According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, diarrhea is one of the most commonly reported gastrointestinal complications of tube feeding. Many potential causes exist for the development of loose stools when you are on tube feeding, as well as many potential solutions. Choosing the right solution for tube feeding and diarrhea can help resolve your symptoms rather than make them worse.
Enteral nutrition or tube feeding, is liquid food given through a tube into the stomach or small bowel, states the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN). In 1995, Medicare and its beneficiaries spent $660 million dollars on enteral nutrition products. MedlinePlus defines diarrhea as more than three large, watery stools per day. You may also have abdominal cramps, bloating and a feeling of urgency if you experience tube feeding and diarrhea.
Potential Causes of Tube Feeding and Diarrhea
Medications that may contribute to loose stools include antibiotics, liquid medications in a sorbitol base, magnesium-containing antacids, and potassium and phosphorus supplements, states the Oley Foundation. Many drugs in liquid form have a high osmolality, or number of particles that can lead to diarrhea. Gastrointestinal infections can irritate the intestine and lead to watery stools. Formula contamination caused by improper handling and storage can also induce diarrhea, cautions the Oley Foundation.
Solutions and Prevention
Ask your doctor or pharmacist if any of your medications could contribute to loose or watery stools. Sometimes changing the form that your medication comes in can help. Use good hand washing techniques, wash all equipment with warm water and check formula expiration dates. Use one feeding bag for no more that 48 hours and hang formula for no more than eight to 12 hours. If diarrhea develops after taking antibiotics, check with your doctor before taking antidiarrheal medication.
Try lowering the rate of tube feeding until diarrhea improves. Stopping completely may contribute to dehydration and electrolyte loss. Contact your doctor if you notice a large increase in diarrhea or if it lasts for more than 24 hours. You should also call your doctor if there is blood in your stool or if you experience severe abdominal pain.
Try adding a soluble fiber product to your daily tube feeding regimen or switching to a fiber-containing formula to help make your stools more formed. Consider using probiotics, recognized by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine as effective in treating diarrhea. Most people can stay on standard tube feeding formulas, which are generally isotonic, lactose-free, low in fat and well tolerated, states ASPEN.
The recommendations provided in this material are not intended to replace the medical advice of a physician. Contact your healthcare professional for personal medical advice or diagnosis-related questions and treatment. If you think you have a medical emergency, call 911.