Understanding Dysphagia

Posted on Thursday, June 23, 2022

It’s something most people don’t think twice about when you sit down for a meal, take a sip of coffee, or have a midday snack. Take a bite, chew, swallow. Have a sip, then swallow. But for some, swallowing is difficult. It’s a condition called dysphagia and it can have a serious impact on a person’s overall health. While anyone can experience dysphagia, it’s more common among older adults.

The swallowing process involves many nerves and 50 pairs of muscles that work together to move food from your mouth, down your throat, and into your stomach. Some medical conditions complicate that function including certain forms of cancer, brain disorders including Parkinson’s disease, muscle disorders including muscular dystrophy, obstructions, and infections.

There are three types of dysphagia, each affecting a different part of the anatomy critical to the ability to swallow:

  • When there are problems in the mouth, it’s called oral cavity dysphagia. In this type of dysphagia, strokes can weaken the tongue and neuromuscular issues can affect chewing.
  • When the problems are centered on the throat, often due to muscular or neurological issues, it’s called oropharyngeal dysphagia.
  • Esophageal dysphagia is caused when muscular disorders or something presses on the esophagus.

Depending on the severity, dysphagia can cause pain, heartburn, choking, and gagging. It can lead to malnutrition because it makes it difficult to consume enough nutritious food to maintain a healthy weight.

There are treatments for dysphagia including physical therapy, antibiotics, surgery, and injections. Lifestyle changes and different approaches to eating can help boost nutrition intake as well including:

  • Having smaller meals
  • Eating smaller bites and chewing thoroughly
  • Thickening or thinning liquids as needed
  • Avoiding sticky foods that cause swallowing problems
  • Reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption because they can dry out the mouth and throat

Mom’s Meals has a full menu of fully prepared soft foods ideal for people with dysphagia. They’re easy to swallow and are designed to meet the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics required for dysphagia. Find out more.

Sources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dysphagia/symptoms-causes/syc-20372028

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/21195-dysphagia-difficulty-swallowing

https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/dysphagia

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