When can I return to a normal diet?
Many older adults that have problems chewing or use multiple swallows to swallow one bite, pocket food, or cough frequently during meals are referred to a speech language pathologist for evaluation. In many cases, the speech therapist will recommend a modified diet for a period of time to help improve or maintain the nutritional status of the patient while their ability to swallow improves.
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As a speech language pathologist, one of the questions I get all the time is, “When can I return to a normal diet?”
So, my first initiative is to find out what’s happening with you. Why do you need to be on this modified diet? And if you do, I’m going to recommend the least restrictive one possible. If you’re on a puree diet now, I’m going to take deliberate steps to move you as far towards a regular diet as I am able. For us to get you to that regular diet, we may need to do some exercises together. We may need to teach you some tricks on how to swallow differently than you did before. For example, you may benefit from working the muscles involved in swallowing, like your cheeks, tongue, and lips. In this case, tongue exercises might be helpful. More specifically, tongue-strengthening exercises that help you formulate the food inside your mouth and move it into your pharynx.
The reason why these types of exercises are important is that your swallow is a complicated process. It involves a lot of muscles, nerves and structures working closely together to produce a desired outcome. Then, in the end, hopefully, we’ve gotten you to the least restrictive diet, a diet that has the least impact on your life as possible.