Difficulty swallowing is called dysphagia, in medical jargon. It can be a common side effect for people with cancer, especially head and neck cancers. Some people have trouble swallowing liquids, some have trouble with solid foods, and some have trouble with both.
Be sure to talk with your doctor, speech language pathologist, and dietitian to determine what your needs are.
Difficulty swallowing liquids
If you or your loved one is having trouble swallowing liquids, you can add thickening agents to the liquid to make it thicker so that it is able to slide down the throat. There are various levels of thickness, and the directions on the thickeners are very easy to follow. You can thicken any liquid from milk to juice to tea.
Difficulty swallowing food
If the trouble is with swallowing solid foods, try eating softer foods, such as:
- mashed potatoes
Some people can handle soft foods like cooked broccoli and baked apples, while others need pureed foods, like mashed potatoes and smoothies.
Another option is to take the cooked food that your family is eating and use a blender to puree it. You may need to add some broth to make it a bit thinner for the blending.
For ideas on adding calories when you find it difficult to eat, check out this article:
What to eat when you don’t feel like eating.
Other tips for nutrition are to blend vegetables into soups and to opt for nutritional puddings, if necessary. Check out this banana pudding made with a nutrition supplement drink!
- Talk to your doctor, speech language pathologist and dietitian about your swallowing needs
- Add thickening agents to liquids
- Try eating softer foods like applesauce, mashed potatoes or oatmeal
- Blend veggies into soups and use nutritional puddings