Most people are aware that a stroke or other form of neurological damage can affect language and communication. But did you know that trouble swallowing food and liquid is another common result? Difficulty swallowing, or dysphagia, can affect any part of the swallowing process. This can mean anything from difficulty chewing to food and liquid entering the lungs instead of the stomach.
If a person is diagnosed with dysphagia, their speech-language pathologist or other healthcare professional may recommend a change in diet. This typically involves changing the texture of food and liquid. Certain foods may need to be avoided, or food may need to be ground, pureed, or even blended into a liquid. Liquids themselves are often altered as well, increasing thickness with additives to make them easier to swallow.
Altered food textures take some getting used to and may seem unappetizing at first. However, poor nutrition and dehydration can weaken the immune system and cause further problems, so maintaining a healthy food and liquid intake is critical. Here are some tips to help make dining with dysphagia a more pleasurable experience:
- Use butter, gravy, or sauce to soften and moisten favorite foods. Wet, soft food is often easier to tolerate, and the familiar flavors will improve the experience.
- Presentation can be very important, especially for individuals with dementia who may not understand why their food is being altered. Experiment with garnishes, different scoop sizes, and different serving methods. For example, some types of puree may look more appetizing when presented in a mug rather than on a plate.
- Sometimes severe dysphagia may make it difficult for a person to tolerate significant quantities of food at a time or may make eating significantly slow. This can make consuming enough calories problematic. Using high-calorie additives such as butter, mayonnaise, or ice cream can help. There are also commercially available calorie boosters which can be added to food. Ask your healthcare provider if these may be right for you or your loved one.
Stay tuned: next week we’ll continue our series on dysphagia with strategies and techniques to increase safety during mealtime.
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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