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ALS: Eating

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often called Lou Gehrig’s disease, causes muscle weakness and affects an individual’s physical function. This includes the ability to swallow and this difficulty can in turn lead to malnutrition and dehydration.

People living with ALS need to choose foods that are not only nutritionally appropriate but also have the appropriate textures.

For swallowing difficulties, the ALS Association recommends:

  • tuck the chin while swallowing

  • chew well and eat slowly—don’t eat in a hurry

  • swallow 2-3 times for each mouthful of food

  • avoid foods that are the most difficult to swallow

Caregivers should be aware that it may take longer for someone living with ALS to eat a meal. In the early stages of the illness, a person may need more time to prepare foods as coordination skills decrease. There is the risk of aspirating (breathing in food and/or fluid) foods into the lungs, and this can possibly lead to pneumonia in someone diagnosed with ALS. This is one reason that someone living with ALS may opt for a feeding tube to continue meeting daily nutritional requirements. It is possible to continue eating solid foods after getting a feeding tube since it is still possible to enjoy the taste of foods. A health care provider can advise on the optimum time for an individual with ALS to consider having a feeding tube placed.

The ALS Association provides a list of a high calorie and easy chew and swallow recipes on their website. The list includes pancakes, quiche, lasagna, soups, smoothies, and more.

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