How To Get The Nutrients You Need When You Have Difficulty Swallowing
Swallowing difficulties, medically known as dysphagia, can be a challenging condition to live with. Whether caused by a medical condition, injury, or age-related factors, dysphagia can make it hard to consume solid foods and even liquids. However, proper nutrition is essential for overall health and well-being. Here are the steps you need to take to ensure you’re getting the right nutrition.
Consult a Healthcare Professional
The most crucial step when facing difficulty swallowing is to consult a healthcare professional. They can diagnose the underlying cause of dysphagia and provide a personalized treatment plan. In some cases, medical interventions or therapies may alleviate the issue, making it easier to consume food and liquids.
Modify Food Texture
One of the primary ways to adapt to dysphagia is to modify the texture of the food. In many cases, softer and smoother textures are easier to swallow. Pureeing or blending foods can help create meals that are more palatable and safer to consume. Consider using a food processor to create smooth soups, mashed vegetables, or pureed fruits.
Thickening liquids can make them easier to swallow and limit the risk of choking. You can purchase commercial thickeners like this Simply Thick thickening gel or make your own using products like cornstarch or xanthan gum. Follow the guidance of a healthcare professional to determine the right consistency for your needs.
Opt for Nutrient-Dense Foods
When swallowing is a challenge, it’s important to maximize the nutritional content of the foods you consume. Focus on nutrient-dense options that provide essential vitamins and minerals. Foods like avocados, yogurt, eggs, and well-cooked beans are nutrient-rich and can be prepared to a suitable consistency.
Rather than trying to eat three large meals a day, consider breaking your daily intake into smaller, more frequent meals and snacks. This can help control fatigue and reduce the strain on your throat when eating. Smaller, more manageable portions are often easier to swallow.
Dehydration is a concern when you have difficulty swallowing. Ensure you are getting enough fluids to maintain your overall health. You can sip on thickened water, herbal teas, or hydrating foods like watermelon and cucumber. Be sure to consult with a healthcare professional regarding your daily fluid intake needs.
Use Assistive Devices
Various assistive devices are available to make eating and drinking easier for individuals with dysphagia. Special utensils, cups with spouts, and straws designed for thicker liquids can help manage the challenges of swallowing. Occupational therapists can recommend appropriate assistive devices based on your specific needs.
Elevate the Head
To reduce the risk of choking, eating in an upright position and elevating your head while consuming food and liquids is helpful. A simple adjustment like this can make a significant difference in swallowing safely.
Speech therapists can provide exercises and techniques to improve your swallowing ability. They can also offer guidance on how to strengthen the muscles involved in swallowing, making the process easier over time.
Managing dysphagia and ensuring you get the nutrients you need is possible with the right strategies and support. Try to remember that patience and perseverance are key as you adapt to these changes, ultimately improving your quality of life and overall health.