Dysphagia is a condition that impacts a person’s ability to swallow food and liquids correctly and safely. People living with this condition may notice several ways that it impacts their quality of life, including problems with eating food they enjoy, aspirating (choking on) liquid beverages, and struggling with socialization due to their symptoms.
However, if you’re living with dysphagia, the outlook isn’t all bleak. There are plenty of tips, coping strategies, and exercises that you can do to manage this condition and maintain a good quality of life.
Strategies You Can Use When Eating
Despite the problems with swallowing, ensuring that you get enough nutrients in your diet is key for your health and wellness. Experts recommend taking smaller bites and ensuring that food is chewed thoroughly to promote better swallowing and prevent food from becoming stuck in the throat.
Plus, a special diet can be used to make things easier. If you have dysphagia, avoid eating foods that are typically difficult to swallow, like raw fruit and veggies, or dry, tough meat. Instead, consider softer foods, or put your food through a blender before you sit down to eat your meal. This will make it easier to consume, while avoiding depriving yourself of the tastes you enjoy.
Drinking plenty of fluid throughout the day is crucial when it comes to managing this condition. If you have dysphagia, then a dry mouth and throat is only going to make swallowing food even harder. Drinking plenty of fluid will keep your throat lubricated, so that when you eat, food will be prevented from sticking to the esophagus walls.
However, drinking fluids during meals can make swallowing the food harder, so this might be something you want to avoid. If you have problems swallowing liquids, such as aspiration, then a thickening gel can help. Add SimplyThick to your drink, and it’ll thicken the consistency, making it easier to go down.
Exercises to Strengthen Your Swallowing Function
It’s worth working with an occupational therapist or speech-language pathologist who’ll be able to provide you with exercises and other strategies designed to improve your swallowing function and strengthen the associated muscles. This could include exercises that are designed to move and strengthen the muscles you use when you swallow, or techniques you can use to position your head and neck during meals to make swallowing easier.
Along with techniques and exercises, you may also be prescribed medication to ease dysphagia symptoms. Proton pump inhibitors and prokinetics, for example, can be used to relax your esophagus muscles and make it easier to eat food without having it come back up. Additionally, they can promote better digestion.
If you are living with dysphagia, there are several strategies to try when it comes to making mealtimes a little bit easier for yourself. Along with adjusting the foods you eat to ones that are easier to swallow, it’s worth working with a professional who can help you through exercises or prescribe medications to ease symptoms and prevent them from worsening.