Dysphagia: What is it and How Can it be Managed?

The medical term dysphagia refers to difficulties with swallowing food, liquid, or medicine. It is a daunting condition that results in weight loss, dietary deficiencies, and sometimes, pneumonia. However, there are various ways to manage the condition, including the use of swallowing therapy, specialized thickeners, and medication. Read on for a guide to managing this difficult condition.

Growing Concerns

The effects of dysphagia can impact patients of any age, yet infants and the older generations are at more risk of death. It is more commonly associated with geriatric syndromes. Dysphagia increases in severity with age and more than 962 million patients aged 60 and over have been reported in American old-age care facilities. In the next 29 years, this figure will reach over 2 billion. With age comes natural bodily dysfunction and deterioration, and this ratio of the population is at significant risk of choking, poor nutrition, and other respiratory illnesses brought on by the condition.

Dysphagia Management

Since the very condition limits a patient to swallow medicine or consume food, liquid forms of treatment have to be followed to avoid the restriction of airflow. For food that can be cut into smaller pieces, patients may be able to consume a regular healthy diet. Some patients are unable to swallow anything unless in pure liquid form. 

Liquids such as water are called fast-moving, and with dysphagia patients, the liquid can move to other areas such as the pharynx and block the airway. This requires thickening agents to be included in all food to facilitate the slow-moving of liquid, better ensuring that it reaches its destination. Visit SimplyThick to find out about the different thickening agents used with xanthan gum.

Nutritional Benefits

Although thickening agents themselves do not hold sufficient nutritional value on their own, in combination with healthy soups, purees, and minced food it can significantly improve dysphagia patients’ dietary deficiencies and dehydration. It is the amalgamation of the right ratio of carbs, protein, and fat, in a consistency that is easy to control and swallow, that makes this product truly amazing. 

Recipes including xanthan gum, pectic, arrowroot, cornstarch, tapioca, and more hold more nutritional value as they are approved by the Food and Drug Association (FDA). There is a risk of synthetic ingredients being used, however, the benefits of utilizing thickening agents for dysphagia patients outweigh the possible contaminations.

Dysphagia patients need to consult with their general practitioner as well as a nutritionist to find the best and safest way to maintain a healthy weight and function. Food-drug interactions are also vital to consider if a patient is taking anticoagulants and antibiotics. For infants, this form of treatment is the most effective, as babies have less control over their bodily functions. The important part to remember is that there are options available so that these patients don’t need to suffer; rather, a new way of life must be carried forward. Consult the necessary healthcare providers and do your research, to ensure FDA-approved thickeners are being used with a healthy and balanced diet.

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