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Eating and Swallowing Following a Stroke

If you've suffered a stroke, you may have problems with eating and swallowing because of weakness or paralysis on one side of your face and body. This makes preparing food, as well as feeding yourself, hard tasks to complete.

At Mary Free Bed, therapists evaluate your eating and swallowing abilities. If needed, adaptive equipment such as dycem, snip scissors, and/or large handled spoons and forks are used. Your stroke therapy sessions will teach you strategies and exercises to make eating easier.


Difficulty chewing and swallowing is called dysphagia. Dysphagia puts you at risk for aspiration as food or liquid may go down the wrong “pipe” into the lungs, which can lead to pneumonia.

Sometimes after a stroke, you can't feel when food or liquid goes down the wrong way, and this is called silent aspiration. Another risk is that you may not get all the food or liquid your body needs because it's too hard to swallow.

Signs of dysphagia are:

  • Difficulty chewing food
  • Having food pocket in one or both sides of the mouth
  • Coughing after swallowing either food or liquid
  • Having a wet, gurgly voice
  • Needing to swallow several times for each bite or sip
  • Feeling like food or liquid is still in the throat after swallowing

Sometimes, observing you eat doesn't provide our stroke therapists with enough information about how you're swallowing. In that case, an x-ray of your swallow (videofluoroscopy) or an endoscopic procedure (FEES) may be completed. These exams provide additional information regarding what's happening in your mouth and throat during the swallow.

If there's difficulty swallowing, a Mary Free Bed therapist gives you exercises to strengthen your swallow mechanism and strategies to help safe swallowing. Soft foods or pureed foods may be recommended for safer swallowing. Liquids may also be thickened for safer swallowing.

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