We compared two feeding regimens, continuous intragastric feedings and intermittent oral feeding, in nine infants with protracted diarrhea and malnutrition and two infants with surgically created short bowel. Continuous nasogastric feeding caused significant increases in enteral balance of the major nutrients, whereas intermittent feedings resulted in negative or only slightly positive enteral balance. The improvements in enteral balance from intermittent to continuous feeding in infants with diarrhea were as follows: Fat from 13 +/- 0.8 to 22 +/- 2.0 gm/24 hours; nitrogen from 0.63 +/- 0.2 to 1.7 +/- 0.2 gm/24 hours; calcium from -63 +/- 20 to 145 +/- 4 mg/24 hours; zinc from -0.57 +/- 0.2 to 1.3 +/- 0.2 mg/24 hours; and copper from -0.09 +/- 0.03 to 0.21 +/- 0.02 mg/24 hours. There was also a significant increase in body weight during the continuous feeding (168 +/- 16 gm/72 hours) as compared to the intermittent feeding (-171 +/- 26 gm/72 hours). Similar improvements in enteral balance were seen in the two infants with short bowel. These findings document that improved enteral balance can be achieved with continuous feeding in infants with bowel disease.