Dysphagia refers to difficulty swallowing. There are two main types, one of which is where the issue is caused higher up in the swallowing process – in the throat or mouth. The second type is where the esophagus itself is affected.
Those living with the condition can experience a number of negative consequences like choking, recurring pneumonia, anxiety at mealtimes, or even malnutrition if they avoid eating and drinking properly.
Treatment for dysphagia can vary depending on the severity and underlying issues that could have caused the condition to develop. After diagnosis, it’s a good idea to speak to a speech therapist to help identify why dysphagia has occurred and how you can treat it.
Treatments tend to focus on strengthening the muscles used in swallowing through exercises and therapy. Between sessions, however, there are several products that can make living with dysphagia a little more manageable.
Here are three to get you started:
These tools can be used to regulate the amount of liquid taken in at any time. Limiting the flow rate means it is easier to control food or drink as it mixes with saliva and starts its journey down the throat.
Drinking aids can look just like straws, meaning those that feel conscious of their condition can continue to enjoy day-to-day socializing without feeling embarrassed or different from their friends and family.
Pathologists usually don’t recommend normal straws for those with dysphagia, so if you’re worried about using a straw-like aid, there are also special cups with lids that limit liquid intake.
Food and drink thickeners
Some people try to use at-home remedies to thicken food and drink. This might include flour or potato starch. However, Simply Thick thickeners are flavorless and come in discrete sachets so that they can be added to food or drink wherever you are. They make it easier to drink and eat by slowing down the progress in the mouth before swallowing.
Your physician or pathologist will be able to recommend how thick your food and drink should be and the best products to create the desired consistency.
There is an international standardization chart for those on a dysphagia diet. This categorizes food and drink consistencies into four levels ranging from 3 – 7. Three is the thinnest liquidized level, while seven refers to harder, chewable foods.
By using this chart, patients and caregivers can ensure they’re creating the right consistency every time to make swallowing easier to control.
As previously mentioned, there are drinking aids that can limit the flow of liquid into the mouth. However, there are also specific cups that can encourage better posture while drinking. Traditional cups can be difficult to drink from when maintaining the correct posture – meaning it can be even harder for those with dysphagia.
Dysphagia cups promote proper posture when drinking. A common posture is to sit up straight and tuck the chin down. The cups have a deep curve on one side that decreases the amount of liquid the patient can sip at once.
These three products make living with dysphagia that little bit easier. They allow everyone to continue enjoying their favorite food and drinks both in and out of the house.