IV nutrition is not typically used in IBD unless there is a blockage present, continuous diarrhea, or a large section of the intestine has been removed. Most of the time, someone with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis can get all the nutrients they need by eating and drinking them. Occasionally, tube feedings (enteral nutrition) will be used. But when they aren't effective, IV nutrition can deliver fluids and nutrients directly into the bloodstream. Since the nutrients are being directly administered into the blood, the intestines do not have to process any food. This is known as gut rest.

While the intestine (gut) rests, all of the nutrients (amino acids, digested fats, simple sugars, and vitamins and minerals) go directly to the tissues to restore what's been lost. It is important to note that IV nutrition is usually meant to be a temporary nutritional intervention until the gut is healed enough to start processing food again. An IBD diet or tube feedings (enteral nutrition) can then be started.

Getting IV nutrition is generally simple, but it can cause side effects:

  • Infections
  • Nutrient imbalances (low or high blood sugar, changes in sodium, potassium, calcium)
  • Nutrient deficiencies (vitamin, mineral and fatty acids)
  • Liver damage
  • Blood clots
  • Refeeding syndrome

As a result, blood tests are drawn frequently and careful monitoring is needed. 

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