Beverage Thickeners Can Help With Swallowing Disorders

For individuals with dysphagia, beverage thickeners can make drinks easier to swallow.


Unless you have a swallowing disorder called dysphagia, you most likely haven’t given much thought to the different textures and consistencies of the liquids in your daily diet. When you’re parched, nothing hits the spot like an ice-cold glass of water. On a hot summer day, you might crave a cool milkshake. And when you are recuperating from the flu, a hot bowl of soup really hits the spot.

With a swallowing disorder, however, liquids need to be thickened, making it difficult to feel as though your thirst is quenched, and changing your ability to savor things such as that first hot cup of coffee in the morning or a glass of your favorite soda at lunchtime. Keep in mind that adjusting to the use of beverage thickeners can take some time. Golden Harmony’s experts in senior care in Raleigh, NC and the surrounding areas recommend these suggestions to help.

What Are the Best Beverage Thickeners?

It comes down to the person’s individual preference and might take some experimenting to determine which works best. A doctor will advise on the level of thickness needed, which can vary from 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 difficult to thicken, such as soda, hot foods, or supplement beverages.
  • Gum-based powders, which are fairly new and are often a preferred option over starch powders, as they maintain their viscosity over time and work without adding flavor, grit, or cloudiness to the liquid.
  • Starch powders, produced from modified cornstarch, which have to be served right after mixing in order to avoid lumpiness or a gritty texture or taste.
  • Pre-thickened products, that are becoming increasingly available, either in honey or nectar consistencies.

It is important to ensure someone with a swallowing disorder stays hydrated. Certain fluids may be more palatable, particularly as the person is adapting to thickened liquids. Try fruit juice, that will be similar in texture to a smoothie or fruit puree. You can also freeze thickened juice, or just about any other thickened beverage, into an ice pop.

It is also helpful to be aware that beverage thickeners could be covered by Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance providers. Although these products can be obtained over the counter, ask a doctor to write a prescription and include the need 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 hydrated and healthy, along with many other senior care services at home. Contact us at 919-426-7522 to request a free in-home consultation to find out more information about our senior care in Raleigh, NC and the surrounding areas.