Dysphagia refers to any disorder in the swallowing process that does not allow food or fluid to pass safely from the mouth to the stomach. It is a common condition in many patient types, and might lead to aspiration, malnutrition and dehydratation.
How does it happen?
The mouth and tongue play a vital role in the swallowing process. If the muscles in the mouth or tongue become weaker or uncoordinated, there is a risk that food or drink that is swallowed may end up in the lungs rather than the stomach. This can have serious health consequences.
The medical management of dysphagia refers to dietary modifications (e.g special diet, nutrition and hydration regulation or feeding route choice) and/or pharmacologic treatment .
Food modifications are among the most widely used behavioural interventions in dysphagia management 1 and are mostly based on altering viscosity of food and liquids in order to:
- Alter the speed at which food passes through the pharynx
- Assist the patient in swallowing
- Reduce the risk of aspiration
- Provide optimum nutrition and hydration
The importance of consistent viscosities
For people with swallowing difficulties it is important that thickened food and fluids maintain their consistency in the mouth.
Standard starch-based thickening powders are sensitive to the amylase enzyme in saliva in the mouth. The salivary a-amylase enzyme breaks down carbohydrates (starch), which may lead to thinning of the drink and patients not receiving the safe prescribed viscosity. It is well-accepted in scientific literature that intake of boluses with an increased viscosity reduces the occurrence of aspiration [2,3].
How Nutricia Can Help?
To help people with dysphagia, NUTRICIA offers a range of thickener and pre-thickened drinks and Oral Nutritional Supplements. In case of personal questions concerning your diet, ask your doctor or dietitian.
 Groher ME, Bukatman R. The prevalence of swallowing disorders in two teaching hospitals. Dysphagia 1986 1. 3-6.
 Shama F and Sherman P (1973). Identification of stimuli controlling the sensory evaluation of viscosity II oral methods. J Text Stud. 1973; 4(1): 111-118.
 Kuhlemeier KV, Palmer JB, and Rosenberg D. Effect of liquid bolus consistency and delivery method on aspiration and pharyngeal retention in dysphagia patients. Dysphagia. 2001; 16: 119-122.
 Oudhuis A., Vallons K., Sliwinski E. Effect of human saliva on the consistency of thickened foods for patients with dysphagia. Abstract First Annual ESSD Meeting Sep 2011 Leiden, Netherlands.