Eating Resources For Those With Medical Treatments And Conditions
Eating is a very complex process. It requires multiple, highly coordinated steps in order to be carried out properly. Here is a brief explanation of the steps involved in eating:
- Jaw muscles have to open the mouth. Then lip muscles work together to guide food or liquids into the mouth. Lip muscles continue to work to keep the food or liquids from falling out of the mouth.
- Chemical and mechanical receptors in your mouth detect the presence of food and cause salivary glands to secrete saliva. Saliva moistens the food, makes it easier to break down and helps the food become easier to swallow.
- Muscles of mastication move the mandible up and down and side to side, grinding food against the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Food is broken down until it forms a kind of ball, known as a food bolus.
- Muscles in the tongue help form the food bolus. When the food bolus is ready, the tongue presses against the roof of the mouth to push the food bolus to the back of the mouth towards the throat, also known as the pharynx.
- When food reaches the pharynx, a complex sequence of both voluntary and involuntary nerve signals cause muscles in tongue to push the food bolus backwards while the lips create a tight seal. Then nerve signals cause pharyngeal muscles to further propel the food bolus down the pharynx into the esophagus all while closing off the airway so food and liquids do not get aspirated.
Medical Treatments And Conditions That Affect Eating:
A stroke is a condition where brain cells die due to either a lack of blood flow to the brain or due to bleeding inside the brain. In the United States, more than 795,000 people have a stroke each year. Leading causes of strokes are: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, and diabetes. Brain damage from a stroke can lead to a number of different problems such as: paralysis, speech and language problems, vision problems, memory loss, or even behavior changes.
Another common impairment that can occur after stroke is difficulty swallowing, also known as dysphagia. More than 50% of stroke survivors have dysphagia. Some risks of dysphagia are aspiration of food or liquids (which can lead to pneumonia), dehydration, malnutrition, avoidance of eating, and loss of enjoyment eating. Dysphagia can be dangerous and should be brought to the attention of a physician and speech pathologist. Physicians and speech pathologists can perform diagnostic tests to find the exact cause and type of dysphagia. Once a correct diagnosis is made, they can develop a rehabilitation program that involves strengthening exercises, posture improvements when eating, and creating a diet plan that modifies the texture and consistency of foods and liquids.
Easy-To-Chew recipes can help give you some ideas on delicious soft foods that are easier to chew and swallow!
Your Goals When Preparing Meals For Those With Medical Treatments And Conditions:
- Cook three meals a day and provide healthy snacks in between meals
- Try to have a variety of foods at each meal. Be mindful of food preferences and try to communicate effectively to find out which foods work and don’t work for their situation.
- Try to provide a balanced diet of vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and protein as dietary restrictions allow.
- ChooseMyPlate.gov is a great resource for creating a balanced diet!
- Talk with your physician and dietitian about the specific nutritional needs of the individual you are caring for.
- Be sure to work with your physician and speech pathologist to know which food textures are appropriate for your situation.
- Eat together as a family whenever possible. Meal times are a great opportunity to strengthen social and family relationships. Eating with others is generally a more positive experience than eating by yourself.
- Try to make meals stress free and positive. Even if the act of eating is less fun than it used to be, mealtime itself can be a fun daily event to look forward to!
Easy-To-Chew is a food blog created by a dentist, a public health professional, and a registered dietitian. Their mission? To cook up delicious recipes dedicated to those who are in need of foods which are easy to chew, easy to swallow, and easy to love!