Senior Living


Health & Spirit

Hard to Swallow

Doug Mayberry on

Q: I came down with a serious case of pneumonia two years ago and, thankfully, got better. Unfortunately, my doctor found out that one of the reasons behind my sickness was my problem with swallowing.

In the last few years, I've been struggling to get food down and have turned away from eating. Mealtimes take forever, and I often find myself choking. As a result, I've lost a lot of weight.

I know I should be eating more, but I no longer enjoy eating. On the other hand, my weight loss is not healthy.

What can I do?

A: Create a plan for success that will enable you to eat a healthy diet.

Even though you are struggling with these changes to your body, you can still enjoy life. Find positive ways to adjust to change instead of resigning yourself.


First, figure out with your doctor the severity of your dysphagia (swallowing issue). There are many potential causes for dysphagia (both neural and muscular), but specialists can use an imaging test to figure out more about your issue and help develop a treatment plan.

Your doctor may recommend mouth exercises to strengthen the muscles involved in swallowing or surgery to enlarge your throat. One simple but overlooked solution is to use smaller eating utensils to encourage smaller bites.

There are special diets for people with a dysphagia condition. A mild dysphagia diet recommends taking smaller bites and avoiding hard, crunchy or sticky foods. A moderate dysphagia diet recommends only soft and moist-textured foods (these generally don't require a knife). Finally, a severe dysphagia diet recommends pureed food, the easiest texture to swallow.

Food is a very social and emotional part of our lives, and many people struggle with dietary changes, whatever the reason. Find ways to be successful and enjoy food that fits your needs. Aside from weight loss, keep an eye on potential malnutrition and dehydration.


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