This post explores the possibility of using Molecular Gastronomy for Dysphagia Recipes to improve the lives of people with dementia, Parksinson’s disease, ALS, cancer, and other medical conditions that make it difficult for them to eat.
Over the past few years, I’ve developed an interest in molecular gastronomy and the implications it might have for helping people with dysphagia enjoy eating. I’ve cooked for people undergoing cancer treament, Parkinson’s disease, and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), all of whom have had difficulty eating due to their illnesses, and seen how the pleasure of eating has been taken away from them.
Molecular gastronomy or modernist cuisine is used to describe cooking where scientific processes and ingredients are used to transform food into different forms and textures. Dysphagia is a medical condition where people have may have difficulty chewing and moving food or liquid into the throat and swallowing food. Dysphagia may occur after a stroke, throat or mouth cancer, and can occur in people undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, and people with dementia, Parkinson’s disease and ALS.
Although molecular gastronomy is typically associated with high end restaurants, serving beautifully plated foods or cocktails with foams, gels, airs, powders and spheres, I believe there is a unique opportunity to use molecular gastronomy in all its shapes and forms to help improve the quality of life for people living with dysphagia.
The cooking techniques employed by molecular gastronomy – sous vide, gelification, spherification, foams, powders, airs – provide a variety of textures and consistencies that I think have practical implications for delivering food and flavor in a form that people with dysphagia can enjoy.
Gels can deliver liquids that might be easier to swallow without choking. Pictured below is Pomegranate Gel made with pomegranate juice (400g), sugar (4g), and xanthan gum (.4g), and low acyl gellan gum (4 g).
Here is a Coffee and Milk Foam (Recipe from MolecularRecipes.com). Foams are another way of delivering liquids in a form that might be easier to swallow.
These Strawberry Spheres (recipe on MolecularRecipes.com) and Yogurt Spheres (also from MolecularRecipes.com) have a thin gel coating that pop in your mouth, releasing a thickened liquid or pureed filling. Spherification or Reverse Spherification could provide a vehicle for food for people who have trouble chewing and moving food around in their mouth.
This is “Nutella” Powder made by mixing maltodextrin with cocoa almond spread until it becomes a powder. This works with anything with a high fat content, e.g., olive oil, sesame oil. Powders can deliver flavor enhancement in small amounts.
Sous Vide Poached Eggs can be a good source of protein and nutrition for someone on a soft food diet.
I raise the topic of using Molecular Gastronomy for Dysphagia Recipes as food for thought. Currently, people with dysphagia have few food options. There are food thickeners on the market that are used to thicken nutritional shakes (that is what we were told to do for my father-in-law who had Parkinson’s disease). Food is also pureed. Although both of these more traditional ways of serving food to people with dysphagia work, there’s nothing pleasurable about mealtime.
I’d like to see a world where people with dysphagia look forward to mealtime and find it enjoyable again. During a recent visit with a friend with ALS who can no longer eat or talk, she typed, “I just want a steak.” I’d like to be able to give her that taste of steak that she’s craving.
Molecular Gastronomy: Transforming Diets for Dysphagia, Journal of Nutritional Health & Food Science
Xanthan gum and its use for people with dysphagia, Molecularrecipes.com
Don’t Give Me Eggs That Bounce, Hammond Care
3D Food for the Elderly, Epicurious Blog
A novel dysphagia diet improves the nutrient intake of institutionalized elders, PubMed.gov
Angie@Angie's Recipes says
So fancy and fun!
Thanks Angie – I’ve been having fun playing around in the kitchen as you can see. The strawberry spheres and nutella powder were big hits with my kids.
Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine says
Wow, this is so interesting and so cool! What a great way to help those enjoy the wonderful flavors of food again!
Thanks Rebecca – I really do think there are a lot of ways molecular gastronomy can help people who have difficulty eating enjoy food again.
Sonali- The Foodie Physician says
I love, love, love this! I’ve been a fan of molecular gastronomy for a while now, but honestly never thought of the medical implications- so interesting. You’ve inspired me to finally open up the molecular gastronomy kit that my husband gave me for Christmas.
Thanks Sonali – I’d love to hear your thoughts after you try some of the recipes in your kit. A lot of the consistencies/forms seem like they should be able to be enjoyed by people with dysphagia.
Laura O |Petite Allergy Treats says
This is such a great post Jeanette! I used to work in radiology with swallow studies and inevitably saw first hand aspiration due to either Parkinson, ALS or stroke. This molecular change of foods would help so many not just eat safely but be able to enjoy the foods they used to love.
Thanks Laura – that is so cool that you have the experience working with such patients. I would really like to see chefs help make eating pleasurable again using molecular gastronomy and other techniques. I think the quality of life could be improved immensely.
This is so interesting. What a great way to help so many people be able enjoy the foods they love again.
Thanks Kelly – I think there are definitely applications that can help people enjoy eating again
alison @ Ingredients, Inc. says
such a cool post!! Hope you’re well!
Lee Lemon says
I just wanted to thank you for this wonderful idea, I have jsut finished chemo/radiation therapy for stage 4 throat cancer , and been found to be in remission (cancer free for now). This was met for me with glee at may survival, followed by dread that my diagnosis included the high probability that my mouth would never open beyond it’s current tiny amount, which makes it unlikely to be able to eat as I had before.
Then I found your article, and I found myself excited to try this. I had always been mystified by molecular gastronomy, but never had chance to try/experience it…. so Now I have an excuse…. Again thank you if for nothing else then the excitement for eating again….
Hi Lee, I think molecular gastronomy can provide some new ideas for people have difficulty eating and want to enjoy the flavors they once knew. You can buy kits that allow you to experiment at home and there many recipes online. I’d love to hear what you come up with.
Great post thanks for sharing I guess you should have a look on http://chefclub.stream too for amazing molecular gastronomy recipe, hope this can help you pamela (sorry don’t remember your name) anyway cheers
Thanks for sharing this additional resource Gwendolyn
A wonderful post. I would love to do more with this idea as I believe dysphagia detracts from quality of life and so many social opportunities. As a therapist, I would like to see this have less of a negative impact as we increase thinking outside of the box, as this post does.
Thanks Anita – I do believe there is much that can be done to make the quality of life better for dysphagia patients when it comes to eating. There are ways they can enjoy real food in an attractive form. It does take some time and effort, but I think it’s definitely worth exploring.
Look like a Molecularrecipes.com it’s down.can you sheer coffee and milk fom recipe. Thenks
I can’t locate the recipe, but here is a whole collection of molecular gastronomy recipes. See page 18 for a chocolate foam that sounds similar: https://blog.khymos.org/wp-content/2009/02/hydrocolloid-recipe-collection-v3.0.pdf