Carinda Stout, MS CCC/SLP
The Pros and Cons of Thickened Liquids
Thick liquids are often recommended for individuals with swallowing disorders. Some of the reasons thickened liquids are recommended include:
Thin liquids move fast and can spill out of the mouth and into the throat before the individual is ready to swallow. Thickening a liquid can slow down the flow of the liquid, especially if there is a delayed swallow.
Thin liquids are more difficult to control in the mouth. Thickening a liquid can keep the sip of fluid together in the mouth and be easier to control when swallowing.
Thicker is not always better or safer. The thinnest liquid that is tolerated should be what is used.
It is known that those requiring thickened liquids have significant dehydration issues. Studies have shown that individuals who require thickened liquids consume less liquid than if they were to consume thin liquids. The thicker the liquid, the less liquid was consumed.
Studies have shown that individuals who require thickened liquids consume less liquid than if they were to consume thin liquids.
The type of thickener and how much is used also affects absorption of medications. Xanthan gum and guar gum tend to be broken down in the colon thus release of medications is delayed. Thickened liquids also cause individuals to feel full faster thus often not consuming as much other food as they need. Thickeners can alter the taste of the fluid causing individuals to refuse to drink it. Thickeners can also be very constipating.