Swallowing difficulties, also known as dysphagia, can have a significant impact on an individual’s nutritional intake and their quality of life. They can be caused by a range of factors, such as medical conditions, medication, or as a result of structural abnormalities in the throat.
No matter the cause, living with swallowing difficulties can be incredibly tough, and it requires the implementation of practical strategies to ensure mealtimes are both safe and enjoyable.
Here are a few top tips to help people cope with swallowing difficulties.
Consult a Healthcare Professional
In the USA, dysphagia affects 1 in 25 people at some point in their lifetime. If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of dysphagia, it is important to speak to your doctor as soon as possible. They can evaluate your health and either offer you treatment or refer you to a specialist, such as a speech therapist.
A speech therapist can then conduct comprehensive assessments to figure out the nature of your condition, and recommend appropriate strategies to help you manage it. Your treatment plan could include exercises to strengthen your swallowing muscles, therapies, and dietary modifications to help ensure you consume food and drinks in a safe way.
Modify Food Texture and Consistency
If you have been diagnosed with a swallowing disorder, adapting the texture of food and beverages to a consistency you find more palatable can help ease the swallowing process. Depending on the severity of your condition, blending or pureeing foods could make them easier for you to swallow. Thickening agents are an alternative way to adjust the consistency of food. For example, SimplyThick for drinks can be used to alter the viscosity of beverages so that it suits your swallowing ability and personal preference. It is available in handy little sachets so you can carry them with you and thicken food and drinks on the go.
Take Advantage of Modified Feeding Equipment
There are different types of modified feeding equipment on the market, including adaptive utensils and assistive devices. These include feeding cups and insulated mugs with suction devices for those who find it difficult to swallow or suck thin liquids, and cutlery with wide handles and angled heads to make bringing food to the mouth easier. Doing your research and taking advantage of the modified feeding equipment on the market can help make swallowing more manageable.
Make Simple Adjustments to Your Eating Posture
Making simple adjustments to your eating posture can make a huge difference in managing dysphagia. Simply sitting up with your back straight and your head angled slightly downwards can make swallowing easier; this upright position aligns your airway and esophagus and helps to facilitate the movement of food down towards your stomach.
If you struggle with swallowing, try to avoid reclining or lying down when you’re eating, as these positions can increase the risk of food and drinks entering your airway.
Train Yourself to Take Smaller Bites and Sips
Eating and drinking come naturally to most people. Unfortunately, living with dysphagia means that you might need to train yourself to eat and drink more efficiently. One effective technique to manage dysphagia is to take smaller bites and sips, as this reduces how much food or liquid you have in your mouth at any given time, and can therefore reduce your risk of choking.