Negotiating the world of Crohn’s disease can sometimes be confusing or overwhelming. One aspect of Crohn’s that many will encounter is enteral nutrition or exclusive enteral nutrition (EEN). Learn more about EEN, why you may need it, and tips to help you get through the experience.
What is exclusive enteral nutrition (EEN)?
While the name may sound intimidating, the product is not. EEN is just a fancy name for oral formula that can be given in place of solid food to give the Crohn’s gut time to rest. Depending on the person, the formula can be consumed orally or given through a feeding tube, like the nasogasteric tube (NG tube).
When is EEN given?
EEN is often given at the onset of Crohn’s in children and is used for both adults and children who are dealing with an active flare. The formula is tailored to each individual’s nutrition needs and can help patients who have dropped weight to put some healthy pounds back on.
How long will I be on EEN?
The average time frame for EEN varies from patient to patient but is defined as 100 percent of nutritional needs given for 4-12 weeks. Your doctor will tell you how long you will have to remain on EEN based on your own gut healing. Once your doctor feels you are doing better, they will allow you to gradually reintroduce foods.
Extra tips for EEN:
These tips can help make your EEN experience more manageable:
- Drink water as directed by your doctor. It helps your gut heal and balances the formula, making it easier on the body.
- If your mouth is constantly dry, try ice chips or chewing gum — with your doctor’s permission.
- EEN tastes better if you drink it cold. Look for other flavors if you can’t stand the one you have.
- You can freeze the EEN formula to take with you to work or school. That way, it will be the perfect consistency and nice and cold by lunch time.
- Do not eat other foods unless directed by your physician because it can completely derail the progress made using EEN.
- When you reintroduce foods, it can be helpful to avoid high fiber foods, sugar alcohols, lactose in dairy, and high fat foods. These tend to be hard to digest, and you want to start by being easy on your gut.
If you have other questions, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor or nutritionist. They can give you more specific instruction based on your body’s needs.
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Jennifer Rackley is a nutritionist and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.