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Lifestyle Adjustments to Manage Dysphagia

Dysphagia affects between 300,000 and 700,000 people in the United States. The condition, characterized by difficulty swallowing, significantly impacts daily life. It can also lead to serious complications like malnutrition, dehydration, and aspiration pneumonia. 

By adopting certain lifestyle habits, like mindful eating and reduction in meal size, you or your loved one with dysphagia can manage the condition more effectively. 

Here are some lifestyle recommendations provided by Dr. Bharat Pothuri, our gastroenterologist here at GastroDoxs, to help you live more normally and comfortably with dysphagia.

Eat more mindfully

People with dysphagia benefit from eating slowly, which involves taking small, manageable bites and thoroughly chewing any food before swallowing. Rushing through meals can make swallowing difficulties worse and increase the risk of choking or aspiration.

Chose soft, moist foods

Choosing softer, moist foods can make swallowing easier when you have dysphagia. Incorporate cooked vegetables, ripe fruits, yogurt, and pudding into your daily diet. These foods are gentler on the throat and require less effort to swallow compared to dry or tough textures.

Modify food textures

Simply changing a food's texture can go a long way in improving the ease of swallowing it. For those with dysphagia, pureeing or mashing foods can make them safer and more manageable to swallow. Experiment with different textures to find what works best for you or your loved one. Also consider a food’s thickness and consistency.

Stay hydrated

Adequate hydration promotes good overall health, and it optimizes swallow function. If you have dysphagia, consistently sip water regularly throughout the day, as dehydration can worsen swallowing difficulties. 

Also be mindful of the consistency of any fluids you consume, as thin liquids can be harder for people with dysphagia to handle. Thicker liquids like nectar-thickened juices may be easier to swallow safely. Dr. Pothuri can recommend special thickeners to stir into liquids to make them the right consistency.

Pay attention to your posture

Your posture can significantly influence your swallowing function. Sit upright while eating and drinking, as this helps the smooth passage of food and liquids through the throat. Avoiding reclined positions during meals can minimize the risk of aspiration and improve overall swallow coordination.

Have small, frequent meals

Rather than eating large meals, opt for smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. This approach can help prevent fatigue in your swallowing function. Smaller portions are also easier to manage and less taxing on the throat.

Professional support for those struggling with dysphagia is also important. At GastroDoxs, we offer personalized strategies, exercises, and dietary recommendations for each patient’s specific needs and swallowing abilities. 

Please reach out to our team at GastroDoxs to schedule an appointment. We welcome patients with dysphagia and want to help them live fuller, healthier lives.

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