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Food & Drink – Difficulty Swallowing

The well being and social interactions surrounding eating and drinking brings with it many positive emotions. When something stops us from being able to swallow food and drink easily it can affect our mood, as well as our bodies.

Food

Multi-textures

If we analyse the foods we eat daily we could count well over a hundred different textures on offer. Food textures range from very hard to airy. Advancing cooking and processing techniques bring more delicious textures year on year.

This scale moves from hard through crunch, crisp, chew, soft, liquid, mousse to airy. The degree to which each description may be applied varies, some foods are both hard and crisp while others might be soft and chewy, and so on. Foods may flow differently, vary in stickiness or break up easily in the mouth.

The textures and mouthfeel we experience while eating will give us feedback about the quality of the food. For example, if a biscuit is soft our initial feeling is that it is ‘off’, even before we taste the ‘off’ flavour. A soft potato crisp may taste good, however it will be much less enjoyed than a crunchy one. The sensations we experience while eating all add up to tell us if the food is good or bad. These are learned responses and greatly affect our appreciation of certain foods.

Texture modification

When a swallowing difficulty occurs, it may be easier and safer to eat foods of  a certain texture. Limiting foods that are difficult to manage, process or swallow is improves safety and allows more to be eaten. If you have ever had a tooth removed, you will understand that ‘normal’ textures can be hard to deal with.

If there is pain and restricted movement of the jaw a smooth pureed, soup style food will be much easier to manage. This texture will need less effort to be moved through the mouth. As a result more can be eaten as the muscles will take longer to fatigue.

We have found that almost all foods can be modified so that your ‘normal’ diet can be continued. Roast beef, fish and chips, curries, fajitas, spaghetti, pizza… All of these, and more, can be created at any texture.

The types of texture most needed will be soft, removing any hard, crunchy, crisp, crumbly or stringy pieces. A scale of appropriate textures would run from thin soups through thick purees into small diced pieces of varying sizes. They should move easily through the mouth at a speed that can be easily managed using the strength, stamina and control available.

The textures that give some foods their quality will be lacking in these modified meals. However the flavour will be.

Flavour

It is in the flavour of modified foods where their quality comes through. They can be delicious and taste just like the dishes they are. Your favourite meals are really achievable with a few easy processes and a few affordable bits of kit. You can cook from scratch if that how you like to do things. Alternatively, with a few hints, you can buy the right kinds of products that will allow you to have a varied and delicious diet.

If you are finding it difficult to eat normally seek advice from a medical professional.

Drinks

In some cases a thicker drink may well be easier to manage than thinner fluids, either temporarily or for the long term. Thicker drinks move more slowly and are less likely to cause coughing or go the wrong way into the lungs. Thicker drinks will be prescribed to improve safety.

Naturally, the thickness of drinks varies greatly; from thin water through to thick shakes and smoothies. Some of these match the thickness required for the different prescribed drinks textures and we will show you where these match up.

Where your favourite drink is no longer an appropriate texture we have helpful advice on how you can enjoy these at the thickness needed. Don’t be put off by the differences in texture, we can help you make your favourite drinks look and taste amazing.

If you are finding it difficult to drink normally seek advice from a medical professional.

In this section we will look at some simple modifications you can easily make.

Follow the links for recipes, hints and tips to get started and start to really enjoy you mealtimes again.