Dysphagia: How I Manage my Swallowing Difficulty
Although dysphagia is a common complaint of the aged; illness, an accident, chronic acid reflux, or a chronic disability can bring on swallowing difficulties at any age.
I don't eat oranges anymore because I am afraid that I will choke as I attempt to swallow their stringy pulp. Swallowing is difficult for me so there are many foods which I no longer attempt to eat.
I keep a glass beside my dinner plate and I take a sip after each bite to help to push the food down as I eat. Choking is one of my largest fears and I am not alone.
My swallowing difficulty began when I was twenty-six years old. I was diagnosed with a rare muscular illness classed under the term "Myositis". The disease comes with severe fatigue, muscle weakness, and muscle wasting. These are the key factors which cause many of my difficulties with swallowing and choking.
I never thought it could happen to me but it did. I became disabled. I choke on my food and on my saliva. When my illness flares or when I am more tired then my difficulty with swallowing increases. I get very tired chewing my food.
It often feels as though my swallowing mechanism has simply slowed down and I do not have the strength to force the food to make the journey down that long corridor that they call my throat. I choke on my food and I swallow bits of food and liquid into my lungs. This can cause lung or bronchial pneumonia and infection.
I have learned to incorporate many strategies into my daily living so that I can reduce the risk of infection, permanent disability, and death. Adapting to my swallowing difficulties is one of these learning processes. I hope the tips that I use to help with my difficulty will also help you to overcome your issues with food and liquid.
*Tip your chin downward when swallowing. This position creates the most direct pathway for food to follow and will reduce choking.
*Use a straw for drinking liquids. There are now many reusable straws available. Take a sip of water after each bite to help push the food down.
*Avoid stringy, dry, tough, or other difficult to chew foods.
*Cut your food into very tiny pieces to make chewing easier.
*Juice or puree fruits, vegetables, and other food to make them easier to swallow.
*Whey powder is an excellent source of protein when swallowing is difficult. Mixed into a drink it can be consumed easier than most other forms of protein. Whey protein is often recognized for being used by body builders but there are many elderly or people with chronic illness who also use whey to insure they receive adequate protein.
*Mash or blend your fruits, vegetables, and meat. Stewing meat in very small pieces will make it more tender and easier to swallow. Fish is a softer meat alternative.
*Eat small meals rather than large meals. ie: 5 small meals rather than 3 large ones.
*Add sauces and oils to your food to make it easier to swallow.
*Crush or cut pills to make swallowing them easier. Replace regular vitamins and supplements with chewable or gummy vitamins.
* It is important to get the maximum nutritional benefit from the foods you eat. Choose your foods wisely.
Choking is not the only serious issue which can occur for those who suffer from Dysphagia. Swallowing food and liquid into the lungs can cause the development of serious lung infections or pneumonia. Dehydration and malnutrition are other problems faced by those who suffer from a difficulty swallowing food or liquid.
Dysphagia! If you suspect that you suffer from swallowing difficulties please consult your local physician.
It is such a relief when the flare ends. After a very rough period of weakened muscles within my throat I am back to where I can eat almost normal again. I am so very relieved. I have had swallowing issues before but this last bout was the worst that I have experienced.
The first week of March 2013 my throat muscles became very inflamed and weakened. My doctor thought that I perhaps had experienced a blocked saliva gland. As I suffer from a chronic autoimmune system illness my disease flared, inflammation set into my throat, and the muscles in that area weakened.
For the first four days I had difficulty to even take tiny sips of water through a straw without choking. On the evening of the forth day I was starving and made myself a cup of chicken soup broth. It took about 2 hours for me to eat approximately a half cup of this mixture.
On a Myositis support group website I was given some wonderful advice for those with muscular illness. One of the fellows who had recovered from a severe swallowing flare said. "Think of each eating session as exercise for your throat. Do not over stress the muscle but try to eat a little at a time to keep the muscle active just as you would with your other muscles."
My throat slowly improved and on Christmas day I was able to eat a small plate of Christmas dinner. Around the first week of January 2014 I could honestly say that I have recovered from this flare and am once again safe. Small diced pieces of cooked celery are still off my list of foods that I can consume and I wouldn't dream of eating stringy foods such as oranges or mozza cheese, but I can eat most foods once again.
Foods that I had found relatively easy to consume were: Scrambled eggs, yogurt, popcorn, raw broccoli (I have no idea why it went down okay), juices, and of course protein based smoothies which I dined on frequently during this illness flare. Wishing every person who visits this site optimum health and a wealth of blessings. Be strong. Be well.
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