Thick water is often used as a dietary aid for individuals with swallowing difficulties, also known as dysphagia. Dysphagia affects up to 15 million adults in the USA. According to research, 1 in 25 adults experience swallowing problems annually.
What is Thick Water?
Thickened water, also known as thick water, gel water or thickened liquids, is a modified form of water with a thicker consistency than regular water. Thick water can make it easier to swallow and reduce the risk of choking or aspiration. Thickening agents, such as xanthan gum or starch, are added to water to achieve the desired consistency.
Thick water allows for proper hydration for the elderly and people with swallowing difficulties due to acid reflux (heartburn or GERD), esophagitis, spinal cord injuries, thyroid problems and neurological condition like Parkinson’s disease or dementia.
The primary benefit of using thick water is to make swallowing easier and safer for people with dysphagia. It helps to prevent choking and aspiration, which can occur when thin liquids flow too quickly down the throat and into the airway. By thickening the water, it slows down the rate of flow, allowing individuals with swallowing difficulties to manage liquids more effectively.
5 Benefits of Thick Water
Improved swallowing safety
Thick water helps individuals with dysphagia control the fluid flow during swallowing. It makes liquid intake easy and safe by reducing the risk of aspiration, where fluids enter the lungs instead of the stomach.
Thick water allows individuals with swallowing difficulties to stay hydrated. Staying hydrated is essential for overall health and well-being.
Thick water can be used as a medium to deliver essential medications and supplements. It can ensure increased caloric and nutritional intake for those who struggle with swallowing.
Thick water can be used as a base for various beverages, such as juices, tea, coffee, and even soups, to make them safer to consume for people with swallowing difficulties.
Some individuals with dysphagia find thick water more comfortable to swallow than thin liquids, as it provides more sensory feedback and control during the swallowing process.
Here are 10 tips for using thick water at home
Use the right thickening agent
There are different types of thickening agents available, including xanthan gum, starch, or gel-based thickeners. The choice of thickening agent may depend on factors such as personal preference, dietary restrictions, or any allergies. It’s essential to use the appropriate thickening agent as recommended by the healthcare professional.
When preparing thick water, make sure to mix the thickening agent thoroughly with the water. Follow the instructions provided with the thickening agent to achieve the desired consistency. Use an appropriate mixing container to combine the thickening agent with water. A whisk or shaker bottle can help to prevent clumping. Improper mixing may result in an uneven texture, affecting the swallowing experience.
Allow time for thickening
After mixing the thickening agent with water, allow some time for the liquid to reach the desired consistency. Some thickening agents require time to fully thicken the water. This process may take a few minutes, and the liquid may continue to thicken over time. Follow the recommended wait time specified by the thickening agent manufacturer or healthcare professional.
Some individuals may find that thick water is more palatable at a certain temperature. You can try serving it chilled, at room temperature, or warmed to see which option is most comfortable for you. Keep in mind that some thickening agents may be affected by temperature. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer regarding the temperature of the water and any limitations on hot or cold liquids.
Thick water may have a different taste compared to regular water. It can alter the taste and mouthfeel of beverages. Some individuals find it helpful to add flavorings, such as low-sugar fruit juices, sugar-free syrups, flavored powders or flavored water enhancers, to enhance the taste and make it more enjoyable.
Storage and Expiry
Follow the storage instructions provided by the thickening product manufacturer. In general, thick water should be consumed within a certain time frame and stored in a cool, dry place. Pay attention to the expiration date and storage instructions provided by the manufacturer. Proper storage ensures the safety and quality of the thick water.
Ensure proper hydration
Although thick water helps with swallowing difficulties, it’s crucial to ensure to consume the recommended amount of fluids each day, even if they are thickened. Speak with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate amount of thickened liquids needed to maintain proper hydration levels. They may also provide recommendations for alternative hydration methods if necessary.
Follow product instructions
The thickness level of the water can vary depending on the severity of the swallowing difficulties. There are different levels of thickness, such as nectar-like, honey-like, or pudding-like consistencies. Read and follow the instructions provided by the thickening product manufacturer carefully. Thickening agents, such as commercial thickening powders or gel-based thickeners, are available to modify the consistency of water.
Each thickening agent may have specific instructions on how much to use and how to mix it properly. It’s also important to follow the specific recommendations provided by the healthcare professional to ensure safety and effectiveness.
Consult a healthcare professional
It is essential to consult with a speech therapist, dietitian, or healthcare professional to determine the appropriate thickness level (e.g., nectar-like, honey-like, pudding-like) and the recommended amount of thickener for your specific needs.
Support and Guidance
Connecting with support groups or online communities for individuals with dysphagia can be helpful. They can provide tips, advice, and support based on their own experiences with using thick water.
Thick water is typically recommended for individuals with specific swallowing difficulties, and it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional to determine if it’s appropriate for your consumption. They can provide personalized guidance based on your specific needs.
Hunaid Germanwala is a digital marketer and content creator at Health Products For You since 2014. He has an MS from Ulm University in Germany. His mind is always buzzing with creative ideas and is eager to explore new perspectives. His motto in life is “Better to Light the Candle than to Curse the Darkness.”