If you’re like most people, you’ve never put much thought into how you swallow food; for a healthy person, the process happens almost completely automatically. But swallowing actually involves a series of fairly intricate muscular and physical processes. When a person has any sort of neurological disorder, from strokes and traumatic brain injuries to progressive diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, these processes can be disrupted. This leads to dysphagia, a term which means “difficulty swallowing,” and can involve any part of the swallowing process, from moving food in the mouth, to food “going down the wrong pipe” and entering the lungs.
Speech-language pathologists are trained in dysphagia management and rehabilitation. There are several different approaches a speech therapist may take in helping a person with trouble swallowing. Often, the speech-language pathologist will change the texture of the food that a person eats. For example, a person may have trouble swallowing thin liquids, like water; in this case, the speech pathologist will recommend thickened liquids, drinks thickened with cornstarch or other substances to be the consistency of honey or nectar. In other cases, a person may have difficulty chewing food, and may need it ground up and softened.
While modified food textures make swallowing safer, they can be very unappetizing, and can prevent people from following their recommended diet. This can lead to malnutrition, or pneumonia from consistently having food or liquid enter the lungs. Check in with us next week, when we’ll discuss some of the ways that caregivers and family members can make dining with dysphagia easier.
For information on our New York based Speech-Language Pathology services, please call Speech Associates of New York today at (212) 308-7725 or visit our website at http://www.speechassociatesofny.com and find out how our team of professionally trained and certified speech-language pathologists can help!
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