is, on the whole, a very safe procedure. This being said, it may carry certain risks as the tube could find its way into an incorrect part of the body when it is being inserted, for example the lungs. Alternatively, the tube could be displaced once it is inserted.  If the tube is indeed not placed correctly, it would need to be removed and reinserted. 

    What is ‘displacement’?

    ‘Displacement’ – in terms of NG tube feeding – happens when the tube travels out of the stomach because the patient may have been vigorously coughing, vomiting or the tube may have slipped for other reasons. Displacement can happen at any time however the risks are reduced by routinely making sure that the tube is in the right place by checking the pH (acidity) levels in the patient’s stomach. In order to reduce the likelihood of the tube being misplaced when it is inserted, the tube’s placement should always be checked before feeding starts.

    Nutritional science looks at how the body breaks food down (catabolism) as well as how it repairs and creates cells in addition tissue (anabolism). Together, catabolism and anabolism can also be referred to as metabolism. The knowledge of metabolism’s rate, which changes from person to person, is very important in order to personalise a diet and improve the results of a weight-loss programme or any other nutritional goal that a personal may have.

    If you feel lost in the woods regarding your fitness and nutrition it is a good idea to consult with a trained personal trainer to be able to assist you with your on going efforts.