Many disorders and disabilities can create difficulty with swallowing. This is called dysphagia, which can encompass issues with any part of swallowing process, from chewing and moving food to the back of the throat, to food diverting and entering the lungs.
One approach to managing dysphagia is changing the texture of the food that a person eats. For example, the person may be unable to tolerate thin liquids (e.g. water) so drinks must be thickened with cornstarch. In other cases, a person may be unable to ingest solid foods, so foods must be ground up and softened. The most commonly tolerated texture is puree. However, although puree is often easiest to swallow, it isn’t necessarily the most appetizing of textures. This can prevent people from following their recommended swallowing restrictions and suffering from malnutrition or complications of aspirating food into their lungs.
If you or a loved one suffers from dysphagia, there are ways to make a restricted diet palateable and pleasureable. First, if it’s tolerated, consider adding seasoning to food. Because much of food’s flavor is released during chewing, grinding or pureeing food in advance can rob it of much of its taste. Even something as simple as butter salt and pepper can greatly influence the taste of food. Also, if permitted, experiment with temperatures: food that may be unpalatable at one temperature may seem much tastier when warmed or cooled. Finally, take advantage of available resources: there are several cookbooks and a plethora of on-line recipes tailored towards those with dysphagia and altered food textures.
Do you think that you or someone you know may benefit from the services of a speech-language pathologist? Contact Speech Associates of New York at 917-841-2965 or visit us on the web at www.speechassociatesofny.com. We’ll pair you with one of our trained and certified speech-language pathologists who can provide in-home therapy to help address your speech, language, and communication needs.