Speech Therapy and Digestion

Digestion is something we all take for granted.  Not only do we take it for granted but we abuse it every day.  Why would we do such a thing?  Probably because our digestive system works automatically without any help from us.  Until it doesn’t.

Digestion is far more complex than we realize.  We get hungry, we eat, and move on to the next thing on our to-do list.  However, it seems to me I am seeing more patients with digestive problems.

How does a speech therapist end up with patients with digestive problems?  It begins with our teeth, lips, cheeks, and tongue.  If any of these body parts are weak or missing (teeth), swallowing problems are likely to be present.

We have all been told as kids to chew our food.  Each bite should be chewed 32 times!  What!  Yes. 32 times.  But why?  I tried to locate research-based case studies on exact numbers of chewing each bite.  Lots of research but nothing that measured the times each bite was chewed.  I will keep searching.  If it’s been said, it’s written somewhere……..

1. To break the fibrous foods such as vegetable and fruit skins, meats, and dry-hard foods (chips, nuts, etc).
2.  Saliva has enzymes which initiate digestion.  Yep, digestion starts before your first bite.  These enzymes begin to help break down your food before it ever reaches your stomach.  Saliva starts to produce as you are thinking about your food.  Your mouth starts to ‘water’ specifically to aid in digestion.
3.  Teeth pulverize and crush each bite into small particles. This is necessary to reduce the work placed on your stomach.

Yes, I know.  Wow!  I’m afraid many people really have not put a lot of thought into their chewing.  We are all guilty for sure.  Including myself.  

In regards to speech therapy, we often have patients with poor dentition, poorly fitting dentures, weak muscles in the mouth (tongue, lips, cheeks), or with a dry mouth.  All of the above will have a negative effect on someone’s ability to chew and swallow their food.

The biggest problem with this is the negative effects on your digestive system do not show up immediately.  People often live with these bad habits or weaknesses all of their life.  Again, everyone is different.  Some people start to feel the effects sooner than others.

Digestive problems associated with poor oral musculature, poor chewing habits, or dry mouth will eventually slowly show up as:
1. Indigestion
2. Reflux
3. Weight gain
4. Poor sleeping habits
5. Dental problems (cavities due to poor saliva production)

This is a shortlist of possible side effects.  Digestive problems can slowly arise or rapidly appear depending on the individual.  When problems arise slowly, it can be difficult to associate them with poor chewing habits.  

When it comes to digestive problems- don’t forget it starts before the first bite of food!

Kind regards,


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  • Eating Difficulties | An Audio Course | FREE PREVIEW 00:00

FREE Preview for Eating Difficulties - Audio Course

Welcome to the Free Preview for Eating Difficulties

If you are here listening to this course, it is because you or someone you care for is having problems eating, chewing their foods, and/ or drinking.  Sometimes it is due to a medical problem such as having a stroke, a surgical procedure, or a muscular problem just to name a few reasons.  

If this is why you are here, you are in the right place.  It’s not enough to go to the doctor to find out what’s wrong, you need to know how to help yourself.  You must educate yourself as much as possible regarding the topic.  If the topic is high blood pressure, then learn everything you can: 

-what causes high blood pressure

-how can you lower blood pressure

-what makes it better

-what makes it worse

 My advice is ‘be proactive’.  So you can live a healthy, happy, and productive life.

This is the free preview lesson to make sure you are in the right place.  I am Pamela your host for this lesson as well as the Eating Difficulties course.  I am a speech language pathologist with 24 years experience   working with people who have eating problems.  

What you are probably thinking is why is a Speech Pathologist helping people eat?  Well, every patient I’ve ever had wanted to know this question. Most reply “I can talk just fine, I do not need speech therapy”. 

The answer is this:  All of the muscles we use to speak with, we also use to eat with.  This is why we cannot talk and eat at the same time.  Our airway closes when we swallow our food, if we try talking when swallowing; we all know what will happen.  We will choke.  This is why speech pathologists are the professionals taking care of people with speaking problems, eating problems, thinking problems, and much more.

I have spent my professional life in rural hospitals, nursing homes, home health settings, and as a tele therapist (long before COVID).  The majority of my cases include swallowing problems.  It is that common.  Everyone takes eating and drinking for granted until they can’t eat, get choked when eating, or choked when drinking.  

Actually, people who have eating problems will ‘just live with it’ for years until it becomes too much to avoid or leads to a hospital stay where it may or may not get noticed. 

 I have had patient’s anywhere from newborn to 90+ years old with eating problems.  It is a universal problem.  Anyone can have problems eating or drinking at any given time or age.  Our swallowing mechanism is controlled by our nervous system, muscles, respiratory system, and our brain.  A problem in any of these areas can lead to a swallowing problem.

This course is an introductory course into the swallowing mechanism.  What you will learn is basic and useful information pertaining to foods and liquids.  Simple changes and increased awareness of how foods and liquids are categorized to meet the specific needs of each individual.  Because some foods are harder to chew, some are harder to keep together, and some are easier to manage.  What works for one person might not work for another.

I am grateful you are seeking more information and I am here to teach you what I know. I have chosen to seek out how to reach more people because I have witnessed how many times people overlook their eating problems or cannot find the help they need.  

Well, there is only one of me.  Therefore, I have taught myself on how to provide these courses for anyone seeking help.  I realized this was the path I needed to take to provide this information for those who wanted and needed my service.  This is available for more people than I can see one on one.  A wider reach means more people can live a better life starting today! It is my pleasure to be here and I am grateful to have you here.

What will you learn?

-how foods are categorized 

-which foods are easier to chew 

-which foods are more difficult to chew

-how liquids can cause problems

-how eating difficulties can lead to pneumonia and even death

-signs to look for when having eating difficulties

-ways to make immediate changes with food choices to start eating and drinking with less difficulty

-safe swallowing strategies: what are they 

-how speech therapists can help

If this sounds like the information you need and have been searching for- this course is meant for you.  This is an audio course.  It was made to be simple. Sign up with your log in information, pay for the course, and start listening.  No schedule to worry about. No classes to attend.  No live webinar.  Just start listening, learning, and improving your life right now!

Thanks for listening!


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