Dysphagia: How to Cope with a Swallowing Disorder

Swallowing is a bodily function that comes naturally for many people. This action consists of coordinated muscle movements within the mouth, the esophagus, and the back of the throat. From food and drink consumption to social interaction, it is a complex function that is vital to everyday day. Unfortunately, some people experience great difficulty performing this action. Here is a short guide to swallowing disorders and how people can cope with them.

What are Swallowing Disorders?

Studies show that 1 in 25 people in the United States are affected by swallowing problems at some point in their lifetime. Swallowing disorders are experienced by people of varying ages, and the severity can differ depending on the individual. If one has problems with swallowing, it is usually down to two issues: odynophagia and dysphagia. Odynophagia describes pain in the chest or throat during swallowing, and it may occur due to poor coordination of muscles or nerves. Dysphagia describes the feeling of fluid or flood being stuck in the chest or regurgitated. It can lead to choking or coughing due to poor throat coordination when trying to swallow. Both odynophagia and dysphagia can occur as a result of tumors or infections.

Signs of Swallowing Disorders

People with swallowing disorders may have difficulty chewing and could choke or cough when trying to eat or drink. The food or drink they try to consume may eventually be regurgitated via the mouth or nose. Other signs include pain, shortness of breath, and hoarseness in the throat. Furthermore, people with swallowing difficulties could experience issues with certain food groups or beverages, while some may find that they cannot swallow anything. In addition, some people may have issues once or twice in their life, while others could experience issues consistently.

Eat Softer Food

Making changes to your existing diet could help you cope with swallowing problems. When suffering from dysphagia, foods that are softer in texture are often more palatable, and consuming thicker fluids will help decrease the chance of dehydration. Thickening products can be added to everyday pureed food and drink, such as soup or fruit juice, to help you swallow easier. They are designed to thicken different types of food and beverages and can help reduce the risk of malnutrition. SimplyThick food thickener is flavorless and can thicken liquids in seconds.

Swallowing Therapy

Besides a change in diet, speech and language therapists provide swallowing therapy for people who have difficulty swallowing. These therapists tailor the therapy to their patient’s specific needs and teach them varying techniques to address their issues. Their methods are designed to strengthen specific muscles and improve the way they function.

Diagnosing Your Disorder

If you are experiencing severe symptoms, it is a good idea to speak to a medical professional who can diagnose your disorder. A gastroenterologist has received specialist training and can help you with your problem. They will give you a physical examination, collect your medical history information then carry out a diagnostic procedure if necessary. These procedures could include an endoscopy, a barium esophagram, a wireless pH test, an esophageal manometry, or a 24-hour pH impedance.

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