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