The Art of Chewing and Swallowing with SMA
Last updated: September 2022
A change in my ability to swallow
Around the age of 16, I really started noticing a difference in my swallowing. I had always had my swallowing monitored for safety reasons but it wasn’t until my late teens that I started personally noticing the differences and difficulties. I had my share of swallow studies. You know the kind where they make you eat certain foods and drinks with the odd chalky consistency and they watched on the machines as you swallowed.
Austin, my brother who also had spinal muscular atrophy, had the same procedures done as well. He began to have some issues swallowing, so we were going to figure this out together.
A change in jaw alignment
Around the same time we noticed a big change in our jaw alignment and how wide we could open our mouths. Dentist and doctors didn’t have great explanations as to why. We had tried a few procedures to help open the jaw up more but none were successful.
We have found that cutting up our meat to small bites were the safest. I found that I did much better swallowing a variety of foods as long as I used as many dipping sauces as possible. The more lubrication on even softer items such as french fries the easier it goes down.
I would also say to always, always, always have a drink readily available. I have noticed that sometimes small pieces of food can get stuck in my throat and having a drink to wash it down has always been beneficial.
My top 5 tips for safely and successfully eating are:
- Select items that work for you - I have recently completely eliminated red meats from diet as I found it to be too chewy and difficult to break up no matter how I prepared it. I now consume much more fish as the toughness is very mild. Which brings me to my next point
- Prepared the items how YOU need them. - I known most people don’t prefer soggy veggies but that’s the best way for me to enjoy them without any issues.
- Don’t be afraid to make special requests in restaurants as well! I always order my sushi in 10 pieces instead of 8 just to make it a bit easier.
- Chew thoroughly! - don’t try to rush it. It’s not a race and never worth trying to swallow something that could potentially get stuck!
- Use sauces to lubricate the foods. - ranch is my best friend for many burgers or extra salad dressing! Always have a drink on hand!
Have you shared your SMA diagnosis story with us yet?