Articles & News

Safe Swallowing Strategies and Resources

An elderly female in a yellow sweater holds a glass of thickened orange juice to her lips as she smiles across the table to her husband

Did you know? It takes 50 pairs of muscles and three different stages—oral, pharyngeal, and esophageal—to move food from the mouth to the stomach.[i] According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, “dysphagia occurs when there is a problem with the neural control or the structures involved in any part of the swallowing process.”[ii]

One in 17 people will experience a swallowing difficulty in their lifetime.[iii] Often caused by another serious condition such as stroke, ALS, head or neck cancer, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Disease, a dysphagia diagnosis exacerbates an already stressful and frightening situation. When eating and drinking become difficult, patients are at risk for choking or aspiration pneumonia, as well as dehydration and malnutrition.[iv]

General signs and symptoms of a swallowing disorder include:

  • Coughing during or right after eating or drinking
  • Wet- or gurgle-sounding voice during or after eating or drinking
  • Food or liquid leaking from the mouth or getting stuck in the mouth
  • Recurring pneumonia or chest congestion after eating
  • Reduced enjoyment of eating or drinking

Fortunately, there is hope for those struggling with swallowing disorders. Ed Steger, president of the National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders, says: “Swallowing safely for someone with dysphagia requires diligence and focus… A speech-language pathologist specializing in swallowing disorders can assist those with dysphagia in establishing a safe swallow routine.”

In addition to working with a speech-language pathologist, there are several other ways dysphagia patients and caregivers can work to create a safe and pleasant meal for all—before, during, and after a meal. For example, finding products made specifically for modified diets—such as the Thick-It® brand’s suite of foods, beverages, and thickeners—making sure the patient is sitting upright at mealtime, and creating a quiet, well-lit, comfortable atmosphere, are just a few of the ways to help dysphagia patients dine with dignity. For these tips and more, download our free, easy-to-read infographic on safe swallowing.

As education is central to the Thick-It® brand’s mission, patients and caregivers can find additional resources and learn more about our products specifically developed for people with dysphagia at Thick-It®.com.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have about the use of Thick-It® products.  The information contained herein is general and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment in any manner.

[i] National Institute of Health Publication No. 13-4307: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. “Dysphagia”
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Chattanooga Group, “Dysphagia Fact Sheet”, 2005,
[iv] Sara Tagliaferri, “The risk of dysphagia is associated with malnutrition and poor functional outcomes in a large population of outpatient older individuals.” Clinical Nutrition, Science Direct, 2018,

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