Difficulty swallowing: causes & treatment of swallowing problems

Swallowing problems can cause various symptoms, including having a hoarse throat and experiencing pain when swallowing. If you have difficulty swallowing, you suffer from the medical condition “dysphagia” or simply: swallowing problems. Esophageal disorders are often the cause of this swallowing problem, but other conditions can also cause dysphagia. It is important to adopt the correct position and eat small pieces of food if you have swallowing problems. Nutritional advice from a speech therapist can also help with difficulty swallowing. In some cases, antacids such as omeprazole can be useful to help with swallowing problems. What are the main causes of difficulty swallowing and what treatment is appropriate?

Dysphagia and aphagia

People who have difficulty swallowing are usually dealing with a condition called dysphagia . Dysphagia means that swallowing is difficult and very difficult. Swallowing problems can become so severe that they can lead to aphagia , i.e. the inability to swallow. In general, swallowing problems mean that the patient has serious problems with processing food through the esophagus and that the transport of food from the mouth to the stomach is greatly hampered.

Symptoms of swallowing problems

Difficulty swallowing

If you have swallowing problems, you may have difficulty swallowing food and you may also experience pain. Because eating and drinking is so difficult, you are forced to eat more slowly. In some people it can even negatively affect their appetite, which can lead to weight loss.

Additional symptoms

To make swallowing easier, you may tend to clear your throat and cough often. A hoarse and hoarse throat can be associated with this, as can experiencing chest pain. Because all these symptoms require a lot of energy, you may also suffer more from fatigue.

Causes of swallowing problems

  • in acute cases: swallowing problems after a stroke or cerebral hemorrhage
  • disorders of the esophagus such as esophagitis
  • Parkinson’s disease: disease in which certain brain cells deteriorate
  • Huntington’s disease: condition in which muscle coordination deteriorates
  • amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: disease in which the nerves that control muscles deteriorate
  • vocal cord disorders
  • disorders of the larynx
  • throat problems
  • muscle weakness

Tip: speech therapist

In addition to the treatment from your doctor, it may be advisable to seek additional advice from a speech therapist . There are speech therapists who specialize in treating swallowing disorders. A speech therapist can help people with swallowing problems through nutritional advice . This can also provide useful tips regarding good posture to combat swallowing problems.

Treatment for difficulty swallowing

Body position

To avoid swallowing problems, it is good to maintain an upright posture when you are moving. It is also best to keep your back straight when sitting, so that your food can reach your stomach more easily. Try to breathe calmly when you sit or walk in this position.

Eating quietly

During meals it is important to relax and eat as quietly as possible. Eating in a stressful environment is therefore not recommended. Eat small pieces of food and take small bites so that swallowing is not made more difficult. A diet specifically aimed at swallowing problems can also be useful to put the esophagus and stomach to the test as little as possible.

Salivary fluid

Consume sufficient fluid with meals to promote swallowing. Saliva production is also important. Make sure your food looks tasty so your mouth will produce more saliva. This makes swallowing easier.

Do not eat shortly before bedtime

Just as with esophageal problems, it is recommended to wait a few hours after dinner before going to sleep. It is best not to eat for a period of two to three hours before going to sleep.


Gastric acid inhibitors are remedies that can alleviate the basic symptoms of swallowing problems. Acid reflux that rises into the oral cavity can be remedied by taking antacids. But not everyone who has difficulty swallowing experiences positive results from antacids. In that case, further medical examination may be indicated to address the problem.
Some examples of antacids that can make swallowing easier:

  • Gaviscon
  • Zantac
  • Rennie

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