Do you struggle with chewing or swallowing your food properly?
Are you looking for a diet to help solve your problems?
Dysphagia is the inability to properly chew and swallow food, as well as liquids. It can be a very difficult condition to live with, but changing your diet can help a lot. Up to 15 million Americans are affected by the diet, so you’re not alone!
In this article, we take you through what a dysphagia diet is and what specific foods you are able to eat. We also explain how the diet can help you eat with greater confidence.
What Is the Dysphagia Diet?
There are two different types of dysphagia, and they each have different dietary constraints:
- Esophageal dysphagia
- Oropharyngeal dysphagia
With oropharyngeal dysphagia, the person struggles to actually move food and liquid to the back of the mouth. This is achieved by tightening your cheek muscles, while also pressing your tongue to the roof of your mouth.
Esophageal dysphagia occurs when a person is unable to get food past the esophagus. Once the food is at the point of the esophagus, it is a bodily reflex that allows it to pass through. That means you can’t consciously control it.
What happens in this process is the nasal airway is closed off, as well as the airway leading to the lungs. When this is done, the esophagus, or food pipe, is relaxed so that food and liquid can pass through.
Understanding dysphagia means understanding that there is not one dysphagia diet for everyone. Each dysphagia diet depends on the particular part of the chewing and swallowing process that an individual has difficulty with.
What Can I Eat?
There are three dysphagia diet levels. Each represents a different way of processing food to make it easier to consume. The National Dysphagia Diet levels were created by the American Dietetic Association (ADA) in 2002.
Dysphagia 1 Diet
This is also called Dysphagia-Pureed. As the name suggests, foods must be transformed into a puree substance so that chewing is not necessary.
Any foods can be consumed in this diet (even meat, for example). However, they must all be processed to a paste-like substance.
Dysphagia 2 Diet
This is called the Dysphagia-Mechanical Altered diet by the ADA. Foods in this category need to be chewed, but it should be easy to chew them.
For this reason, dysphagia-2 foods need to be soft and moist. As examples, the diet may include fish, eggs, soft cheese, and pasta.
Dysphagia 3 Diet
Also called the Dysphagia-Advanced diet by the ADA, these foods need to be soft, but not as soft as level 2.
Foods in this diet may include harder substances like meat and bread. However, what is most important is that the food is prepared in a way to make it easier to chew. For example, meat can be cooked in a stew.
Your Diet Is Personal
Hen working out what you can eat in your dysphagia diet, it’s important to remember that you choose the right foods for you. Other people with dysphagia may be able to eat some foods that you can’t, while others may not eat foods that you can.
Everyone’s body works differently and there are a lot of different mechanical differences between types of dysphagia. So, work out what works for you and then stick to it.
You’ve got your dysphagia diet sorted out now, so why not think about other ways you can improve your health. Have a look at some more of our great health articles!