Detox juices are very popular to help us cleanse the body and sort of hit that reset button. But what happens when we have dysphagia? Dysphagia is a swallowing disorder that makes it hard to swallow and puts you at high risk for aspiration (choking). If you, or a loved one, are concerned about drinking your detox (or any other liquids) then keep reading to learn some tricks.

Thicken The Liquid

Most people assume that a thin liquid, like water, would be easy to swallow when you have a swallowing disorder. Not true! A thin liquid is easier to aspirate on and this is why doctors and specialists will suggest a thickening agent for your drinking. John Holahan’s SimplyThick is one example of a thickener on the market that is designed for people with dysphagia. You can also find gums, powders, and flavorless gels in some pharmacies and medical supplies. It is a trial and error process because although most products come flavorless, there may be issues with a change to the flavor of your drink or powders that don’t dissolve well. You will need to try a few and see which ones work best for you.

Drink Your Vegetables

Dysphagia can manifest at different levels for each patient. While severe cases may need a spoon-thick drink (this is too thick for a straw), other cases are minor or moderate. Nectar-like is slightly thicker than apple juice or milk. Vegetable juices are a perfect example of a nectar-like thickness and are a great way to drink while getting your much-needed vitamins and minerals. Beet juice and carrot juice are the most popular options but you can try any veggie or combinations that you like. You can easily make these at home, but you need to be careful that there are no chunks in the drink that could cause you to aspirate. Smoothies also fall into the same thickness category, so if you have experience making smoothies then you should be fine. For those without the experience, you can find pre-made smoothies in stores that are of the correct thickness. It can also be a trial and error situation as well since not all companies follow the same recipes for thickness.

Take Care When It’s Time To Drink

Dysphagia patients are often on a drinking and eating schedule to ensure they are maintaining a healthy diet. When it comes time to drink, there are ways to drink carefully. When it is time to drink you should be sure that you are upright. Use pillows to keep your posture upright so that the liquid can make it down your throat with some ease. It is often helpful to switch between eating and drinking, it sounds contradictory, but it exercises different muscles and can make the “chore” of drinking and eating a bit easier. You don’t have to eat a big meal, just a small snack would be sufficient. After you drink, stay upright for 30 minutes. If you lay down, it is possible to begin aspirating. The signs for aspirating is not always so obvious! Look out for these symptoms:

  • Coughing or wheezing after drinking/eating
  • Too much saliva in your mouth
  • Shortness of breath after drinking/eating
  • Feeling tired or exhausted after drinking/eating
  • A “wet-sounding” voice during or after drinking/eating
  • A fever 30-60 minutes after eating.

When you receive a diagnosis, that is the perfect time to ask about dietary restrictions and needs. Seek out a speech therapist to help you learn new exercises to help you navigate the condition. Everything and anything should be discussed and questioned with your medical team.