What does swallowing difficulties mean?
Swallowing problems are also referred to as dysphagia (literally means hard to eat). It’s usually caused by something in the esophagus and less frequently by something in the throat. In case of dysphagia, you’ll have the feeling that your food is stabbing in your throat or chest. Swallowing normally goes automatically and you don’t even have to think about it. However, there are people who have big swallowing problems.
Swallowing impairment because of the esophagus are caused by a.o.: a tumor (benign or malignant), scars caused by irradiation for cancer, stenosis of the esophagus by scar tissue, by gastric acid that flows into the esophagus and causes an inflammation, by impaired esophageal muscles, by old age or by diseases such as scleroderma or achalasia.
Therefore, the following symptoms may occur: sore throat, gurgling, bad breath, pain when swallowing, burping, persistent coughing, feeling of pressure or pain in the chest.
When the cause lies in the throat, it’s very difficult to get the food from the mouth into the upper part of the esophagus. This is often caused by an impairment of the throat muscles due to a stroke or nerve and muscle disorder, such as Parkinson's disease or muscular dystrophy. Complaints that are common, are coughing during swallowing, choking, body weight loss, hoarseness, fluids coming through the nose.
The role of the dietitian
The dietitian can assess/calculate the current dietary intake to see if there are any nutrient deficiencies because the appetite for food (pain, difficult, tired) has decreased. The dietician will make a bespoke nutritional advice, taking the complaints into account. She will also give tips on how to digest the food better, such as chewing a lot on the food, using liquid meals such as soup or porridge, binding liquid products so that choking occurs less often. Lastly, she will optimize the nutritional state and maintain this through proper monitoring and evaluation meetings.
With what can we help you?
One of our dieticians has been involved in the development of the protocol "Frail Elderly". This makes us one of the first to be informed of any new developments.
We can set up a good nutritional advise to supplement any shortages or to just maintain your current nutritional status. We can also give you all sorts of advices to reduce your symptoms. For example, by thickening your food, it will get less likely that you’ll choke. Also, by making you meals more energetic, you’ll have to take less, which makes finishing your meal less tiring.