Swallowing problems

There can be a number of causes for swallowing problems. It may be a short-term side effect of chemo or radiation treatment to the throat or chest. It may also be caused by an infection of the mouth or esophagus (the swallowing tube that goes from the throat to the stomach), as well as other problems.


  1. Moisten foods: “dunk” in tea, coffee, milk, add sauces, gravies or melted butter to dry foods.
  2. Use tender cuts of meat or soft alternatives – fish, soft cheese, soft-cooked or scrambled eggs, puddings, ice cream or cream soups. Soft, sweet foods can promote tooth decay, so be sure to brush with a soft tooth brush afer eating
  3. “Blenderize” cooked meat, fruits and vegetables. For convenience, commercial baby foods are suitable.
  4. Try cooked cereal served with margarine, butter or cream.
  5. Try soft rolls, bread – avoid those with seeds.
  6. Avoid dry snack foods, dry course cereals, crackers.
  7. If swallowing becomes extremely difficult, tilt the head upward to have food flow to the back of the throat. This will make swallowing easier.
  8. Drink lots of fluids.
  9. Suck on ice chips.
  10. Use sugarless hard candy or sugarless gum to increase moisture.
  11. Add milk or milk products such as sour cream, yogurt or cottage cheese to your daily diet – these foods coat and protect the lining of the mouth.
  12. See your dentist before beginning therapy.
  13. For mild sore mouth, topical analgesics can be swished and swallowed 10 to 15 minutes before meals. Ask your nurse or doctor.
  14. Use high protein, high calorie drinks.
  15. Use a straw for liquids to make swallowing easier.
  16. Keep your mouth and gums clean to prevent infections. Report elevated temperature to doctor.
  17. Keep mouth moist with normal saline rinses. (1 level teaspoon salt in 1 quart water.)
  18. Call your doctor if you are unable to eat or drink because of a sore, painful mouth.


  1. Eat foods and juices with a high acid content such as tomatoes, oranges and grapefruit. Try nectars and imitation fruit drinks with added Vitamin C.
  2. Eat rough or crunchy foods – pretzels, potato chips, nuts.
  3. Eat highly seasoned foods and condiments – pepper, chili, hot sauce, spicy meat sauce.
  4. Avoid the use of tobacco and alcohol.
  5. Use commercial mouthwashes as they may irritate and dry your mouth due to the alcohol they contain.