Dysphagia Nutrition: Preventing Dehydration When Using Thickeners
For patients who suffer from dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, food and liquid thickeners can increase safety and intake. Dysphagia has many causes, including Parkinson’s disease and traumatic brain injuries. However, it is also part of the aging process as the body’s ability to function declines. This is why dysphagia and nutrition is important and prevalent among the elderly population.
However, those who suffer from swallowing problems are at a higher risk for dehydration. There are many thickeners available, such as Thick-It and ThickenUp, to mix with liquids to prevent aspiration upon intake. With these products available, why are dysphagia patients not getting enough fluids?
The clinical answer is non-compliance. These patients are simply not ingesting the recommended amount of fluids needed per day to prevent dehydration. However, to treat and prevent this complication, it is necessary to understand the reasons behind this non-compliance.
- Altered flavor and texture of the beverage
- Inconvenience of adding thickeners to liquids
- Low “oral satisfaction” or quench of thirst
- Premature satiety due to thickness
Many companies provide products that ease some of these difficulties. As you will find in our product
selection, Thick-it offers a variety of pre-thickened beverages to increase convenience. Nestle’s ThickenUp markets a “clear” product that lessens the change in flavor when added to beverages. ThickenUp Clear also mixes better and doesn’t continue to thicken upon standing, thus creating a more acceptable texture.
The National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders offers other tips to help prevent dehydration in dysphagia patients:
- Use a Xanthum Gum thickening agent (such as ThickenUp Clear) in water and freeze in ice-cube trays. Use these ice-cubes in their drinks.
- Use Xathum Gum thickeners to create popsicles. Add them to products such as Gatorade or Pedialyte and freeze them in popsicle molds.
- Choose foods with a higher natural water content such as pureed fruits, soups, yogurts, and puddings.
By listening to the patient’s preferences and choosing the proper products, the dehydration incidence among those with dysphagia can improve.