We all prefer meals and eating or drinking a beverage be pleasurable experiences. But, sometimes, health conditions make swallowing certain foods and drinks difficult and even hazardous because of choking.
Diseases such as dysphagia affect the swallowing mechanism in the body so liquids don’t go down as smoothly as they used to. Experts recommend the use of liquid thickeners to help these people comfortably swallow.
Difficulty in Swallowing Affects Nutritional Intake
Everyone needs to be well-nourished to live the best life possible. Children and adults with health conditions such as dysphasia that make swallowing liquids difficult may lose interest in these nutritious and necessary foods and drinks. That is not good. We all need to be well-hydrated and ingest a well-balanced collection or nutrients through food.
Health care experts often recommend using some sort of thickener in soups and liquids to make them easier to swallow. The first thickeners were made with corn starch powder, which was hard to mix in and often lumpy.
The food looked bad and did not taste good. New thickeners have been developed with xanthan gum as the base. Products such as Simply Thick doesn’t affect the taste of food and are easy to mix without leaving lumps.
Types of Swallowing Problems
The causes of swallowing problems include Parkinson’s disease, neurological problems, stroke, reflux disease, cancer of the head, neck, or esophagus, and dysphasia. When swallowing becomes a problem, the patient can choke, cough, and suffer aspiration. These problems can lead to pneumonia.
This difficulty in swallowing, if not treated, can lead to malnutrition and dehydration. Fifty percent of people in nursing homes may have an impaired ability to eat and drink adequately. Other causes of swallowing problems include tooth loss and being given antipsychotic medications for sedation.
Thickeners and Other Ways of Helping People Swallow
People who have swallowing problems lose their enjoyment of eating when mealtime becomes a difficult and embarrassing event. The use of good-quality thickeners can improve the texture and thickness of food and drink so the patient can swallow easier.
The thickeners slow down the entrance of food and liquid to the pharynx. This allows more time for the pathway to the lungs to be closed, avoiding aspiration. The use of thickeners poses few health risks and improves the patient’s ability to swallow food and liquids successfully.
Improving the Eating Process
Improving the eating process and health of patients with dysphagia involves:
- Choosing foods carefully
- Certain exercises of the mouth and food passageways
- Choosing a good place for the eating experience
- Carefully measuring and mixing the food thickeners.
The thickener used can affect the success of the treatment. There are cornstarch-based and gum-based thickeners. The gum-based thickeners are better accepted by patients because they have a smoother texture with no lumps.
The success of any thickener depends on the training of the person using it and the quality of the product. The caretaker’s goal should be finding the correct thickness to be effective without being too thick.
The final food or drink offering should be tasty enough for the patient to eat or drink enough of it each day. The caretaker should find a product that works best for their patient.