Nearly everyone can relate to that awful feeling when you expect to swallow a bite of food, but it gets stuck in your throat instead. Perhaps you try resolving the issue by coughing, or maybe by gulping down water, but it doesn’t help. Embarrassed, you head to the restroom to try to fix your dilemma in private.
Dubbed the “steakhouse syndrome,” it happens more frequently as we age, and it’s very important that you take the correct actions to avoid more serious consequences. Heading off to be alone is NOT a correct step to take, according to medical experts.
Instead, try to stay calm and remain with others, indicating to them that food is not appropriately going down. If you can’t resolve it on your own, seek immediate medical attention. Read below for tips about food safety for seniors.
Risk factors for the steakhouse syndrome include:
- Increased weight, which can happen more with age
- Lowered mucus and certain medications that lead to acid reflux—and acid reflux can eventually lead to esophagus narrowing
- Esophagus constrictions generally lessen with age
This syndrome happens most frequently with tougher-to-swallow foods such as well-done steak (thus the nickname of the syndrome) and dry turkey.
Winchester Hospital lists additional risk factors, including drinking too much alcohol or wearing dentures. If you have a medical condition affecting your esophagus (diagnosed or as-of-yet undiagnosed), this will hamper your ability to swallow food as effectively.
As a preventive measure, eat smaller bites and chew them well before swallowing. Sip water as you eat, especially if you’re eating meat. If you feel food getting stuck, small sips of water or carbonated drinks are a good first step, but don’t gulp, and you should head to the ER if this does not solve the issue. If you experience this frequently, talk to your doctor. You may need to see a gastroenterologist for evaluation. Do not attempt to vomit because that can perforate your esophagus.
Benefits of Chewing Your Food Well
Chewing your food well helps to prevent food sticking, as mentioned above, but there are significantly more benefits to chewing well, according to Heritage Integrative Healthcare:
- It’s a key step in healthy digestion and allowing nutrients to be absorbed into your body.
- More specifically, when you chew appropriately, enzymes are released that aid the digestive process.
- Food that isn’t broken down enough can cause bacterial growth, which can cause indigestion, bloating and constipation; chewing is the key to prevention.
Ohio State University experts estimate that softer foods need five to 10 chews, whereas meat and dense vegetables can require up to 30. The article also recommends that, when you eat, concentrate on eating. And, if you can still feel food parts in your mouth, then you haven’t chewed enough.
WebMD says that, if chewing or swallowing causes problems for you, “try mashing, pureeing or moistening dry foods with broth, sauce or milk.”