Dysphagia is a condition that causes trouble with swallowing food and liquid. It can sometimes occur on its own but is more likely to be a symptom of another underlying condition. Living with this condition can be difficult at times, and mealtimes can be stressful as it may be confusing for people with dysphagia to determine which foods are safe for them to eat and which are best avoided. If you have this condition, then your doctor or another relevant health professional will be able to recommend a dysphagia diet that can make it easier for you to eat with foods that are easier for you to handle. Some types of foods are more likely to pose a risk of choking for people with dysphagia. Some of the main foods to avoid with this condition include:
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Foods with a Fibrous or Stringy Texture
Foods that have a stringy or fibrous texture such as melted cheese, green beans, pineapple, or celery can be particularly difficult for somebody with dysphagia to chew and swallow, so these are best avoided when it comes to your diet. To make them easier to eat if you do want to try them, it is worth overcooking and blending them, to soften the texture and make them easier to chew and swallow while still getting all the nutrients.
Foods with a Mixed Consistency
Any foods that have more than one texture or consistency can be a challenge for people with dysphagia. They can be harder to chew and swallow due to the differences in texture. Some examples of foods in this category could include minced meat with a thin gravy, cereals that are crunchy and don’t blend well with milk, or soup with bread dipped into it. If you’re having trouble with chewing and swallowing mixed consistency foods, then you can use products to improve the balance between the consistencies and make them easier to eat. SimplyThick Easy Mix is a gel that you can add to soups, gravies, and other liquids to thicken it and make it easier to swallow.
Foods with Thick Skins, Pips or Seeds
Many vegetables and fruits are safe to eat for somebody with dysphagia as long as they are cooked and blended first. This is usually quite easy to do to make them safer and easier to chew and swallow and is a good way to make sure that you are eating a balanced and nutritious diet along with getting all the vitamins that you need from your food when you have this condition. However, it is important to be wary of any fruits and vegetables that contain seeds or pips, or if they have a thick skin that might be harder to chew. For example, grapes, tomatoes, and peas might be more difficult to chew and swallow compared to other fruits and vegetables, and they may be harder to blend to a smooth consistency.
Foods That are Crunchy or Crumbly
Foods that are crumbly or crunchy might pose a challenge to chew and swallow for somebody with dysphagia. It is best to avoid foods like this, including pastry crusts, toast, crisps, crackers, or biscuits, for example. These foods are also difficult to blend to a smoother consistency, so it may be worth removing them from your diet altogether due to the risk that they pose.
Foods with a Hard Texture
A soft diet is the best option for people with dysphagia as these foods are easier to chew and swallow compared to foods with a harder texture. It is recommended that people with dysphagia avoid eating hard foods such as seeds, nuts, boiled sweets, or tough meat as they can be particularly difficult to chew and swallow and may significantly increase your choking risk.
Foods with Husks
Food items that contain husks are not recommended for people with dysphagia since they are difficult to chew and swallow and increase the choking risk. A husk is the dry outer covering that you may find on some fruits, vegetables, and seeds. Multi-grain breads, for example, may include seeds with husks that can be particularly difficult to eat for people with dysphagia, along with vegetables like sweetcorn.
Adapting Your Diet
Along with knowing what foods are best avoided, it’s a good idea to understand how you can best adapt your diet to dysphagia and make sure that you are getting all the nutrients you need from foods that are easy for you to chew and swallow. Your doctor can help with personalized advice based on the severity of your condition. You will usually be advised to start out with softer foods that can be easily blended or pureed. Thickening agents can also be added to liquids to make them easier to swallow and prevent aspiration.
Dysphagia is a challenging condition that can make it difficult to eat certain foods. By knowing what types of food to avoid, you can ensure that mealtimes are less stressful.