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What is Hyperalimentation?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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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.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By feasting — On Aug 27, 2012

I understand how some people can get too much nutrition from overeating. I have often fallen to the temptation to overindulge, and I have suffered the guilt that comes with that.

However, I've never tried to make myself vomit. No matter how full I get, I don't think that the consequences would be worth the relief.

I've heard that bulimics who vomit all the time wind up with rotten teeth, bad breath, and heartburn from all the stomach acid. So, if I overeat, I just vow to do better next time.

By DylanB — On Aug 26, 2012

@shell4life – It is scary to see a loved one hooked up to a feeding tube. My boyfriend had surgery to treat his Crohn's disease, and he wound up with short bowel syndrome, so he had to be fed through a tube for awhile.

The surgeon had to remove so much of his intestines that there wasn't enough left to absorb all the nutrition that he needed. So, he had to have it supplied through his vein.

After awhile, he was able to do a combination of regular eating and intravenous feeding. I don't know if he will ever be able to get enough nutrition without the hyperalimentation, though.

By shell4life — On Aug 26, 2012

My best friend in high school suffered from anorexia. She got down to ninety pounds before she had to receive intravenous hyperalimentation.

It was so scary seeing her in the hospital with an IV in her chest. They had to hook it up to a vein near her heart, because her malnutrition was so severe.

I asked the doctor what was in the IV bag, and he told me that it was a mixture of sodium, electrolytes, potassium, sugar, and vitamins. There were a few other things in it, but I can't remember all of them. However, they were all basic necessities that she so desperately needed.

By kylee07drg — On Aug 25, 2012

My eighty-year-old neighbor had to have enteral nutrition for months after an accident that required surgery. During surgery, the tube that went down his throat caused severe damage, and he could no longer swallow food.

He had to have a tube placed directly into his stomach. He said that he missed the sensation of taste and eating so much during those months, and many times, he had been tempted to try eating solid food, but his wife wouldn't let him.

After months on the tube, he finally was allowed to eat. He started off slowly with bland, mushy foods. The first thing he ate was mashed potatoes, and he said that those were the best mashed potatoes he had ever had in his life!

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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