How Are Swallowing Problems Treated?
Treatment depends on the type of swallowing problem you have. Sometimes, a swallowing problem will resolve itself without treatment. On other occasions, swallowing problems can be managed easily. Complex swallowing problems may require treatment by a specialist or several specialists.
If you have a chewing or swallowing problem there are several things you can do to make eating and drinking easier and safer, including:
- Sit upright at a 90-degree angle.
- Tilt your head slightly forward.
- Remain sitting upright or standing for 15 to 20 minutes after eating a meal.
- Minimize distractions in the area where you eat.
- Stay focused on the tasks of eating and drinking.
- Do not talk with food in your mouth.
Amount and rate
- Eat slowly.
- Cut food into small pieces and chew it thoroughly. Chew food until it becomes liquid in your mouth before swallowing.
- Do not try to eat more than 1/2 teaspoon of food at a time.
- You may need to swallow two or three times per bite or sip.
- If food or liquid catches in your throat, cough gently or clear your throat, and swallow again before taking a breath. Repeat if necessary.
- Concentrate on swallowing frequently.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Periodically suck on Popsicles, ice chips or lemon ice, or drink lemon-flavored water to increase saliva production, which will increase swallowing frequency.
- Minimize or eliminate foods that are tough to chew and eat more soft foods.
- Puree food in a blender.
- If thin liquids cause you to cough, thicken them with a liquid thickener (your speech pathologist can recommend one for you). You can also substitute thicker liquids for thin ones, such as nectar for juice and cream soup for plain broth.
- Crush pills and mix them with applesauce or pudding.
- Ask your pharmacist for his or her recommendations on which pills should not be crushed and which medications can be purchased in a liquid form.