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Swallowing Tips

Swallowing Food Or Drink

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Tips that have helped people swallow food or drink include the following:

General Tips To Help Swallow Food or Drink

  • Sit upright in a chair or stand. (Sitting in a chair is preferable to sitting in bed).
  • Take your time. Don't be rushed.
  • Try "effortful swallowing." This means consciously making each swallow more forceful than normal.
  • Consider tucking in your chin by lowering it slightly toward your chest.

Tips To Help When Swallowing Food Is Difficult

  • Limit bite sizes, for example, to one half inch or less.
  • Chew the bite well before swallowing. Some professionals use a rule of thumb that you should chew food until it becomes a mass of pasty consistency.
  • Swallow the bite before moving on to another. It may help to put down your eating utensils between bites as a reminder to swallow before moving on to the next bite.
  • Soft or liquid foods may be easier to swallow. For example: soups, cooked cereal, baby food, scrambled or fried eggs, cottage cheese, pasta (cut up).
  • Get nourishment in liquid form. For example, from milkshakes, smoothies or meal replacement beverages such as Ensure.
  • Watch for foods which have different consistencies. For example, cereal usually is consumed with both the cereal and milk in a single bite. You may do well with the solid food, but not the liquid. If this works, you can prepare foods for more consistency. For example, letting cereal sit in the liquid for a while to soften it before eating. Or you can blend or puree foods.
  • Avoid foods that could irritate sensitive tissues such as anything hot, spicy or acidic.Coarse, dry foods such as crackers or nuts might also be a problem. They can scratch the lining of the esophagus.

For recipes for easy to swallow foods, consider the following:

  • offsite link
  • National Cancer Institute's: Eating Hints for Cancer Patients, Before, During & After Treatment, NIH Publication No. 03-2079, available for free at: offsite link
  • Easy-to-Swallow, Easy-to-Chew Cookbook: Over 150 Tasty and Nutritious Recipes For People Who Have Difficulty Swallowing by Donna L. Weihofen, JoAnne Robbins, and Paula A. Sullivan, New York, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2002

If swallowing becomes so difficult that malnourishment occurs, an option is a feeding tube which can be inserted through the nose (nasgastric feeding tube) or a feeding tube that can be inserted through a small incision in the abdomen into the stomach (gastric feeding tube). Speak with your doctor.

Tips To Help When Swallowing Liquid Is Difficult

  • Limit the amount of liquid you take with each swallow.
  • Thicken thin fluids if necessary. Thickening fluids allows more time for throat muscles to do their job. Natural thickeners include cornstarch, flour (especially tapioca flour), instant potato flakes, oats.
  • Avoid liquids that could irritate sensitive tissues such as anything hot or acidic.

Tips about swallowing pills: Click here.

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