Having Trouble Swallowing? Strategies for Staying Hydrated.

When you have trouble taking foods and liquids by mouth, it can be especially challenging to get enough hydration. People who must consume thickened liquids are often put-off by the flavor and texture of older, starch-based thickeners. New xanthan gum-based thickeners like ThickenUp® Clear taste better, mix easily and don’t continue to thicken upon standing.

Convenience is also an important factor in getting enough to drink. It is easier to just “grab and go” water, juices and other beverages that have been thickened in bulk and kept readily available in the refrigerator. Commercially prepared thickened beverages provide a consistent supply of thickened liquids but can be a bit more expensive than thickening liquids at home.

Individuals who have limited mobility and who have dysphagia are at high risk for dehydration because they must depend on others to meet their need for liquids. Keeping cool thickened beverages within arms-reach is essential but can be a challenge. One solution is to make ice cube with water that has been thickened to the proper consistency with a xanthan gum thickener, like ThickenUp® Clear and then using the ice cubes in drinks kept within easy reach. Do not make ice cubes with starch-thickened water because they brake-down into particles as they melt, causing an unsafe texture. “Regular” ice cubes are dangerous for people on thickened liquids because, as they melt, they thin-out the consistency of the beverage.

Eating foods like soups, smoothies, yogurt and other foods that naturally have a high liquid content can also help to combat dehydration. “Perfectly Safe Popsicles” are also a great way to encourage hydration. If you want the recipe, send me an email: laura@dysphagiasupplies.com.

What are some recommendations you might have for staying hydrated? Please share in the “comment” section of this blog.

As mentioned in a previous blog: dehydration can be exacerbated by the use of diuretics, laxatives, antidepressants, certain antibiotics and other medications. Please consult your Pharmacist about your specific medications if you have questions or concerns.

 Dehydration can be very serious. Severe dehydration can lead to hospitalization.

The key to preventing dehydration is simple: Avoid it. Be aware of what you are drinking and consume more liquids!

Water is an essential element for sustaining life. The human body is composed of more than 60% water.

Without water, we won’t survive for more than a few days.

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2 Comments on “Having Trouble Swallowing? Strategies for Staying Hydrated.”

  1. joan says:

    Hi, is there a thickener for liquid that does not break down so quickly with saliva? I use thick-it one and two with a client. (She has had several barium tests in her years). She has pudding thick liquids. She has trouble controlling her tongue as well (dementia). As soon as I put a little of her drink in her mouth, it starts to break down and drips out of her mouth. What little stays solidified falls out of her mouth. Any suggestions would be helpful. Thank you.

    • Hello Joan. Life on pudding-thick liquids can be a real challenge. I would suggest using a gum-based thickener like Simply Thick because it won’t break-down in the mouth. Starch thickeners, like Thick-It, are broken down in the mouth because the enzymes in our saliva begin digesting starches as soon as they hit our mouth. Liquids thickened with a gum-based thickener as digested in the intestine. Liquids thickened with gum-based thickeners tend to be more slippery, which makes them move through the mouth easier. You may find this a “plus” for your client.

      A few more thoughts:

      1. Hydration can also be achieved through eating “broth-y” foods, like soup or smoothies. Do you find that this client has better control of food than pudding-thick liquid? I am assuming that she is on a puree diet which means her soups and smoothies need to be a consistent pudding-like consistency. No chunks or solids.

      2. An easy tongue-strengthening exercise is to allow her to suck on a lollipop (allowing the tongue to move around the candy) as someone holds onto the stick. Because she has dementia, do not allow her to hold the stick. Someone else has to hold the stick. It is also wise to use a sugar-free lollipop because sugar will increase the incidence of tooth decay and bacteria in the mouth. Has a speech therapist suggested a lollipop as an exercise?

      3. Please make sure that she is sitting as up-right as possible when she is eating or drinking. Being in the proper position for swallowing helps a lot.

      4. Make sure that the beverages are either safely hot or pleasantly cold. The sensation of temperature on the tongue and in the mouth, helps initiate the swallow.

      Hope this helps!


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