The alarming story of how Samantha Anderson woke up one morning unable to swallow gets woven into an informative feature about the “hidden disorder” of dysphagia that appears in the online science magazine Mosaic. Also sprinkled throughout the story? Innovative treatment advances to make modified diets more palatable and improve dysphagia patients’ morale.
Willy Wonka would be proud of the glazed donut tasting strips, for example, along with iEat Bread, which is engineered to dissolve easily. Other developments include a neck piercing connected to a titanium device to aid the swallowing process, the use of stem cells to strengthen tongue muscles and donepezil—a cognition-enhancing drug normally used for Alzheimer’s, but which might also repair damaged nerves needed for swallowing.
Several specialists interviewed discussed the despair many patients with dysphagia feel at not getting to experience their favorite flavors or participate in social activities centered on food—not to mention the possible physical consequences of frequent choking, losing weight, becoming dehydrated and aspiration.
“This is the harsh reality of dysphagia: it’s a major symptom of multiple diseases, disorders and injuries, it can strike both young and old,” writes Bryn Nelson in the article, which quickly gained popularity on global news sites. “The cruelty is compounded by how it distorts eating, which is not only a physical necessity but also a way for our highly social species to bond, relax and savor favorite foods.”
Read more about dysphagia diet options and treatments in The Leader: