Swallowing is something we do without thinking twice about it. Normally, we swallow up to 600 times per day and is actually a very complicated reflex that is made up made up of many muscles and nerves. Therefore it is no surprise that around 1 in 17 people will experience some form of dysphagia in their lifetime.

To articulate this further, it has been estimated that up to 40% of people who have experienced stroke suffer with swallowing difficulties and have reported symptoms of Dysphagia[1]. Research has also found that amongst those who are in care homes, 68% of people who suffer from dementia also have dysphagia[2].

What is Dysphagia?

The term dysphagia means ‘difficulty or discomfort in swallowing’ and it can occur at any age, but most frequently present in elderly people. For someone who lives with dysphagia, mealtimes may become less enjoyable meaning they might have less of an appetite when it comes to food. If not properly treated at home, dysphagia can sometimes lead to weight loss and repeated chest infections.
Symptoms of dysphagia include:

• Find it difficult or impossible to chew and swallow certain foods or liquids
• The feeling that food is stuck in your throat or chest
• Your voice ‘gurgles’ whilst eating or drinking
• Coughing or even choking when eating or drinking

It can be caused by muscle weakness or nerve/structural damage – this may occur if you have experienced a stroke or cancer, dementia can also be a cause of dysphagia. However, it can also be a temporary problem that can occur from tooth extraction.

There are two categories of dysphagia that people may experience, these are:

• Oropharyngeal: this is usually caused by problems in the mouth or throat
• Oesophageal: this is where the underlying cause of dysphagia lies in the oesophagus.

If you think you have symptoms of dysphagia, you should request an appointment from your local GP. From here, they will be able to refer you to a Speech and Language Therapist, who would be able to diagnose and create a course of action to help treat the type of dysphagia you’re experiencing.

If you are experiencing swallowing problems, it may be advised that you try a texture modified diet, also known as softer food diet. This would be changing the consistency of your food and liquids so that they are safer to swallow. Depending on the circumstances, this could either be home blending using thickeners, or by using texture modified ready meals.

How Wiltshire Farm Foods can help

Here at Wiltshire Farm Foods we offer a wide variety of appetising texture modified meals and snacks suitable for those with swallowing difficulties. With over 80 dishes to choose from, we want to offer our customers safe and nutritious meals to enjoy whenever they like.

Following NHS criteria and IDDSI (The International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative) guidance, our chefs have worked together to create a Softer Foods range which includes:

- Level 4 (Puree Meals)
- Level 5 (Minced Meals)
- Level 6 (Soft & Bites-Sized)

If you’re interested in our Softer Foods you can get started today. Browse our full range online at wiltshirefarmfoods.com or request a free brochure. Or you can simply place an order on our website or by calling your local branch. You can order as often or little as you like – there is no contract – and it will be delivered straight to your door by our friendly local drivers.

 [1] Dysphagia manual by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists: www.rcslt.org/speech_and_language_therapy/commissioning/dysphagia_manual_072014

[2] Steele CM et al. Mealtime difficulties in a home for the aged: not just dysphagia. Dysphagia. 1997;12(1):43-50