Food and water are essential as they give us the energy (calories) and nutrients to go about our day to day activities and keep our bodies working normally.
If you are unwell or have a long-term medical condition where you’re struggling to eat and drink, you may be at risk of not receiving adequate nutrition.This may lead to you losing weight unintentionally and becoming undernourished.
Your Dietitian, Nurse or Doctor may discuss what you are managing to eat and drink, how you feel your appetite compares to usual, and provide advice to help improve your dietary intake. Initially you may be advised to eat "fortified" foods that are high in calories and protein, try snacking between meals and having drinks that contain lots of calories and protein.
In some instances, food fortification will not be enough and the prescription of oral nutritional supplements (nutrition drinks) may be recommended. Oral nutritional supplements are specially formulated drinks that contain energy, protein, vitamins and minerals. There are lots of different styles which include milkshakes, juices, yogurts and soups. They can also come in a range of flavours and sizes (volumes). Some are more concentrated than others and can therefore provide a lot of nutrition in a small volume. Your Dietitian or Doctor or Pharmacist will advise the most appropriate oral nutritional supplement for you. The prescription of oral nutritional supplements is essential to prevent and support people from losing weight in amounts that can be harmful and becoming undernourished’. In some medical conditions, the prescription of oral nutritional supplements along with dietary advice can help prevent infections, hospital admissions and weakness or illness that can lead to further loss of independence. It is important that the prescription of oral nutritional supplements is monitored by a dietitian or healthcare professional.
Gastroparesis is a long-term (chronic) condition where there is a delay in the movement of food through the stomach. There can be different degrees of gastroparesis and some people are at risk of becoming undernourished due to their presenting symptoms such as pain and/or sickness. In these cases, some people require additional support such as oral nutritional supplements in order to meet their nutritional needs. An individual suffering from gastroparesis has kindly written an account highlighting the importance of oral nutritional supplements, and how much they play a part in managing this medical condition from a nutritional perspective.....
"I started having problems with my digestive system in 1999 but the symptoms were thought to be just part of M.E, which I was diagnosed with three years later. But things gradually worsened until in 2010 the symptoms were so bad that I was struggling to eat even a mouthful of food without severe nausea, stomach and bowel discomfort (to name a just few of the symptoms). After a year of gastro consultant appointments and hospital tests, I was finally diagnosed with Gastroparesis. From 2011 onwards my stomach has been unable to tolerate any solid food and struggles with most liquids.
As with many chronic conditions as a lot of us know) there is no cure so management of the symptoms is "the name of the game"! Alongside medication, with much trial and error, I've managed to work out an extremely limited menu of puréed foods that my digestive system can just about handle in baby-sized portions. But these combined do not contain near enough energy, protein, vitamins and minerals for me to live on. This means the only way I've been able to meet my daily nutrient needs is by having prescribed oral nutritional sip feed. I don't feel I'm being over dramatic when I say these nutrition drinks are vital to my survival. Feeding-wise the future is uncertain, as my symptoms are becoming gradually harder to manage. But for now I sip the feed on a daily basis and feel extremely grateful for the nutrition it gives me."
* words are the individual’s own words
Other sources of information
- • NHS Choices http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Malnutrition/Pages/Introduction.aspx
- • Managing Adult Malnutrition in the Community Pathway http://malnutritionpathway.co.uk/leaflets-patients-and-carers