Information for the public

If you have problems eating

If you have problems eating

You may be malnourished because you find it difficult or painful to eat, chew, drink or swallow (the medical word for this is dysphagia). Sometimes this happens because you are ill. For example, if you have had a stroke, or have dementia or have had an operation on your throat, you may find it difficult to eat or swallow normally.

You should be referred to a healthcare professional who specialises in dysphagia. He or she will work with you to make sure that you are able to take in enough nutrients. For example, changing the consistency, temperature and/or taste of drinks and food may help you swallow them. Any changes made to your diet should be reviewed regularly by your healthcare professional until your nutrition has improved.

Food supplements, drinks or changes in the way food and drink are prepared and served don't help everyone. If you are not able to eat enough food despite these changes, or if it is not safe for you to swallow, you should be offered liquid feed through a tube. This is called enteral feeding and is described in more detail in Tube feeding.

If you are taking medicines and you have dysphagia, your healthcare professional should check the type of medicines you take and the way they are given.