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The Ideal Diet for Dysphagia Depends on the Severity of Your Symptoms

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pureed food for dysphagia

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  • Preparing a diet plan for your dysphagia depends on the underlying condition, as well as your current swallowing strength
  • Increase your consumption of vegetables because they are low in carbohydrates, which can help reduce the production of stomach acid

Preparing a diet plan for your dysphagia depends on the underlying condition, as well as your current swallowing strength. In 2002, the American Dietetic Association put together a team of researchers to help come up with a "standardized multilevel dysphasia diet" intended to help those who are dealing with this common disorder.

Called the National Dysphagia Diet Task Force (NDDTF), they came up with a plan called the National Dysphagia Diet (NDD) that is subdivided into levels to help sufferers make sound food choices despite having swallowing difficulties:1,2

  • Level 1 (Dysphagia Pureed) — This includes foods that are pureed or smooth and don’t need chewing. Examples include yogurt, soups and pulped vegetables, mashed fruits and pureed meats.
  • Level 2 (Dysphagia Mechanically Altered) — Foods that fall under this category need some effort to chew, such as cooked fruits and vegetables that are neither fibrous nor rubbery, and easy-to-chew meats, cheese and eggs.
  • Level 3 (Dysphagia-Advanced) — Made for people with mild dysphagia, these include foods that require more energy to chew. The foods should be moist and in bite-sized pieces when served. Examples include soft peeled berries or fruits, tender meat (thinly sliced) and shredded vegetables like lettuce.

Your doctor will determine which NDD level is appropriate for you, plus what foods you’re allowed to eat. In general, pureeing organic whole foods is preferred because they allow you to meet your daily nutritional requirements while you receive treatment for the underlying disease.

If You Have GERD, Focus Your Diet on Vegetables, Non-Citrus Fruits and Lean Meats

People who have gastroesophageal disease (GERD) commonly develop heartburn, which is a burning feeling in the middle of your chest. This happens when stomach acids go back up the esophagus, an organ that cannot tolerate acidity.3

To help lessen your chances of another acid reflux episode, it’s important to avoid certain foods that are known to trigger GERD. For example, spicy foods have been found to be associated with GERD symptoms, but there are conflicting reports saying that although they do aggravate the burning sensation and abdominal pain, these foods may help improve the symptoms in the long run.4 If you find that spicy foods are a trigger for your GERD symptoms, then it’s best to avoid them.

Other trigger foods include chocolate, tomatoes and citrus fruits, coffee, peppermint, onion and garlic, along with carbonated beverages.5

Instead, increase your consumption of vegetables because they are low in carbohydrates, which can help reduce the production of stomach acid. Healthy options include broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, and various leafy greens.6

Non-citrus fruits should also be included to promote a well-balanced diet. Apples, pears and melons are nutritious choices to consider to mitigate GERD.7 As for meats, make sure to choose lean cuts because high-fat cuts can cause heartburn, as they stay longer in the stomach.8 Chicken, turkey and fish like wild-caught Alaskan salmon can be consumed grilled, broiled, baked or poached.

Additional Tips to Help You Eat Better While Receiving Treatment for Dysphagia

People affected with dysphagia are at risk of aspiration, a condition wherein food or liquid enters your lungs by accident.9 To prevent this from happening, you need to adopt ergonomic eating habits to make sure you get your daily nutritional requirements and avoid regurgitation.

Whenever you drink or eat, make sure to sit upright with your back straight. Alternate between food and liquids to allow your esophagus to move them down quicker, and stay still for 30 minutes after your meal. If you’ve developed the symptoms of aspiration, such as excess saliva, shortness of breath, coughing and a wet-sounding voice, go to a doctor as soon as possible.10

MORE ABOUT DYSPHAGIA

Dysphagia: Introduction

What Is Dysphagia?

Dysphagia Symptoms

Dysphagia Causes

Dysphagia Treatment

Dysphagia Prevention

Dysphagia Diet

Dysphagia FAQ


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