What are the causes and remedies for difficulty in swallowing?

Symptom Database

Difficulty swallowing, also known as dysphagia, can be a distressing symptom that affects many individuals. It can occur when swallowing food, liquids, or even saliva, and can lead to a range of complications if left untreated. In this article, we will explore the causes of difficulty swallowing and discuss potential remedies to alleviate this condition.

Causes of Difficulty Swallowing

There are several factors that can contribute to difficulty swallowing. Understanding the underlying causes is crucial in determining the appropriate treatment. Here are some common causes:

1. Structural Abnormalities

Structural abnormalities in the throat or esophagus can impede the smooth passage of food and liquids. Conditions such as esophageal strictures, tumors, or the presence of foreign bodies can cause difficulty swallowing. These abnormalities may require medical intervention to be resolved.

2. Neurological Disorders

Neurological disorders can disrupt the coordination of the muscles involved in swallowing. Conditions like stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or muscular dystrophy can lead to swallowing difficulties. Treating the underlying neurological condition may help alleviate the symptoms of dysphagia.

3. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

GERD is a chronic condition characterized by the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus. The resulting inflammation can cause narrowing of the esophagus, making swallowing challenging. Managing GERD through lifestyle changes, medication, or surgery can improve swallowing function.

4. Medications

Some medications can cause dry mouth or muscle weakness, which can contribute to difficulty swallowing. If you suspect that your medication is causing swallowing problems, consult your healthcare provider to explore alternative options.

5. Aging

As we age, the muscles involved in swallowing may weaken, leading to swallowing difficulties. This age-related dysphagia can be managed through dietary modifications, exercises, and other interventions recommended by a healthcare professional.

Remedies for Difficulty Swallowing

While the treatment for difficulty swallowing depends on the underlying cause, there are several remedies that can help alleviate the symptoms. Here are some potential solutions:

1. Dietary Modifications

Modifying your diet can make swallowing easier. Opt for softer foods that require less chewing, and avoid dry or sticky foods that can get stuck in the throat. Chopping or pureeing foods can also aid in swallowing. Additionally, taking smaller bites and chewing thoroughly can make the swallowing process smoother.

2. Posture and Eating Techniques

Adjusting your posture while eating can significantly improve swallowing. Sit upright and tilt your chin slightly downward to facilitate the passage of food. Avoid rushing meals and take your time to chew and swallow. If necessary, consult a speech therapist who can provide guidance on proper eating techniques.

3. Medications and Treatments

Depending on the cause of your swallowing difficulties, your healthcare provider may prescribe medications to manage underlying conditions such as GERD or neurological disorders. In some cases, surgical interventions may be necessary to address structural abnormalities.

4. Swallowing Exercises

Swallowing exercises, also known as dysphagia therapy, can help strengthen the muscles involved in swallowing. These exercises are often recommended by speech therapists and can be tailored to your specific needs. Regular practice can improve swallowing function over time.

5. Hydration and Moisturizing

Staying hydrated is essential for maintaining optimal swallowing function. Sipping on water or other liquids throughout the day can help lubricate the throat and ease swallowing. If dry mouth is a contributing factor, using saliva substitutes or moisturizing sprays can provide relief.


Difficulty swallowing, or dysphagia, can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life. Identifying the underlying causes and seeking appropriate treatment is crucial in managing this condition. Whether it is through dietary modifications, posture adjustments, medication, or swallowing exercises, there are various remedies available to alleviate swallowing difficulties. If you are experiencing persistent trouble swallowing, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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