Are you having difficulty swallowing? This may seem like an unusual symptom of menopause, which is why women who experience it believe they are the only ones. They are not! Let’s learn more about having difficulty swallowing and what you can do about it.
What is difficulty swallowing?
Dysphagia is a condition in which it is difficult to swallow. That is, it takes food and beverages longer than normal to travel from the mouth to the esophagus, and there may be pain. , but there are other symptoms as well. Along with difficulty swallowing, dysphagia is also characterized by drooling, food coming back up into the throat, a feeling like something is stuck in your throat (but nothing is), weight loss, hoarseness, coughing or gagging when swallowing, and pain when swallowing.
Another condition that can involve trouble swallowing is called globus sensation (aka globus pharyngeus). This is when you feel like there is a lump in your throat, even though there is nothing there, and it may make it difficult to swallow. This is often accompanied by tightness or dryness in the throat. Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a common cause of this condition.
Globus sensation has an interesting history related to menopause. In 1707, although John Purcell accurately described this condition as contraction of muscles in the neck applying pressure to the thyroid cartilage, many doctors insisted on associating globus sensation with hysteria. It became known as globus hystericus and linked to menopause and other psychological issues in women. It was renamed globus pharyngeus in 1968.
How is difficulty swallowing associated with menopause?
One factor contributing to difficulty swallowing is that the mucous membranes in the mouth and throat can become very dry in menopause. One symptom of menopause is dry mouth and a deficiency of saliva production, which can make it difficult to swallow.
Anxiety also may play a role. Stress and anxiety may cause the throat muscles to spasm, making it hard to swallow or causing you to choke.
How to treat difficulty swallowing naturally
If you are experiencing difficulty swallowing, it is best to check with your healthcare provider to determine the cause so the proper treatment plan can be identified. In the meantime, there are some things you can do to help reduce your symptoms.
- If anxiety and stress seem to be a factor, identify your stressors. It can be helpful to keep a journal of when you experience difficulty swallowing and how you were feeling at the time. Also note which foods or beverages were involved.
- Practice stress-reduction techniques. Eating when you are highly stressed and/or emotional eating may be a factor. To help quell your anxiety, practice stress reducing activities daily. You might start and end your days with a short meditation or yoga and practice deep breathing during the day.
- Examine your eating habits. It may be beneficial to eat smaller, more frequent meals or snacks. You may need to take smaller bites, cut your food into smaller pieces, or thicken liquids if you find it challenging to swallow them. Avoid sticky or gummy foods.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol. These have a tendency to make your mouth and throat dry and swallowing more troublesome.
When to call your doctor
If your difficulty swallowing becomes worse, more persistent, or is interfering with your ability to eat and get proper nutrition, contact your physician. You may also want to talk to your dentist if your mouth is very dry, because this may suggest a blocked saliva duct.
Difficulty swallowing is a symptom that may occur rarely, frequently, or often. Talk to your healthcare provider if it becomes troublesome.