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International dysphagia diet guidelines are here

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on May 1, 2019 in Dysphagia

Global guidelines to standardise dysphagia diets have finally reached Australia. The IDDSI framework, while not mandatory, came into effect 1 May, 2019.


Here’s a brief recap followed by insights into what to expect.





Older adults are at high risk for swallowing difficulties, otherwise known as dysphagia. Estimates suggest dysphagia affects up to one in five older people living in the community and around half of those in assisted living facilities.


It’s a serious concern that can result in choking or suffocation if food or drinks go down the wrong way. Managing the condition, while some swallowing ability is still present, involves the use of texture-modified foods and thickened liquids.


The International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative (IDDSI) lays down food guidelines to ensure that people with dysphagia can eat safely.


Viscosity is tailored according to dysphagia severity, ranked from soft and bite-sized to pureed food, and thin to extremely thick drinks. Proportion Foods’ SmartserveTM passed the test last year when it was classified as Level 4 Puree.


Australia has used its own dysphagia diet guidelines since 2007, but research has grown since then.


IDDSI aims to standardise the terminology and testing of these rankings around the world, for people of all ages in all care facilities. Australia is joining more than 20 other countries including New Zealand, the US, Canada, and several European nations in implementing it.



Making the transition


It will take time and organisation for health care providers and institutions to complete the transition – in the meantime both old and new frameworks will both be used so it’s important to be familiar with each of them.


The Australian Standards for Texture Modified Foods and Fluids – to be phased out – classifies fluids as mildly, moderately and extremely thick and food as soft, minced and moist, and smooth pureed.


IDDSI categorises foods as regular, soft and bite-sized, minced and moist, pureed and liquidised. Drinks go from thin to slightly, mildly, moderately and extremely thick. Pureed and liquidised food overlap with extremely thick and moderately thick fluid, respectively.


It’s apparent when comparing these standards that there is some overlap between them. But it is important to note differences. For instance, Level 6 of the IDDSI, which aligns with Texture A – Soft Diet, specifies that foods must be in ‘bite-sized’ pieces.


To adopt the new guidelines, organisations will need to review and overhaul policy and documentation, educate staff (IDDSI workshops will support this), and review menu items.


All relevant team members – including speech pathologists and dietitians – and external stakeholders – GPs, local hospitals – will also need to be informed and involved in the process.


Speech Pathology Australia, the primary body for speech pathologists, has made a statement in support of the new guidelines that can be accessed on their website below.


The site also provides supporting material including information on old and new standards and educational posters.







The International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative 2016 @https://iddsi.org/framework/

Swallowing pills – a double-edged sword

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on May 1, 2018 in Dysphagia, Research, Supplements

Pill swallowing can be daunting. In fact, one survey revealed around 40% of adults who otherwise had no swallowing problems struggled with pills. What if, on the other hand, pills themselves make food and liquid difficult to swallow – otherwise known as dysphagia?



Drugs and dysphagia


Medication use is widespread in older people. According to a survey published in 2012, more than 80% of Australians over 50 reported taking one or more medicines within the past 24 hours. Over 40% had taken five or more medications – both prescription and complementary.


Medication side effects, particularly in aging, can cause drug-induced dysphagia. Directly or indirectly, this can result from a specific medication, a certain combination of medications or ‘polypharmacy’ – taking more than 5 medications, as is common in older people.


Dry mouth or confusion, central nervous system suppression and muscle relaxation are medication side effects that can interfere with swallowing either temporarily or persistently. Some drugs can directly damage swallowing mechanisms.



Making swallowing easier


Much of this drug-induced dysphagia can be avoided by thoroughly and accurately assessing a patient’s medication use. Patients should be informed and empowered to request this from their practitioners. Where possible, unnecessary or harmful prescriptions can be eliminated or replaced with alternative or liquid medications.


Other strategies to facilitate easy swallowing include taking medications at least 30 minutes before bedtime with plenty of fluid and sitting at a 45-90-degree angle, sipping water regularly throughout the day, using a saliva substitute, and taking one pill at a time.


One study tested two further methods to help pills go down.


The first is a “pop-bottle method.” This involves filling a bottle with water, placing the tablet on your tongue and drinking the fluid and pill with a sucking motion, lips placed firmly around the bottle opening. Study participants reported swallowing large pills was 60% easier doing this than sipping water from a cup.


The next method yielded an 89% perceived improvement. Somewhat counterintuitive, this approach involves putting the pill on your tongue, taking a sip of water without swallowing, then dropping the chin down to your chest to swallow the pill.


Unavoidable dysphagia can be managed by a team including speech pathologists and dietitians to facilitate swallowing and recovery. Most importantly, nutritional needs must be addressed to avoid malnutrition and further complications, where necessary using texture-modified food.












New Framework Identifies Food Safe for Swallowing

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Mar 14, 2018 in Aged Care, Dysphagia, Nutrition

Most of us long ago abandoned our childlike delight of playing with food; watching rapturously as it flowed through our fork, kneading it into a ball, belligerently breaking it up and squishing it through our fingers.


Some lucky adults get to do this for a living. The International Dysphagia Standardisation Initiative (IDDSI) applies such tests to determine if food is safe for people with different stages of dysphagia – including the ‘Fork Drip Test’, ‘Fork Pressure Test’, and the ‘Chopstick Test.’ What fun.


But it’s an important and serious matter for older people who suffer from stroke or other conditions that make swallowing difficult, and may choke or suffocate if food goes down the wrong way.



SmartserveTM passes the test


IDDSI was only recently launched in Australia, with support from Speech Pathology Australia. Proportion Food representatives attended the inaugural IDDSI Australian User and Industry Forum 2018.


Chief support officer for ProPortion Foods, Nikki, says she was impressed by “the willingness for collaboration between multiple parties – speech therapists, dietitians, food service staff, management and industry.


“There was an overwhelming positivity around the need for standards from a patient safety point of view.”


Following instructions from Peter Lam and Dr Julie Cichero (IDDSI Co-Chairs), delegates and speech pathologists tested a range of foods, including ProPortion Foods’ SmartserveTM which was classified as Level 4 Puree.


Smartserve products are “soft-textured dairy desserts and snacks high in protein.” They come in 10 different flavours and are easy to open.



Level 4 Puree


The IDDSI ‘Level 4 Puree’ classification – designated green – places the food in the ‘pureed’ food and ‘extremely thick’ liquid categories, comparable to the National Dysphagia Diet’s ‘Dysphagia Pureed’ category.


As with level 3 (liquidised/moderately thick), the designation overlaps between food and drink categories. Considering feedback from food service professionals, IDDSI retained separate text labels depending on whether the item is required as a food or drink.


Level 4 is measured using the fork drip test; the amount of food or liquid that flows through the fork’s prongs determines its level of thickness. Level 4 puree will remain on the fork, with some forming a “small tail” underneath.



What next?

Australia’s implementation of IDDSI, replacing currently approved Australian standards, has three phases: awareness, preparation, adoption.


Stage one, which started December 2016, was an awareness building venture amongst all relevant sectors.


Stage two, now underway as of January 2018, involves preparing and approving processes, protocols, materials and products, and training clinicians, staff and relevant stakeholders.


The recent forum marked an important step forward for Stage 2. The next step, on track for May 2019, will see the new IDDSI system introduced for commercial use, transition and integration.









What to Eat When Swallowing Fails?

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Feb 6, 2018 in Dysphagia, Food Science, Nutrition, Protein, Research

Swallowing. Most of us perform this apparently simple act many times every day without a second thought.


Yet eating and swallowing is an extremely complex procedure that recruits over thirty different nerves and muscles to move food and liquid down the correct channels from mouth to stomach.


Malfunction in any aspect of this intricate operation can result in swallowing difficulties, or dysphagia, afflicting up to one in five older community-dwelling adults and around half of those living in aged care facilities.


It’s easy to lose heart when eating and drinking can’t be enjoyed as before, which can result in a vicious cycle of unintentional weight loss, malnutrition, and further despondency.


However, there are ways to keep the nutritional side of things on the bright side to avoid complications like pneumonia, dehydration and infection, and optimise health and recovery.



Team effort


A team of health professionals helps manage dysphagia and navigate individuals through the act of safe swallowing and recovery, with speech pathologists at the helm and dietitians on board to carefully monitor a patient’s ability, progress and nutrition status.


In some cases, tube feeding through the nose or stomach (enteral nutrition) or directly into the blood (parenteral nutrition) is the best option to deliver or supplement with life-giving nutrients and fluid. But patients should be supported to eat and drink orally wherever possible.


Strategies for eating can include postural adjustments, swallow manoeuvres, trained feeding assistance, adaptive feeding equipment, distraction-free environment, swallow rehabilitation and texture-modified food and liquid.



What can be eaten


Mildly to extremely thickened liquid or nectar is most commonly used for dysphagia. Thin fluids are avoided for fear of choking – therefore it is important to maintain good hydration, and watch out for dark-coloured urine, skin turgor and dry membranes.


Texture-modified foods, ranked according to their viscosity, have four levels of consistency depending on the patient’s swallowing and chewing ability.


Smooth pureed food is the easiest option. Much trial and error has been invested in getting this right – which would be obvious, for instance, if you’ve ever tried to puree green beans (hint: they’re stringy…).


The pureed food must have consistent thickness, be free from lumps and require no chewing. Examples include smooth, pureed cereals, meats, mashed potato, avocado, custard, and fruit-free yoghurt.


The next level is moist, semi-solid food that requires some chewing ability but is easily mashed with a fork. These foods can have a little texture and soft, smooth lumps, like cooked cereals, ground or cooked meat, and soft, canned fruit and vegetables.


Soft foods are allowed for more advanced swallowing and chewing ability, including well cooked vegetables, baked beans, soft or canned fruit, moist breads and rice, and tender, thinly sliced meat, fish or chicken.


Level four requires no texture modification – all foods are on the menu.


Some simple tricks can boost food’s nutrition density, like pureeing with milk or cream for extra protein and energy, and adding butter or milk powder.


And for those repelled by colourless, unidentifiable slop, advanced food manufacturing techniques now use thickeners and food moulds to enhance pureed food’s appeal while improving the nutrition profile.










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