What Is Nutrition Therapy? Nutrition therapy is a way to treat health conditions or their symptoms with a special diet. Sometimes, nutrition therapy is used instead of standard treatments, such as medicine. A doctor or registered dietitian can create these diets. Nutrition therapy is also called medical nutrition therapy. What Is Enteral Nutrition Therapy for Crohn's Disease? Crohn's disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation of the intestines. Enteral (EN-tur-ul) nutrition therapy uses a drinkable enteral formula, such as Boost or Pediasure, to control inflammation and promote healing in Crohn's disease. Why Is Enteral Nutrition Therapy Done for Crohn's Disease? Enteral nutrition therapy is an alternative to steroids and other medicines that ease the symptoms of Crohn's disease. Steroids can have serious side effects, including poor growth and increased chance of infections. Enteral nutrition therapy can help improve nutrition and growth, ease inflammation, and heal the gastrointestinal tract (or "gut"). How Does Enteral Nutrition Therapy Work? The two types of nutrition therapy used to manage Crohn's symptoms are: exclusive enteral nutrition (EEN), also called total enteral nutrition (TEN): Formula is used for all meals. Plain water and some other liquids may be allowed. partial enteral nutrition (PEN): Some food is allowed along with the formula. This makes the diet easier to follow. Some kids drink the formula, while others get it through a nasogastric (NG) tube that runs from the nose into the stomach. Enteral nutrition therapy helps improve nutrition for people with Crohn's disease. But it's not clear why and how it works. Providing balanced nutrition with these formulas might give the gut a chance to heal. It may also work by changing the mix of bacteria that live in the gut. Good bacteria in the gut can help protect the intestinal lining and regulate the immune system. How Long Do People Need Enteral Nutrition Therapy? Kids with Crohn's disease will need to follow this diet for at least 8–12 weeks. Enteral nutrition therapy can begin at the time of diagnosis or during flare-ups (when symptoms get worse). This is called induction therapy. Its goal is to relieve symptoms. What Happens After Enteral Nutrition Therapy? After induction therapy, food is slowly added to the child's diet. The amount of formula decreases as more food is given. When symptoms are under control, you'll make a plan with your child's doctor to help keep symptoms under control and prevent flare-ups. On maintenance therapy, your child may: have a balance of regular food, special diets, and formula take maintenance medicines Your child's doctor and dietitian will help you choose the diet that works best for your child. Are There Any Risks From Enteral Nutrition Therapy? Enteral nutrition therapy is very safe. But it can be hard for kids and teens to stick with the diet because: They have to drink the same thing every day without much variety. Allowing some food may help to keep kids on the diet. The formula might cause stomach upset, vomiting, and diarrhea. Children with Crohn's disease may become malnourished because: belly pain, nausea, and other problems decrease their appetite the body needs more calories, especially during flare-ups digestion is poor and nutrients aren't absorbed Not eating enough food or getting enough nutrients from food can lead to poor growth. So doctors check all children with Crohn's disease for malnutrition. Children with severe malnourishment have shifts in fluids and electrolytes during nutrition therapy. Rarely, this can lead to a problem called refeeding syndrome, which causes: irregular heartbeats breathing problems seizures To help prevent this, these children get enteral nutrition therapy in a hospital, where the care team can watch them closely. Back to Articles Related Articles Crohn's Disease Crohn's disease is a chronic condition that causes parts of the bowel to get red and swollen. The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms, prevent other problems, and avoid flare-ups. Read More Transition of Care: Crohn's Disease Most teens with Crohn's disease should transition to an adult health care provider when they're between 18 and 21 years old. Here's how parents can help them do that. Read More Inflammatory Bowel Disease Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to two chronic diseases that cause intestinal inflammation: ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Although they have features in common, there are some important differences. 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Read More Celiac Disease People with celiac disease can't eat gluten, which is found in many everyday foods, such as bread. Find out more by reading this article for kids. Read More Celiac Disease People who have celiac disease, a disorder that makes their bodies react to gluten, can't eat certain kinds of foods. Find out more - including what foods are safe and where to find them. Read More Constipation Constipation is a very common problem that usually happens because a person's diet doesn't include enough fluids and fiber. In most cases, making simple changes can help you feel better. Read More Constipation Constipation is a very common problem among kids, and it usually occurs because a child's diet doesn't include enough fluids and fiber. In most cases, simple changes can help kids go. Read More Constipation If you aren't pooping like usual, you could be constipated. Read More Diarrhea Most kids battle diarrhea from time to time, so it's important to know what to do to relieve and even prevent it. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.