Dining Health Defined

Although dysphagia affects up to  590 million people worldwide,  it is still poorly understood and often overlooked. It can occur as a result of well known medical conditions, such as stroke, traumatic brain injury, neurodegenerative disorders, head and neck cancer, and muscular disorders. The focus of the article is to raise awareness of the profound impacts that dysphagia can have on a person's health and wellness and that of caregivers too.  

The goal with food innovation is to link as closely as possible, their previous relationship with food to their current state of being. Dining health is a term I have defined to indicate the strength of the connection of the emotional wants of a person to their changed physical needs. By focusing on dining health, we can reduce nutritional risk and improve quality of life of an individual. 

Here are the 4 potential areas to consider:

1. Nutritional Risk.
Individuals with dysphagia often struggle to maintain food intake.  The common difficulties with a soft diet are texture fatigue, palate fatigue, difficulty in preparation, loss of food recognition, and doubt in effect. Malnutrition is a serious potential risk and can lead to increased complications, low energy, poor healing, lower immunity, and overall body function. 

2. Emotional and Psychological Impact

Living with dysphagia can also take a toll on one's emotional and psychological well-beingFeelings of frustration, embarrassment, anxiety, and isolation are common among individuals facing swallowing difficulties. The challenges of adapting to dietary restrictions, altered eating habits, and the potential loss of enjoyment in meals can lead to a significant decline in quality of life.  Caregivers of people with dysphagia can feel ill-prepared, and anxious about meal preparation, feel a lack of togetherness around eating, and often eat alone. They also report feeling fearful and uncomfortable trying to balance safety concerns and food preferences for their loved ones. 

 Person with malnutrition

Did you know?

It is estimated that up to 45% of patients with dysphagia in acute care hospitals have malnutrition. The 2 main reasons are:

Poor Food Intake because of fear of choking, anorexia, hand skill, and dissatisfaction with a soft diet.

Lower nutrient density with modified texture diets

3. Social Consequences

Dysphagia can impact social interactions and participation in various aspects of life. Eating is often a communal and enjoyable activity, but individuals with dysphagia may feel self-conscious or avoid social gatherings centered around food. This isolation can contribute to feelings of loneliness and reduced engagement with friends, family, and community. There is a similar emotional effect on caregivers. 

4. Physical Health Complications

By recognizing the close connection between dining environment, eating behaviors and emotional well being, we can improve compliance with a modified texture diet and quality of life.  This can directly impact risks of aspiration pneumonia, dehydration, and increased mortality which can bring about the need for increased length of hospital stay, rehabilitation time, or long-term care assistance.  


Please share this information with others to raise awareness. By spreading the word, we can make a difference in the lives of those living with dysphagia.

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