Once your swallowing disorder has been evaluated and diagnosed, your physician and speech pathologist will formulate a plan of care to improve your swallowing function. This might include modifying your diet so that foods and liquid are easier to swallow, using head postures and other strategies to increase comfort and safety during meals, and initiating a course of individualized outpatient swallowing therapy. However, if your swallowing problem cannot be improved with therapy, you may need surgery. There are a variety of different options to make eating and drinking easier. Read on below for therapeutic and surgical options.
Therapeutic Treatments for Dysphagia
Swallowing therapy involves completing a variety of exercises to help strengthen the muscles of your tongue and throat so you can swallow more easily and safely. Clinician will typically see you for 4-6 sessions, 1 per week, to help you learn the exercises. It is important that you practice the exercises consistently at home in addition to work with your clinician. Our clinicians are trained in a range of both traditional and innovative therapy techniques.
A modified diet means altering the texture of foods and liquids to make them easier and safer to swallow. For example, if you’ve had surgery to treat head and neck cancer, you may need to eat very soft foods that are easier for you to chew. If you’ve had a stroke and have trouble with liquids going down the “wrong pipe” it may be helpful to drink thickened liquids. A modified diet will be recommended following a swallowing evaluation with a speech-language pathologist (SLP).
- Soft Solids, Mechanical Soft Diet: There are different names for this diet, but the basis is ensuring that foods are soft and very easy to chew. Food should be soft enough to mash with a fork, and it may be helpful to add extra sauce, gravy or butter to moisten foods. Avoid food that are hard, sticky, crunchy or dry.
- Puree Diet: This diet consists of foods that are blended or ground into a smooth consistency. You will need a blender and food processer to accomplish this.
- Full Liquid Diet: This diet includes foods that have been blended to liquid consistency. There should be no pieces or chunks of solid food. You will need a blender to liquefy your foods for this diet.