I Keep Choking When I Try To Swallow! Dysphagia Explained
Dysphagia, or swallowing difficulties, is a nuisance chronic illness sometimes brings as an additional problem. Avoiding certain things can help in managing this.
Have you ever choked on your own saliva when speaking?
Started violently coughing after attempting to eat a portion of your food?
I had no reason to think this was anything but myself attempting to eat too quickly or not paying attention to what I was doing and becoming distracted easily.
This was partially correct...
I finally brought these issues up at a doctor’s appointment, and learned that there was in fact a term for difficulty with swallowing, dysphagia.
The cause for me was still unknown, but it was clearly a side effect of a diagnosis that I had yet to label.
When Does Dysphagia Happen?
Difficulty swallowing can have various reasons for happening.
I know that since childhood I had issues swallowing medications whether in capsule form or chalky pill form.
I also had a very weak gag reflex that was sometimes absent.
There are medical tests that can measure the capability to swallow and specialities that focus on diet with consideration to these types of annoyances.
So what can make it harder to swallow?
Difficult Situations For Swallowing:
Dry food: It has been helpful to add a sauce to any type of dry protein (such as chicken or beef). I also make sure to have enough of a drink to “wash down” the food as I need to.
Hot beverages: I cannot tolerate hot beverages. This really upsets the process of swallowing due to my muscle weakness.
Thin Liquids: As with others that have reported “choking on water”, I share the experience. Avoiding thin liquids or adding a thicker (that you can request from your nutritionist) proved helpful.
Dry Mouth: Medical conditions can of course cause dry mouth, along with specific medications, dentures, and types of beverages.
GERD: Constantly swallowing weakens my muscles, so add this to an acid reflux and it makes it very difficult to swallow much of anything.
Active Infection: The first thought I have is “strep throat” and how it feels to swallow when experiencing this infection. Sometimes my glands in the area of my jawline can also play a role if swollen from infection. Thrush can make the tongue dry. Treating the infection can improve swallowing capabilities.
What Helps Me Swallow: Hacks
Similar to the issues listed above, the solutions for me are really to correct or modify those situations.
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Tilt Chin Down When Swallowing: This is a simple technique that has proved to be the MOST helpful. After chewing your food and when getting ready to swallow, tilt your chin downward and THEN swallow. It really works!
Add Sauce To Foods: This is not a healthy choice, but Ranch has become my go-to for all of my protein dishes. Healthier options are out there, I just have not transitioned just yet.
Thicken Liquids: Consult your nutritionist for this information. There are levels of “thick” and I definitely cannot tolerate some of them.
Fix Dry Mouth: My mouth is CONSTANTLY dry and this does not help the food move down. I have tried a spray before eating that helps most of the time.
Room temperature liquids: Sticking to a room temperature has alleviated the issues with swallowing that are due to extreme temperature change. I no longer put ice in my beverages, or let it water down a bit.
Smaller Bites: I cut all of my food in toddler size pieces to avoid any accidental swallows. Smaller meals also give my throat a short break.
Sit Up And Eating Position: Laying down and eating is never a good idea for digestion, and it also interrupts the flow of your swallow. Make sure you are sitting at at least a 90 degree angle and have proper support while eating a meal. I use a supportive device when eating from bed that is helpful.
Managing The Chronic Illness Or Cause: When I started treatment for my neuromuscular disorder, it greatly improved my swallowing capabilities. Although I still have “moments”, the over all improvement is around 60 percent.
I Mean... Does It Really Matter?
Most have heard the saying, “It went down the wrong pipe” or something of this nature.
What is the wrong pipe?
A risk of dysphagia is aspiration and cause health concerns that differ from your usual chronic condition.
Aspiration occurs when the food, liquid, saliva, is introduced to the airways in the “wrong pipe”.
This is a more common occurrence after surgeries, but also is a concern in the chronic illness community thanks to dysphagia.
This can actually cause a type of pneumonia and require antibiotics, and of course, a trip to the emergency room.
As I like to avoid visiting my second home, the emergency room, I find it easier to work on preventative measures to ensure I do not end up with food in an inappropriate area of my body.
It is important to have a plan in place if you find yourself having troubles swallowing, because there are different types of aspiration.
Embarrassing Moments With Dysphagia:
The mental side of dysphagia is the embarrassment experienced when choking on basically air, or realistically saliva.
I have tried to speak slower, avoid eating late at night ESPECIALLY when visiting a restaurant, and try to keep a drink around me for dry mouth relief.
If you have ever been in mid conversation during a meeting and start violently coughing, I can relate to this feeling.
The looks of others wondering if you are okay… this is something you don’t forget.
I have found that humor and the diversion of the event to help me the most, but that is just how I deal with the majority of chronic illness issues in general.
You have a chronic illness and when your body does not work it is to be expected.
Try to not give yourself such a hard time when this happens.
If you are having any problems with swallowing, make an appointment with your doctor.
This can turn into a dangerous event!
Sometimes we ignore or don't notice the smaller symptoms we experience.
I put dysphagia off until it became a serious issue.
It could have been prevented. I also would have had a clue to reach my diagnosis.
Even though this may seem to be a small issue, it is usually not.
There are several solutions such as therapies, learning how to avoid triggering situations, and of course figuring out why it's happening to begin with.
When we can resolve some of the smaller annoyances that come with chronic illness, it really does improve our quality of life... and isn't that the goal?
If you have any questions, please reach out!
Thank you for spending your non-flaring time with me today!!!
I hope your day is one of the better ones!
The C Spot does not offer any medical advice. If you are experiencing a medical emergency please seek the appropriate care. There are affiliate links mentioned in these articles and the founder receives compensation if purchased. For more info see the terms and conditions.