If you’ve been prescribed thickened liquids and you miss eating ice cream and other frozen treats, this video will help you
For people living with swallowing disorders, it is unsafe to drink “regular” liquids. Mixing an instant food thickener into beverages is the most common, but unsatisfying, way to make liquids safe for swallowing.
Getting proper hydration is critically important to health, recovery and living. Implementing a care plan for thickened liquids is challenging but possible, even at home.
Starch-based instant food thickeners like ThickIt®, Thick & Easy® and ThickenUp® tend to be the most affordable options but they add a noticeable “starchy” taste to liquids. Starch-based thickeners react differently to different liquids. Liquids high in acid, like juice and coffee, thicken quickly and may continue to thicken as they sit. Starch thickeners also make milk look unappealing because they thicken the water component, separating the milk fat, protein and minerals making the milk look almost curdled. They work great for making a slurry but you can’t thicken carbonated beverages (or wine) with them.
Liquid xanthan gum-based gel thickeners, like SimplyThick®, are a better tasting option for thickening liquids but these gel thickeners don’t mix easily into liquids with a spoon. You need to either shake or whisk it into a liquid or it will not be completely smooth. Xanthan gum-based gel thickeners are about three times more expensive per serving than both starch-based and xanthan gum-based powdered thickeners.
Fortunately, powdered xanthan gum thickeners are becoming more widely available. The first xanthan gum powdered thickener on the market is ThickenUp® Clear. I am so excited about this product! It is a convenient powder and it mixes easily into liquids with just a spoon. Best of all, it has no flavor. When I it mixed into water, I could taste nothing but water. I mixed it into orange juice and milk and the results were smooth and tasted just like orange juice and milk. When I mixed it into hot tea, it thickened more than expected but it was easily remedied by add a little more water or milk. I didn’t try it in a carbonated beverage but I did try it in wine and it was the perfect consistency and added no flavor.
The only downside I see to powdered xanthan gum-based thickeners is that they are slightly more expensive than starch-based thickeners but think they are worth the slightly additional cost.
Like all thickeners, you must allow the both the gel and powdered thickeners to completely disperse and thicken into the liquid before you drink it. Those five minutes can seem like a very long time when you are thirsty so I recommend mixing liquids in bulk and keeping them in the refrigerator. Make sure to mark the container and drink the beverages within 24 hours. Shake or stir the thickened liquid before serving. If, the liquid had become is thicker than you need after it has been refrigerated, add more liquid to make it the proper consistency.
In the meantime, if you are living with a swallowing disorder, you now have better options. If you want to thicken your own beverages you have a choice of thickeners.
The texture of thickened liquids is tough to get over, though you do get used to it. Drinking thickened liquids that have a starchy taste is really tough. Pre-thickened beverages taste better and are convenient. Drinking a beverage thickened with a “Clear” thickener is a revelation!
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.
Summer’s warm temperatures and increased humidity can cause dehydration more quickly than during other seasons. No matter what time of year, it is important to stay properly hydrated!
10 Warning Signs of Dehydration:
Thirst. If you are feeling thirsty, you are already dehydrated!
- Dry Mouth. Some medications can add to the sense of dry mouth, reduce saliva production and exacerbate the problem.
- Fatigue. If you feel tired after activity or in the afternoon, you may be dehydrated.
- Dizziness. Feeling light-headed or having vertigo is signs of moderate dehydration.
- Depression or Irritability. If you are feeling a case of the blues or find yourself snapping at people for no reason, you may be dehydrated. Dehydration can cause unwanted behaviors in people with Dementia.
- Dark or Cloudy Urine. If your urine isn’t clear, you are dehydrated. The darker the color of your urine, the more severe your dehydration.
- Difficulty going to the bathroom. Constipation is a common symptom of chronic dehydration.
- Changes in Skin. Flushed, or slightly red, skin is symptom of acute dehydration. Dry skin can be a symptom of chronic dehydration.
- Nausea. Often, if you feel nauseated, you won’t feel like drinking anything BUT it is necessary for treating and preventing dehydration. If you feel nauseated, take small sips of cool, not cold, water.
- Rapid Breathing. Rapid breathing is a sign of severe dehydration and is often accompanied by a rapid heartbeat. If you are experiencing rapid breathing and an increased heartbeat, seek medical attention.
If you experience any of the warning signs, drink sips of cool water to avoid nausea and vomiting.
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 food thickeners like ThickenUp® Clear taste better, mix easily and don’t continue to thicken on standing.
Convenience is also 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 are kept readily available in the refrigerator. Commercially prepared pre-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 cubes 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 in kept within easy reach. You cannot make ice cubes with starch-based thickeners because they break-down into particles as they melt, causing an unsafe texture.
Eating foods like soups, pureed fruits, yogurt, pudding and other foods that have a high liquid content can also combat dehydration. Another way to get an even more refreshing hydration is to enjoy popsicles made from fruit juices, sweetened drinks or products like Gatorade® or Pedialyte® that have been thickened to the proper consistency with ThickenUp® Clear. Popsicle molds are inexpensive and are available at stores like Target and Wal-Mart.
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!
If you want more help and advice, please contact me: Laura@dysphagiasupplies.com