3 Causes Of Dysphagia

Health & Medical Blog

Pain when swallowing food or the sensation the food is caught in your esophagus for a short time is common, but it is uncommon when the problem is an ongoing issue. There are several underlying causes of dysphagia, some of which can be fixed by simply changing the way you eat.

Poor Eating Habits

You should never eat lying down and you should maintain good posture while eating. If you have any back or other musculoskeletal issues that make sitting up difficult, you may want to have a chair with a high back to give you support. If you are hunched over your plate while eating, you are more likely to experience dysphagia. When you eat firmer foods, try taking smaller bites and chewing thoroughly. Taking sips of liquid between bites can help moisten your food so it goes down your esophagus easier. If dysphagia is an ongoing issue, switching to softer foods or a mostly liquid diet might be necessary until the underlying issue is resolved.

Esophagus Damage

Several gastrointestinal problems may eventually cause damage to the esophagus that contributes to dysphagia. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic problem where stomach acid frequently backs up in the esophagus. Eventually, the acid will cause erosions in the esophagus. Even after the erosions heal, there is the possibility of scarring. If the scars are numerous or large they make it difficult for food to easily pass through the esophagus. Properly addressing acid reflux and GERD with changes in your diet and medications may prevent permanent damage to the esophagus.

Muscle Abnormalities

Food travels to your stomach through the esophagus because of coordinated muscle contractions that push the food along. Sometimes these muscle contractions are abnormal in some way, causing dysphagia. The contractions may occur at a frequent rate or be unusually powerful, which causes pain and does not move the food through your esophagus in any meaningful way. Another problem can be caused by the sphincter that separates your esophagus from your stomach. If the muscles controlling the sphincter remain contracted, food will stay at the base of the esophagus and is unable to enter the stomach. Sometimes surgical procedures may be necessary to loosen a tight sphincter and allow food to pass normally.

The occasional episode of dysphagia is usually corrected by eating more slowly and taking smaller bites. When the problem is severe or occurs frequently regardless of changes in your eating behaviors, there may be a chronic problem with the esophagus that requires medical intervention.

Gastroenterology is the science of the stomach and intestines, so see a professional if you have stomach acid issues causing dysphagia.


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