Skip to main content

Refeeding Syndrome

Condition Basics

What is refeeding syndrome?

Refeeding syndrome is a problem that may happen when nutrition is given after a period of not eating or not eating enough. It causes electrolyte changes and fluid shifts. This can lead to organ problems. The condition can be severe and life-threatening. It can happen with conditions such as anorexia nervosa and cancer.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Tingling that feels like "pins and needles."
  • Swelling in your legs (edema).
  • Weakness.
  • Confusion.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Seizures.
  • A change in the normal rhythm of the heart (arrhythmia).
  • Breathing problems and sometimes respiratory failure.

How is it treated?

You'll be watched closely by your care team. Because refeeding syndrome can be dangerous, it's treated in a hospital. You'll likely be given extra vitamins and electrolytes through a tube in your vein (I.V.). Nutrition is increased slowly. You may get nutrition by eating, through a feeding tube, or through an I.V.

Related Information


Current as of: December 6, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.


PeaceHealth endeavors to provide comprehensive health care information, however some topics in this database describe services and procedures not offered by our providers or within our facilities because they do not comply with, nor are they condoned by, the ethics policies of our organization.