Thickening agents can be used for a variety of purposes, ranging from cosmetic through to nutritional, even medicinal, as they are a borderline essential means of manipulating substances by controlling their viscosity, or thickness, and thus how they bind to surfaces. They come into contact with. In the following article, you will learn what dysphagia is, medically speaking, how thickening agents are used for medicinal purposes, as well as some of the contexts in which they may be used.
Dysphagia is difficulty swallowing. Officially, dysphagia is classified under the International Classification of Diseases Version 10 (ICD-10) as a collection of signs and symptoms, although there are those that consider it to be a medical condition in its own right. It is typically caused by a lack of sensation in a specific area of the throat related to swallowings, such as pharyngeal sensation (behind the nasal cavity) or various other difficulties regarding the swallowing mechanism. It is distinct from pain whilst swallowing, known as odynophagia, or globus, defined by a sensation of having a ‘lump’ in one’s throat. Health and safety risks associated with dysphagia include issues such as pulmonary aspiration, where the pharyngeal secretions, food, drink, or stomach contents enter into the larynx, otherwise known as the voice box, and the lower respiratory tract, the area between the trachea, or windpipe, and the lungs. The consequences of this can range from no injury at all to chemical pneumonitis or pneumonia, or even death from asphyxiation if the material causes a complete obstruction of the airway.
Medicinal Thickening Agents
One viable treatment for dysphagia involves increasing the viscosity of a liquid, making it easier for receptors in the throat to detect it. These often play a vital role in reducing the risks associated with dysphagia. It can also be a useful means of maintaining the viscosity of semi-solid food, which is often thinned in the presence of saliva. Natural substances like honey or synthetic, vegan alternatives like SimplyThick gel are common examples of safe and edible thickening agents in the world of nutrition, as they are common remedies for dysphagia. Food thickening agents can also reduce the chances of choking, as it is more difficult to ‘gulp down’ a vast amount of fluid than it would be with a proper liquid.
In addition to their uses in treating patients with dysphagia, food thickeners also play a vital role in neonatal development. If you’ve ever had a baby, especially one fed via a bottle, then you may already be aware of the torturous issues associated with thirsty infants gulping down milk like there is no tomorrow, only to them give themselves a great deal of gas that needs to be burped out of them, or make themselves sick due to overindulgence. When an infant goes onto solids, however, is when the fun starts, as their insatiable appetite can easily lead to choking incidents if not controlled. This is also precisely why food thickeners make up an essential part of the ingredients of most baby foods.