Eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties

How we can help people with eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties

At SLT UK, we have a team of speech and language therapists who support individuals with eating, drinking and swallowing disorders which can also be referred to as dysphagia.

Eating, drinking and swallowing

Dysphagia is the term used for problems associated with eating, drinking or swallowing difficulties. Swallowing is a very complex mechanism and can take up to 50 muscles to initiate it. SLT UK will help to support individuals with eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties by providing advice, support and training to help them to eat and drink more effectively and as safely as possible.

What are eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties?

Eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties are when problems occur with eating, drinking or swallowing. This could be when someone has trouble swallowing certain liquids or a certain consistency of food. Some people may not be able to produce a swallowing reflex, this can often happen after a stroke.

People, who suffer from dysphagia, may aspirate food into the lungs, which can lead to recurrent chest infections. Coughing during a swallow is common as well as losing a lot of weight. The severity of difficulty will depend on the individual.

Stages of the normal swallow

Swallowing difficulties can occur during any of the three stages of swallowing:

Oral phase

The oral phase involves chewing food, whilst moving it to the back of the throat.

Pharyngeal phase

The pharyngeal stage involves the food being swallowed and squeezed down the throat, at the same time; the airway is closed off to stop food being aspirated or leading to choking.

Oesophageal phase

The oesophageal phase involves squeezing food or liquid through the oesophagus and into the stomach by the muscles at the top and bottom of the feeding tube relaxing and contracting.

What causes eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties?

Eating, drinking or swallowing difficulties may be caused by the following conditions:

What problems caused by eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties can SLT UK help with?

SLT UK can help with eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties. A speech and language therapist’s aim will be to help reduce the impact eating, drinking and swallowing problems have on someone’s life. If necessary nutrition and hydration may be the main focus as this can be compromised with swallowing difficulties.

A speech and language therapist will also be able to give advice to family and carers about certain aspects of feeding if needed. This may include mixing the correct consistency for drinks, when adding thickening agents.

Speech and language therapy can help to increase the confidence of those with swallowing difficulties as well as improve the quality of life of each of our patients with swallowing difficulties.

How does speech and language therapy help eating drinking and swallowing difficulties?

Speech therapists have specialist knowledge and skills in assessing and interpreting eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties. These skills allow the therapist to evaluate the individual’s swallow and create an appropriate treatment plan.

Safety of individuals is of utmost importance, and for this reason, people may require certain consistencies of food and follow a recommended plan and certain head and neck position when eating or drinking.

Dysphagia is the term used for individuals who experience difficulties with their eating, drinking and / or swallowing. Dysphagia can result from:

Dysphagia is a term used for a wide range of difficulties including difficulties swallowing certain foods and textures or being unable to swallow at all.

Speech and language therapy aims to support the individual with identifying the safest way for an individual to eat, drink and swallow with the aim to reduce food and drink entering the airway (aspiration).

What may eating, drinking and swallowing intervention involve?

The speech and language therapist will initially make an assessment of the individual which may involve observations of the individual having something to eat or drink and questions around the difficulties the individual has been experiencing. Speech and language therapy intervention will also include:

Strategies and techniques to support the individual with their eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties.

Educating the individual and relevant carers around the signs and symptoms of eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties for the management of long term conditions.

Information, advice and support around the recommendations provided.

Support for family members and carers around eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties.

If you feel you may benefit from speech and language therapy or would like any more information on our services please email office@slt.co.uk or call 0330 088 5643.

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