Suffering with dysphagia, a medical term for having difficulty swallowing, can make life harder in social settings. Many diagnosed with the disease are limited to eating only pureed or ‘pudding’ textured foods. As a result, trips to restaurants and bars might prove to be more of a challenge, with some avoiding such occasions completely. Here are some top tips for eating out when you have dysphagia to keep that social life thriving!
Take Your Time
If you are still able to enjoy some solid foods then take it smooth and steady, there’s no rush when you’re eating out since the whole point is about the company you are with anyway. Take small bites and chew your food properly, using the 32 bite method. It is said that digestion begins in the mouth with your saliva contributing to the first steps in breaking food down and chewing for longer means the easier it will be to swallow. Some items might need to be chewed for up to 40 bites, such as steak and nuts, however, if your dysphagia is quite severe, you might want to avoid these foods.
Focus on the Food
Although eating out is about socializing with your family and friends, you don’t need to try and juggle both at once. This could be a hazard since the muscles at the back of the throat will need to work harder to close off your breathing tube (trachea) while you are trying to ingest food down the eating tube (esophagus). Pause from conversation to take a bite and let your companion know that you can’t do both at once. Do this by asking if they would be patient enough to wait for you to finish eating before you continue the conversation.
Use a Liquid Thickener
If your dysphagia is quite severe, then even consuming liquids, let alone solid foods might put you at risk of aspiration. This is a condition where bacteria can enter the lungs via food or liquid accidentally, putting you at greater risk of lung infections, such as pneumonia. Swallowing thicker liquids might be easier to consume without aspirating them which can make life a lot easier when going out to a bar or restaurant. Products such as Simply Thick can be added to your usual beverage to thicken up their consistency and make them easier to swallow, without adding any extra flavor. This can be a lifesaver if you’ve been missing your weekly beer sessions with your buddies.
So, there is still an abundance of ways that you can still enjoy eating and drinking out with your friends and families while you’re living with this condition. The important thing to note is that whoever is joining you must understand that they will need to be patient and considerate to your new terms of socializing. Remember to enjoy the occasion, but take time to chew food properly, take breaks in-between conversation and thicken up your drinks if necessary.