Thickening Agents for Dysphagia

Thickened fluids reduce aspiration in individuals experiencing dysphagia or swallowing difficulties. Residents can develop dysphagia due to Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer irradiation, stroke, developmental disability, side effects of medication and dementia.

Some common signs of dysphagia include:

  • dribbling or drooling
  • excessive coughing, spluttering and choking
  • fear of swallowing
  • regurgitation
  • frequent chest infections
  • talking difficulties after swallowing

A speech pathologist must always be consulted with swallowing difficulties to assess swallowing function, appropriate care, exercises to improve outcome and other feeding and swallowing strategies.

Common starch-based thickening agents for dysphagia are listed below:

Common gum-based thickening agents are listed below:

  • Super Col-U
  • Instant Carobel

Stir-in thickeners are useful for thickening small quantities of drinks and soups at the point of service and they are:

  • Karicare
  • QuickThik
  • RD Thickener
  • Resource Thicken Up
  • Easy Thick

Note that water-based soups and drinks must be left for 5 minutes to thicken before consumption while milk-based drinks may need to be left for 15 minutes to thicken to the right consistency before use.

Blend-in thickeners, as the name implies, need to be mixed in a blender and they are usually made up in large batches and thickened to different grades, namely mild, moderate and thick consistencies. Examples of blend-in thickeners are:

  • ThickPlus
  • Keltrol
  • Super Col-U
  • Guarcol
  • Nutulis
  • Viscaid

Household ingredients to thicken liquids:

  • cornflour
  • baby cereal (Farex)
  • gravy powder
  • mashed potato
  • pureed baby food
  • instant potato flakes
  • powders sauce mixes
  • arrowroot flour
  • custard powder
  • potato flour
  • rice flour
  • sago (tapioca balls)

Recipes for making thick fluids with Super Col-U and ClearGel can be obtained from this link: Thickening Recipes

Below is a list of commercial companies that provide thick fluids or thickener powders:

  • Novartis
  • Chef’s Pride
  • Nutricia
  • Swallowade
  • Flavour Creations
  • Chipmonk (Super Col U)
  • Orion
  • Janbak Industries (Keltrol)
  • Orfam (Dr McLeod’s QuickThik)

More contacts for commercial food thickeners and suppliers can be obtained from this link: Commercial Food Thickeners Suppliers

Please note that the following foods are inappropriate for patients with dysphagia as they become thin in the mouth and may cause aspiration:

  • jelly
  • gelatine desserts
  • popsicles or icy poles
  • ice creams
  • thin custards