Tips for Living with Dysphagia

A lot of people can take for granted how easy it is to enjoy foods and beverages, but for those living with dysphagia, mealtimes aren’t always pleasant. Dysphagia is a disorder that can affect your ability to swallow, often making it feel as though food is getting stuck in your throat. It can be uncomfortable and painful, and for those who suffer from this disorder, it can also make them feel self-conscious when eating. Maintaining a healthy and nutritious diet is key to your health, so if you know someone who has dysphagia or if you have been recently diagnosed, here are some tips to help you cope with it.

Foods to Avoid

As dysphagia makes it difficult to swallow, some foods are best to avoid for your comfort. Hard foods like sweets, tough meats, seeds, and nuts can be potential choking hazards for someone with dysphagia. Although these can contain high nutritional value, it’s best to look for other nutritional sources that will be easier for you to consume. Stringy greens and fruits like pineapples can also be difficult to eat, and food with husks or thick skins like beans or sweetcorn. Bread is another food that could pose a risk for people with dysphagia, as it can often get stuck in your mouth or throat when you’re trying to swallow.

What Alternatives Are There?

Depending on why you have dysphagia, you might be able to eat softer and easier-to-swallow foods, such as scrambled eggs, mashed fruits, and vegetables. Peanut butter is also an option. Some products are specifically designed for people with dysphagia and other swallowing disorders to help them get the nutrients that they need. SimplyThick packets are a good example of these products, and you can mix them into water or another liquid beverage to help you enjoy them easier.

Lifestyle Changes

If you are a smoker, then there is no time like the present to quit. While you might already know about the health risks associated with smoking, as someone who also has dysphagia, the smoke from your cigarettes will only exacerbate your condition. You should also avoid drinking alcohol as this can irritate your esophagus as well, making it even hard to swallow or resulting in reflux. You might also find it easier to consume smaller meals more frequently throughout the day, rather than trying to eat 3 larger ones. This way, your body is still getting the nutrition it needs, but you will find these portions easier to manage.

Treatment Options

There are various treatments available for dysphagia, and the right one for you will depend on your circumstances. You might need to see a speech and language therapist to help you retrain how to swallow properly. Surgery is also an option to widen the esophagus by inserting a plastic tube called a stent to stretch it out, making it easier to swallow.

Dysphagia can be tough to live with at first, but you can live with it by making some adjustments to your lifestyle. It isn’t always a permanent condition, but your doctors will be able to give you more information based on your specific circumstances when you have been diagnosed.