Sunday, July 14, 2024
HomeHealthAssistance for Chewing, Swallowing, and Dysphagia Difficulties

Assistance for Chewing, Swallowing, and Dysphagia Difficulties

Shortly after being diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, an immune system disorder that causes dry mouth, Debbie McClure sat down to a roast beef dinner. Still adjusting to her condition, she didn’t realize how difficult swallowing would be without enough saliva, especially with dry foods like her overcooked roast beef.

“I tried to swallow a bite, but it got stuck in my throat,” says McClure, a writer from Ontario, Canada. She had to sip water slowly to dislodge the food.

Medical conditions that affect chewing or swallowing can make eating a challenging task. Pain in the mouth, jaw stiffness, or dental problems can make it hard to chew solid foods. Dysphagia, a condition that causes delays in swallowing, can also make it difficult to swallow without coughing or choking.

“If you have trouble swallowing, even with pills, inform your physician,” says Brian Hedman, a specialist in swallowing disorders at Cleveland Clinic. “A speech pathologist can assess the issue and provide techniques to help you swallow safely.”

Here are six tips to ensure you can eat without any problems.

Varying tastes, temperatures, and textures in your diet can keep your mouth attentive and functioning properly, according to Hedman.

Alternate between cold and tart foods like lemon ice and warm, bland choices like mashed potatoes.

During meals and for up to an hour after eating, maintain a 90-degree posture with a slight forward tilt of your head, suggests Hedman.

“If you have difficulty moving food around in your mouth, try reclining,” he advises. “Sitting upright is the best position for eating and drinking otherwise.”

Staying focused during meals is crucial, especially for individuals who have had a stroke or are in the early stages of dementia, says Kristi King, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“People with Alzheimer’s may be more distracted by an open window or television than by the food in their mouth,” she explains.

Before eating, use a disposable oral swab or brush your teeth to moisten your mouth for easier swallowing, recommends Hedman.

Keep a drink on hand while eating. McClure sips water or a non-carbonated beverage between every bite to help move food along. If thin liquids cause coughing, use a liquid thickener to make it easier to swallow without altering the taste.

“I avoid antihistamines in medications like cold or allergy tablets, as they can dry out my mouth, eyes, and nose,” McClure adds.

Cut solid foods into small pieces to reduce the risk of choking.

“I’ve learned to cut even finger foods into tiny portions,” says McClure. “When having snacks like chips or popcorn, I eat slowly, one piece at a time, in small bites.”

You may need to swallow multiple times per bite or sip. If food or liquid gets stuck in your throat, cough gently or clear your throat before trying to swallow again.

“Try alternating between bites and sips,” suggests Hedman. “If you struggle to drink through a straw, shorten it for easier passage of liquid.”


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