What You Need to Know About Beverage Thickeners for Swallowing Disorders

What You Need to Know About Beverage Thickeners for Swallowing Disorders

Unless you have a swallowing order, you most likely have not given much thought to the different textures and consistencies of the liquids in your diet. When you’re feeling thirsty, nothing hits the spot like an ice-cold glass of water. On a hot summer day, you might crave a refreshing milkshake. And when you are recuperating from the flu, a warm bowl of soup is just what you need. But if you’re using beverage thickeners for swallowing disorders, you have to learn to adjust your thinking and get used to a whole new way to hydrate.

Thickened liquids make it difficult to feel as though your thirst is quenched, and change your ability to enjoy things such as that first hot cup of tea in the morning, or a glass of your favorite soda at lunchtime. Try these suggestions to help make thickened beverages more palatable.

What Are the Top Beverage Thickeners?

It comes down to the person’s individual preference, and it may take some experimentation to determine which works best. The physician will advise on the level of thickness needed, which might range from thin, to nectar- or honey-like, to spoon-thick. The kinds of thickeners available include:

  • Starch powders, produced from modified cornstarch, which need to be served immediately after mixing to prevent lumpiness or a gritty texture or taste. 
  • Gum-based powders, which are relatively new and are commonly a preferred option over starch powders, as they maintain their viscosity over time, and work without adding flavor, grit, or cloudiness to the liquid.
  • Liquid or gel thickeners that blend easily without clumping, even into beverages which can be more challenging to thicken, such as soda, hot foods, or supplement beverages. 
  • Pre-thickened products, which are becoming more widely available, in either honey or nectar consistencies.

It is necessary to make certain someone with a swallowing disorder stays hydrated. Certain fluids may be more tolerable, especially as the person is adapting to thickened liquids. Try fruit juice, which will be similar in texture to a fruit puree or smoothie. You can also freeze thickened juice, or just about any other thickened beverage, into an ice pop.

It is also helpful to be aware that beverage thickeners may be covered by Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance providers. Although these products can be obtained over the counter, ask the doctor to write a prescription and include the need for a beverage thickener in the older adult's chart notes to see if the cost is reimbursable. 

Our caregivers can help prepare thickened beverages and offer encouragement to make certain someone with a swallowing disorder stays hydrated and healthy, along with many other senior care services at home. Reach out to us at 519-915-4370 to request a complimentary in-home consultation to get started.