Clinical nutrition is a term that describes the nutrition of patients both in the inpatient and outpatient departments. It generally covers the nutrition that is needed and provided in a healthcare setting.

Clinical nutrition aims to promote proper nutrition and energy balance to those with special health needs such as those hospitalized or generally sick. It includes both the principles of dietetics and nutrition to keep the patients at optimum nutritional state.

Clinical nutrition covers almost all nutrients needed with special attention to vitamins, minerals and protein. These nutrients are very essential for the body’s recuperation and they become the focus of dieticians and health education when recovering from illness. Vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B complex, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, iodine, calcium, sodium, potassium and others are given depending on the actual need of the patient. In some cases, certain vitamins and minerals are ordered to be given orally, or through injections and enteral routes. Proteins may also be given in amino acid form for better tissue regeneration and overall recuperation.

Routes of Administration

As stated, there are various routes of administration in clinical nutrition including:

  • Oral

The oral route is the most convenient and most preferred way of administering nutrients. It is safe, side-effect free and easier for patients. However, this route is only best for those with intact swallowing and gag reflex and those with normal level of consciousness. This is also for the outpatient department as clients come and go. In certain instances, the oral route may not be the choice and may require other routes of administration depending on the condition of the patient and the nutrient to be administered.

  • Enteral

The enteral route refers to the direct administration of nutrients to the stomach or jejunum through a nasogastric tube or a jejunostomy feeding. This is employed for patients who cannot eat normally such as those with reduced level of consciousness (coma patients), poor swallowing reflex, stroke, paralysis (paralysis on the throat may also be possible) and the like. In enteral feeding, a pureed mixture is given as an alternative to normal feeding to ensure optimum nutrition even to those who cannot eat by mouth.

  • Intravenous

For other patients, intravenous administration is preferred for ease and some nutrient preparations are manufactured for intravenous use. An example of which is the Lipidem, which consist of lipids given to cancer patients.

Clinical nutrition is generally for all patients due to a reduction in nutrient stores as the body requires more in order to recuperate. However, there are some instances where clinical nutrition is really a need due to various causes such as cachexia or severe malnutrition. Often, physicians identify various nutritional levels through laboratory examinations to determine the actual nutritional need of the body.

Clinical nutrition is one of the most important elements of every treatment and is essential in every plan of care to all patients since recovery from diseases would not be optimum if the nutritional requirements of patients are not met.