Are you having difficulty swallowing food or drinks? Have you ever wondered why it is happening to you? Difficulty in swallowing can occur due to many reasons that you might not have considered. It can be due to disease or for no reason at all but because of your poor attentiveness.
Is your food going down slow?
People have difficulty swallowing meaning it takes more time and effort to swallow food, drinks, or even saliva. It is termed as dysphagia. Sometimes it can occur due to eating fast or without chewing properly. Sometimes it might be due to a medical condition.
If it occurs for a long time, it should be examined as soon as possible for proper treatment. Check this article based on food going down slowly to help you know about the disorder and its remedies.
Table of Content
Causes of Food Going Down Slow
Medically you might refer to food going down slow as Dysphagia. Dysphagia is a common type of disease if you suffer from gastric problems, otherwise, it can be early symptoms of other serious diseases like – cancer, neurological disorders, etc.
Don’t get frightened seeing the name of these diseases! It is not mandatory that you will have these diseases just because you have the symptoms. You can go through check-ups to at least know about your health and maintain your routine accordingly.
The causes can be divided based on the two phases of swallowing. Oropharyngeal dysphagia has reasons related to neurological disorders whereas esophageal dysphagia occurs due to diseases or muscle disorders or infections.
Following are some of the reasons for Oropharyngeal dysphagia.
Swallowing involves the coordinated work of muscles and nerves. To push the food through the gastrointestinal tract, the muscles and nerves need to function properly.
A neurological disease that affects the muscle’s movement and neural signaling might affect swallowing too. For example – multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease, etc. All these diseases affect the neurons and disrupt the normal function of muscle movement and cause dysphagia.
Sudden trauma to the neurons caused by stroke or brain or spinal cord injury can disrupt normal swallowing.
Tonsillitis, swollen lymph nodes, etc. can cause difficulty in getting the food through the top of the gullet (esophagus).
Tumors & Swellings
Throat and mouth cancer, Thyroid gland cancer, any kind of lump (benign or malignant) can cause dysphagia.
Pharyngeal Pouch (Zenker’s diverticulum)
This is a condition where the lowest end of the pharynx forms a dead-end pouch (diverticulum) that collects food particles in the throat. It occurs at the developing stage and causes dysphagia, bad breath, chronic cough, neck lump, etc.
All these cause oropharyngeal dysphagia. If none of this matches your discomfort, you might be looking for esophageal dysphagia causes. Does your food get stuck at the top of your stomach?
Do you have the feeling of food stuck in your throat? Here are some causes as to why you might be facing this problem –
It is a rare disorder where the sphincter (lower esophageal muscle) doesn’t let the food or drink pass easily through the esophagus to the stomach. It can occur due to weak muscles of the esophagus.
Distal Esophageal Spasm
It causes regurgitation, sometimes chest pain too that feels like heart disease. Though medically unknown, it is assumed to be caused by abnormal neural signals, or due to allergies or intolerances.
Large pieces of food can get stuck in a small esophagus (stricture). Tumors or scar tissue, which can be caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can cause the esophagus to become narrow.
When esophageal tumors are present, difficulty swallowing tends to grow worse because the esophagus narrows.
The throat or esophagus might become partially obstructed by food or another item. An elderly person or someone who has difficulties chewing may be more prone to food becoming stuck in the throat or esophagus.
Esophageal inflammation and scarring are possible side effects of this cancer therapy.
Eosinophils in the esophagus is to blame for this disorder, which may be linked to a food allergy.
Solid meals may be difficult to swallow if the lower esophageal sphincter is narrowed.
Sphincter weakness can be caused by scar tissue, which hardens and stiffens tissues. Acid reflux occurs often as a result of this, and the esophagus is filled with it.
Lower esophageal spasm or scarring and constriction can result from stomach acid backing up into the esophagus and damaging esophageal tissues.
The esophagus can become inflamed or lose its ability to operate due to a variety of uncommon disorders; infections of the esophagus or eating big items that become lodged (more common in children).
However, only knowing the causes of dysphagia will leave you with incomplete knowledge regarding this. So, consider going through the next segment to get a complete idea.
All You Need to Know about Dysphagia
Dysphagia is something you should get conscious about. Leaving it untreated may lead to complications. Here’s a brief detail on this.
What is Dysphagia?
The act of swallowing is executed in three steps. The first step is to take in the food or drink in the buccal cavity by tongue and palate. You can control this part only.
In the second step, your brain takes the decision to swallow and thus different types of reflexes start. The food is pushed to the pharynx from the buccal cavity. While the food is pushed, there’s a muscular valve at the end of the pharynx that covers the trachea (airways), and opens the esophagus, so that the food doesn’t enter your airways.
And the third step involves peristalsis, meaning the movement of food through the esophagus by waves of coordinated contractions.
Food going down slow or dysphagia means the struggle in swallowing food, drinks, or saliva through the esophagus. Difficulty in swallowing food can be of two types.
One type is the difficulty in moving the food from the mouth to the esophagus, known as oropharyngeal dysphagia. Another type describes the difficulty in moving the food through the esophagus to the stomach, called esophageal dysphagia.
Difficulty in swallowing occurs because of the disruption in any of the above steps of swallowing. Abnormality due to psychological or physiological reasons can cause you such sufferings.
Symptoms of Dysphagia
Swallowing is done in quite a few steps which are required to be done properly. It involves muscles and nerves functioning. Any kind of damage or injury to any muscles or nerves involving swallowing may narrow the passage of the esophagus, and thus cause the delay of moving of the food.
To understand if you have dysphagia you have to know what is dysphagia. There are some symptoms that will let you know that your food is going down slow.
The following symptoms are to be observed –
- You may not be able to swallow food on the first go. You will feel difficulty while swallowing.
- You will feel pain and/or pressure during swallowing. As the esophagus becomes narrow than usual or maybe you did not chew the food properly, you will struggle to swallow and feel pain.
- Frequent gagging, choking, coughing while you swallow means the food is going through the wrong path and the muscles and neuron reflexes aren’t coordinated.
- You will feel like the food is stuck in the chest and it’s not moving down.
- Sometimes foods or liquids may come back up through the throat or nose or mouth after swallowing. It is also called acid reflux that can happen due to stomach problems.
- You may face drooling as you will have difficulty swallowing saliva. It is a sign of having severe swallowing problems.
- Aspiration (food entering lungs through windpipe causing pneumonia).
- Weight loss as you can’t eat properly.
- Heartburn feeling
- Dehydration, bad breath, etc.
All these symptoms are quite easy to detect and alarming if it goes on for a long time. You should consult a doctor for early diagnosis and treatment. Even if the disease isn’t very severe, it should be treated at the proper time to reduce your suffering.
When to Seek Medical Attention
If you’re also experiencing difficulty breathing or suspect anything is lodged in your throat, see a doctor immediately. Your doctor should help you figure out what’s causing your swallowing problems. Emergency services should be called if you have abrupt muscular weakness or paralysis and are unable to swallow.
Diagnosis of Dysphagia
There are several probable reasons for dysphagia, which may be established by doctors interviewing you (your history) and doing a physical exam. Endoscopy and barium swallow are two of the most used diagnostics for dysphagia.
An operator (a doctor or nurse) examines the top region of your intestines (the upper gastrointestinal tract). A thin, flexible telescope. It’s a finger’s thickness. The endoscope is inserted into the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. The operator examines your intestines’ top (the upper gastrointestinal tract). A slender telescope. A finger’s width. The endoscope enters the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and duodenum.
Regular X-rays can’t reveal the esophagus or other stomach organs. If you drink a white liquid containing barium sulfate the esophagus, stomach, and small intestines can be seen clearly on X-rays. Barium is X-ray opaque.
- Oesophageal manometry – A test that inserts a pressure-sensitive tube into the esophagus to detect the pressure of muscular contractions.
- Videofluoroscopy – It resembles a barium swallow. After drinking or eating barium-laced liquids or meals, you are asked to swallow, move your head, etc. Your swallowing is inspected and X-rayed.
- pH monitoring – involves inserting a small tube into your esophagus via your nose or mouth. The monitor on the tube measures the pH (acidity) in your esophagus.
- Aging: Older persons are more likely to have difficulty swallowing because of the natural aging process and the increased risk of certain diseases, such as stroke or Parkinson’s disease. As a result, dysphagia is not seen as an inevitable part of old age.
- Certain health conditions: Swallowing problems are more common in people with certain types of neurological or nervous system illnesses.
It can be hard to swallow, which can lead to more problems. People often cough or choke when food goes down the “wrong way” and blocks their airways.
A lack of food, weight loss, and dehydration. The fluids and nutrients you need can be hard to get when you can’t swallow.
If this happens a lot, you might not eat or drink because you are afraid of choking. This can lead to malnutrition and dehydration.
Some people with dysphagia are more likely to get chest infections, like aspiration pneumonia, which need to be treated by a doctor.
Dysphagia can also hurt your quality of life because it might make it hard for you to enjoy meals and social events.
You have no control over whether or if you have swallowing problems. Eat slowly, take small chunks, and chew your meal thoroughly to lower your risk of having difficulties swallowing. Treating acid reflux early helps reduce the likelihood of scarring in the throat, which can lead to difficulty swallowing.
Dysphagia can be treated in a variety of ways, depending on the source and severity of the problem. Testing your swallowing abilities and inspecting your esophagus are the most common methods of diagnosing dysphagia.
Sometimes eating differently can help. Here are some ideas:
- Avoid alcoholic beverages and caffeine.
- Mix and match a variety of textures in your diet. Analyze your eating habits to see what helps or hinders you in this regard (such as thin liquids or sticky foods).
- Take advantage of customized cups and spoons that make swallowing more comfortable.
- To make it simpler to swallow, eat soft or pureed foods.
- Consume food that has been cut into small bits.
- Try to avoid items that are too hot or cold.
- Slowly eat your food. Don’t rush through the chewing process.
- Instead of three substantial meals a day, eat multiple smaller meals throughout the day.
- Drink after each bite of solid meal to help flush it out of your system.
- When you’re eating, make sure you’re sitting up straight. After a meal, sit upright for at least 30 minutes.
- Patients who find it difficult to take pills may need to alter their dosages of medication. A liquid, patch, or injection may also be an option.
Medicine or other treatments are sometimes used to treat dysphagia. An antacid or acid reducer may be prescribed before each meal if your dysphagia is caused by heartburn.
A drug called botulinum toxin may be used to relax throat muscles causing dysphagia. This will help to swallow.
Does dysphagia go away?
It may go away if it is due to your inattentiveness and you improve your food habits and lifestyle.
Why can I feel my food going down?
It is because you have difficulty eating food and drinks a.k.a dysphagia. It causes your muscles and nerves related to swallowing to not work properly.
What causes narrowing of the esophagus?
It can be due to any trauma to the muscles or nerves that are involved in the swallowing procedure. A very common reason is long-term gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Food going down slowly is very painful and takes away your appetite. It can cause malnutrition, dehydration, or sometimes more severe conditions. If you are suffering due to dysphagia, my advice to you will be to visit a doctor as soon as possible.
Take proper medications and improve your lifestyle and food habits.