Eating and Swallowing


Jeff Searle, MS, Department of Hearing and Speech
Kansas University Medical Center

SETTING:

  1. Quiet, relaxed atmosphere.
  2. Avoid eating when tired, upset or stressed.
  3. Good lighting so that all food items can be seen.
  4. Avoid talking while eating/swallowing.

POSTURE:

  1. Sit upright for all meals, snacks or drinks.
  2. Swallow with the head tilted down so that the chin points to the chest (a pillow or rolled towel behind the head may be helpful for keeping the head in this position).
  3. Stay seated upright for 20-30 minutes after a meal or snack.
  4. Experiment to find the best way to minimize head movements. Resting the elbows on the table with the chin resting in the palm of the hands may work best.
MEAL DURATION:
  1. Eat several (4-6) smaller meals throughout a day rather FREQUENCY than three large ones.
  2. Eat slowly, pausing between bites and sips (for some people tapping the table with the spoon between bites helps them remember to go slower)
  3. Try to keep meals 25 minutes long or less.
SIZE OF BITE/SIP:
  1. Small bites (1/2 tsp. or less) are usually easier.
  2. Some people find drinking from a straw easier than sipping from a cup (if a straw is easier, consider using a flexible one-way straw; if a cup is easier, consider using a "nosey" cup that is double handled and made of durable plastic).
FOODS AND LIQUIDS:
  1. Soft, blended or pureed foods are generally easier to swallow. Avoid dry, tough and stringy foods.
  2. Thickened liquids (honey to milk-shake consistency) are generally easier to swallow. A commercial thickener can be purchased which allows you to thicken, any liquid to any consistency desired.
  3. Avoid acidic and spicy foods. If aspirated, these types of food are more likely to cause a pneumonia.
  4. Start a food diary to keep track of what you ate I what strategies you tried and how easy/difficult it was to swallow.
PRECAUTION: Learn to do the Heimlich maneuver.

(Note: the above are general suggestions; actual recommendations may vary from person-to-person. Check with a speech pathologist to help in devising the best "swallowing plan" for you or the one you are caring for.


You may wish to check out The Non-Chewing Cook Book by J. Randy Wilson
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Suggestions and comments are welcome. Please mail them to me at: Dubinsky@kuhub.cc.ukans.edu