Although I’m relieved that this challenge is now over, it saddens me to know that so many people have to live with Dysphagia. Just to clarify, the challenge for me has been not to ingest any thin fluids, whether in food or drink, but I have been able to eat solid food normally, as long as there wasn’t any fluid in it, such as in soups or casseroles etc. People with Dysphagia can also have difficulties with swallowing food too. It’s not documented exactly HOW MANY people are affected by dysphagia, but The Swallowing Disorder Foundation claim that up to 22% of people over 50 years of age are affected by Dysphagia (http://www.swallowingdisorderfoundation.com/about/swallowing-disorder-basics/). It also affects children with cerebral palsy and learning disabilities.
My last day of the challenge included drinking rice and coconut milk with banana and water-thickener mix and goji berry juice mixed with water and thickener. I also thought I’d try some alcohol to see how that went down, and I made a mixture of water, thickener, pineapple, apple juice, and rum. As you can see in the picture, the rum sat on top of the juice gloop, as it is thinner and lighter. Before drinking I had to stir them together. Drinking it through a straw was a relatively pleasant experience compared to drinking a lot of my other drinks, and I don’t think that’s because it had alcohol in it! The consistency and flavour was quite tasty and I think it was only in the last day that I discovered that mixing water with juice and the thickener made the drinking experience that much more appealing and therefore motivated me to drink more. It was only day 5 and I was sick of the experience, I can’t imagine what it’s like to live with. One of the main practical problems that I found with drinking fluid was adding the thickener. It’s difficult getting the consistency right, as it all depends on how much fluid you have in the cup, and also on the individuals’ specific swallowing problems, and the amount of thickness that is safe to swallow. Speaking for myself, I know I take for granted the fact that I CAN eat and drink ANYTHING I want to. But as human beings I think it’s so important to respect ourselves, and what we put into our bodies. That’s in the ideal world.
Dysphagia – Difficulty with, or complete inability to swallow.
It is quite a depressing condition, but a reality that a lot of people have to live with, including those with cerebral palsy, who have suffered a stroke, who have Parkinson’s disease, dementia, adults with learning disabilities, the list goes on… And due to nature of Dysphagia, it can lead to social isolation, and depression as told in May’s story (http://www.swallowingdisorderfoundation.com/meet-may-roberta-romey-she-has-dysphagia/) as well as malnutrition due to an individual not eating or drinking enough. From my experience this week, I can see how much it takes over your life. My challenge was only to change my drinking habits, which in my case may have been positive because it meant I didn’t eat so much because drinking the thickener really filled out my stomach, but it did also make me feel bloated and uncomfortable for most of the day. Some people have to spend a lot of their day thinking about/preparing their every mouth or tubeful, or having someone to do it for them.
For an eye opener about all the types of people this disability affects and the ways it affects them watch this 15 minute documentary.
I think I’ll drink more water now because I can! Alba
(Thin and delicious orange juice below)