Can you eat with a feeding tube?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you eat with a feeding tube?” and discuss the types of feeding tubes?

Can you eat with a feeding tube?

Yes, you can eat with a feeding tube. People who have a feeding tube may still eat and drink, from entire meals to only a few dots on your tongue to experience the flavor of food and drink.

A tube is only necessary if you are unable to swallow securely, which is the most common reason for a tube (ie avoid accidentally breathing in their dinner). It’s OK if you have a feeding tube because you can’t eat or drink enough, or because you want to ensure that you have a feeding channel in case of emergencies. 

If you have difficulty swallowing, your speech therapist is likely to be the best person to provide you with advice on how safe it is to eat orally.

According to studies, enteral nutrition formulas prepared in a kitchen or in a patient care unit are at much higher risk for contamination than those prepared under aseptic conditions or that undergo sterilization prior to patient administration. As many as 30%-57% of enteral formulas prepared in the hospital and over 80% of those prepared in the home have been found to be contaminated with bacteria (1).

Different Types of Feeding Tubes and their Purpose

It is a medical gadget used to feed someone who is unable to properly consume food by mouth. Because of difficulties swallowing, altered awareness, an eating problem, or any other condition that makes eating difficult, this may be the case.

Enteral nutrition is needed if the general dietary intake alone cannot meet the energy and nutritional needs of children with growth retardation, weight faltering, or weight deficit. It can also be considered useful for the treatment of diseases such as Crohn’s disease, food allergy, and intolerance. Indications for this practice include the existence of disorders of oral feeding, disorders of digestion and/or absorption, increased nutrient and/or metabolic requirement and disorders where enteral nutrition is a key component of disease treatment (2).

Feeding tubes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and there are several reasons why they may be necessary. One’s circumstances are unique, and a permanent feeding tube placement is an entirely different option than one that allows for the use of a temporary tube.

With this knowledge, it is possible to make an educated choice regarding whether or not you need a feeding tube and how these tubes are inserted into your digestive system. More than just food, feeding tubes may help alleviate gas and bloating, as well as alleviate nausea or vomiting.

A feeding tube is often used for the following purposes:

A feeding tube may be used to supply liquid nourishment to those who are unable to eat solid food. Enteral nutrition, or tube feeding, may be administered via the tube to supply the body with carbs, protein, and lipids without the patient having to swallow or chew.

Water may be fed to the patient via a feeding tube to keep them hydrated without the need for intravenous fluids

Medications, including several pills and tablets, may be administered via a tube in the stomach. It is possible to deliver most drugs via a feeding tube if the particles are tiny enough to be mixed with water and dissolved in the liquid.

Some kinds of feeding tubes may be used to decompress the stomach, removing air from the intestines. Temporary feeding tubes may be attached to suction in order to gently remove gas from the stomach to decrease bloating and distention (3).

In the event that you aren’t digesting your food or fluids, you may be experiencing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or stomach bloating as a result of food remaining in your stomach. Small bits of food and liquids may be removed from your stomach using gentle suction. Diarrhea may also occur due to dietary intake that is incompatible with gastrointestinal function, intolerance of bolus fees, excessive infusion rate, high feed osmolarity, and microbial contamination (2).


For a number of reasons, feeding tubes are available in a variety of forms. Distinguishing between the various types of feeding tubes is dependent on the nature of the difficulty swallowing (dysphagia). A few are supposed to be short-term, while others are meant to be long-term (1).

14 days is the maximum time a G-tube (PEG) or J-tube (PEG-(J)) may be safely placed in an individual’s nose or mouth, down their throats, and into the stomach or intestine (G-tube or J-tube). Long-term ingestion through the throat may cause erosion of the soft tissues of the throat and esophagus. This might cause lasting harm to the throat and voice box. Although perforation of the nasopharynx, esophagus, stomach, and transbronchial insertion into the pleural space have been described during fine bore tube insertion, it must be emphasized that these complications are rare (4).

Feeding Tubes for a Short Term

As the name suggests, this tube is placed into the nose, passing via the windpipe and esophagus, and finally into the stomach. After four to six weeks, it must be withdrawn or replaced by a long-term feeding tube. 

If a short period of enteral nutrition of <4 weeks is required, nutrition should be directly supplied to the stomach, duodenum, or jejunum via a tube. Gastric tube feeding, or inserting a feeding tube directly through the mouth or nose, is a relatively less invasive procedure and less difficult to locate (2).

For those who are unable to swallow, an orogastric tube (OG tube) may be used to provide medication. It is put into the mouth and travels down the esophagus before resting in the stomach. Alternatively, this tube may be left in place for up to two weeks before being replaced with a permanent tube.

Even if enteral nutrition is required for >4 weeks, it is positioned according to the risk of aspiration. Nutrition is supplied endoscopically or through a surgical access established using gastrostomy or jejunostomy. Chronic diseases associated with nutritional imbalance or neurological abnormalities such as cerebral palsy, neuromuscular disorder, and coma are indications for percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) or jejunostomy (PEJ). PEG(J) is also considered for feeding and decompression if malignant tumors of the head, neck, or esophagus or chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction is present. PEG(J) feeding has fewer complications and discomforts, such as irritation, ulceration, bleeding, displacement, and clogging, than nasogastric tube feeding (2).

A temporary tube for feeding

Feeding tubes may enter the mouth or nose and go into the throat, esophagus, stomach, or middle of the small intestine to provide nutrients to a patient are percutaneous endoscopic jejunostomy (PEJ) (J-tube).

Tubes with radio-opaque tips have a little quantity of material attached to the end of the tube that may be seen on X-rays. It is possible to validate that the tube is in the appropriate location before usage by taking an X-ray once the placement has been finished.

Feeding Tubes that last a long time

An incision on the left upper side of the abdomen is used to insert a gastric tube, also known as a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy tube, or G tube (PEG). Using this tube, patients may get food, water, and medications without having to swallow them.

To learn more about eating with a feeding tube click here


In this article, we answered the question “Can you eat with a feeding tube?” and we discussed the types of feeding tubes?


  1. Bankhead, Robin, et al. ASPEN enteral nutrition practice recommendations. J Parenter Enter Nutr, 2009, 33, 122-167.
  2. Yi, Dae Yong. Enteral nutrition in pediatric patients. Pediat gastroenterol hepatol nutr, 2018, 21, 12-19.   
  3. Faryniuk, Andrea, Allan MacDonald, and Paul van Boxel. Amnesia in modern surgery: revisiting Wangensteen’s landmark studies of small bowel obstruction. Canad J Surg, 2015, 58, 83.
  4. Bastow, M. D. Complications of enteral nutrition. Gut, 1986, 27, 51-55.