Help for Swallowing Disorders: The Ins and Outs of Beverage Thickeners

Beverage thickeners provide help for swallowing disorders, but it’s important to know which type to choose and how to make drinks more palatable.

You probably have not given much thought to the various consistencies and textures of the liquids in your diet. When you’re parched, nothing is as refreshing as an ice-cold glass of water. On a hot summer day, you might crave a cool milkshake. And when you’re recuperating from the flu, a hot bowl of soup really hits the spot. Yet those seeking help for swallowing disorders know how challenging it can be to enjoy fluids that now need to be thickened.

Thickened beverages can make it harder 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. Adjusting to thickened liquids takes time, but these suggestions will help.

What Are the Best Beverage Thickeners?

It depends upon the person’s individual preference, and might take some trial and error to identify which is best suited. The physician will advise on the level of thickness needed, which can range between thin, to nectar- or honey-like, to spoon-thick. The types of thickeners available include:

  • Liquid or gel thickeners that blend easily without clumping, even into beverages that can be more challenging to thicken, such as hot foods, soda, or supplement beverages.
  • Starch powders, made of modified cornstarch, which have to be served right 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 grit, flavor, or cloudiness to the liquid.
  • Pre-thickened products, which are becoming more widely available, either in honey or nectar consistencies.

It’s necessary to make certain someone with a swallowing disorder remains hydrated. Certain fluids may be more palatable, particularly as the person is adapting to thickened liquids. Try fruit juice, which will be similar in texture to a smoothie or fruit puree. You can even freeze thickened juice, or any other thickened beverage, into an ice pop.

It is also helpful to be aware that beverage thickeners might be covered by Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance providers. Although these products are available over the counter, ask a doctor to write a prescription and include the requirement 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 healthy and hydrated, along with many other senior care services at home. Reach out to us at 250-590-8098 to request a complimentary in-home consultation to find out more about our in-home respite care in Victoria, BC and the surrounding areas.