Speech Language Pathologists can be a great resource for improving your receptive and expressive communication, aid in preventing memory loss, offer caregiver recommendations and help with sound pronunciation. The focus of this article is to discuss another valuable service: building swallowing strength. Dysphagia is a term used to diagnose when a patient expresses having difficulty with swallowing foods and liquids.1

What are some signs that you may have difficulty swallowing? Here are some signs identified by the Mayo Clinic.

  • Having pain while swallowing

  • Being unable to swallow

  • Having the sensation of food getting stuck in your throat or chest or behind your breastbone

  • Drooling

  • Being hoarse

  • Bringing food back up (regurgitation)

  • Having frequent heartburn

  • Having food or stomach acid back up into your throat

  • Unexpectedly losing weight

  • Coughing or gagging when swallowing

  • Having to cut food into smaller pieces or avoiding certain foods because of trouble swallowing 2

If you have any of these symptoms, we recommend that you speak with your doctor immediately and tell him/her what foods trigger these responses. Your doctor can then give you a referral to speech-language pathologists and in some cases may suggest that you have a Videofluoroscopic Swallow Study (VFSS), a moving x-ray that gives your doctor real-time information as to how your muscles are moving. During this examination, the speech-language pathologist will give you different foods to eat, all of which are coated with a special substance called barium that allows the food to be visible during the x-ray procedure.

There are some preventative exercises you can do every day to keep your swallow muscles strong and healthy.

Here are some examples below:

    1. Say “KA” as hard as you can ten times. This will exercise your pharyngeal muscle.

    2. Say “GA” as hard as you can ten times. This will exercise your pharyngeal muscle.

    3. Hold your tongue between your teeth and swallow without letting your tongue out between your teeth. This will exercise your laryngeal and pharyngeal muscle.

    4. Take a straw and cotton balls and put cotton balls on a table. Try to suck the cotton balls up with the straw and try to keep the cotton ball on the end of the straw as long as you can while sucking into the straw.

As with any condition, early intervention is the best defense in helping to improve or prevent a chronic condition. To learn more about speech and language consult your speech-language pathologist or ask your doctor for a referral. The American SpeechLanguage and Hearing Association is another great resource to learn more valuable information. Visit their website at www.asha.org

Lucy Sanchez Wiseman, M.S. CCC-SLP Is a Speech-Language Pathologist at Easy Speech Therapy Center and is on the PRO website in the WELLNESS VILLAGE. Lucy and Easy Speech Therapy Center has been a member of the Wellness Village since February 2015. PRO Members rave about Lucy’s professionalism, knowledge, and compassion and the inclusiveness of other therapies at the Center.

1 & 2 Mayo Clinic (2016). Dysphagia. Retrieved from www.mayoclinic.org/diseasesconditions/dysphagia/basics/definition/con-20033444



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Updated: August 16, 2017