Hyperalimentation is a word with several related definitions. In its most accurate sense, the term relates to over-feeding or over-ingesting foods, as might occur by people who routinely overeat. Alternately, it can be used to refer to total parenteral nutrition. This is a method of supplying the body with food or nutrients via intravenous (IV) line or tubes that connect to the body when a person is unable to consume nutrition in appropriate amounts. It should be noted the second definition is somewhat inaccurate because total parenteral nutrition really isn’t giving more food or nutrition than is necessary in most circumstances.
Those with eating disorders may sometimes be said to have hyperalimentation. They may overeat, and some people may then induce vomiting to get rid of food. When food remains in the body, it typically translates to significant weight gain because far too many calories and fats are being consumed. Since chronic over-consumption of food is often linked to psychological states, the problem tends to worsen as weight gain occurs, leading to yet more overeating episodes.
The flipside of this is binge and purge behavior, usually associated with bulimia. Need to consume far more calories than is necessary is often emotionally driven, but guilt associated with this behavior may cause people to induce vomiting. This may not lead to the excessive weight gain associated with chronic overeating, but the entire cycle can recur, placing people at risk for other health issues.
While hyperalimentation can be viewed in a negative light, as caused by serious eating disorders, it can also be a very important of medical treatment that might even address some eating disorders. For instance, anorexics may have liquid nutrition in hospital settings because they are physically and emotionally unable to consume enough food to gain any weight. Bulimics who are seriously underweight might receive total parenteral nutrition, too.
This form of nutrition could be delivered under many different circumstances. People with severe burns may receive IV nutrition, which helps compensate for calorie and nutrient loss due to massive skin injury. A number of infants, and often preemies, may be fed this way too, as it is a means of providing extra calories to accelerate growth or when infants are too weak to breast or bottle-feed.
Though most commonly associated with IV administration, hyperalimentation can take place in other ways. This includes using tubes, such as a nasal gastric tube or a tube connected directly to the stomach. The manner in which the nutrition is delivered depends on the patient's need and tolerance. In all cases of medical use, goal is to make sure needed nutrition and calories get to the body in the most efficient form.