Tips and Strategies for Managing Swallowing Difficulties

Swallowing difficulties (also known as dysphagia) can make mealtimes feel like a real mission. Swallowing issues are caused by countless different conditions including strokes, temporary numbness, autoimmune diseases, dental problems, and so much more. Fortunately, if you follow this simple guide, eating will feel like less of a mission in no time. 

Using Thickeners

People with dysphagia typically eat soft foods, to the point where they’ve turned into liquids. However, swallowing problems can leave you unable to swallow liquids too, which poses challenges during mealtimes and for regular drinking. Fortunately, you can add this SimplyThick mixing gel to your food, which will change the texture and consistency and allow you to swallow liquids. 

Be Aware of Posture and Positioning

As well as finding it difficult to swallow, dysphagia sufferers are prone to acid reflux, which happens when stomach acids travel up into the mouth. If you’ve ever experienced it before, you’ll understand how unpleasant it is. Luckily, acid reflux can be avoided by maintaining proper posture during meals. Nutricia suggests eating with the chin forward and the head tilted is best. 

Eat in Calm Surroundings

Dysphagia can allow high levels of stress and anxiety to take over, which can make mealtimes even more challenging. Therefore, it’s suggested that people with swallowing issues eat meals in a calming environment without any distractions. For example, instead of eating at a busy restaurant, choose to eat at home away from the TV or other people. If your brain becomes overstimulated, you are more likely to choke. 

Taking it Slow

Mealtimes don’t have to be a race, and that’s certainly true if you’re suffering from dysphagia. If you’re speeding to the finishing line, you’re more likely to choke. To avoid having to rush, you may need to plan your time effectively. For example, if you’re meeting friends for a meal, consider going during the day and arriving early to get a head start. 

Consider Food Carefully

If you enjoy choosing what you eat, and when, you’ll feel devastated by dysphagia because much of this choice is taken away. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t turn the foods you can eat into a pleasant experience. 

In many cases, you will need to modify your diet to make it through with dysphagia. To help you out, a dietitian will point you in the right direction. However, if you read this article by Saint Luke’s, you’ll find that pureed vegetables, souffles, and puddings are all excellent options for dysphagia sufferers. 

Carrying Out Exercise

Swallowing issues usually occur because the muscles around the jaw become weak. Therefore, just like any other muscle, you need to carry out exercises to improve its strength. Luckily, there is a series of jaw exercises you can practice, typically before meals. For example, dry swallowing and tensing your jaw muscles can be helpful. To find out more information on the correct exercises, follow this link. 

Swallowing difficulties do not have to put an end to mealtime enjoyment; you just need to know how to manage the condition. 

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