To reduce the risks of those with dysphagia developing aspiration pneumonia; becoming dehydrated and readmitted to hospital, it is essential to change the consistency of all their drinks to slow them down to a manageable speed and make them safer to swallow.
Here at the Slõ Drinks Company these essential consistency changes are made using drink specific hydrocolloid thickeners.
[The molecular structure of a typical Hydrocolloid thickener]
Hydrocolloid thickeners belong to a family of long chain polymers (polysaccharides). Made up of a large number of hydroxyl (-OH) groups they are characterized by their ability to dissolve in water and bind water molecules together.
It is not possible to see this binding process in a liquid. The polymers are invisible to the naked eye. If they could be seen, when a small quantity of thickener is added to a drink the polymers would look like small strands of spaghetti moving freely about in a pan of water. Adding such a small level of thickener would have little effect and the drink would only be a slightly thick consistency.
Adding a larger quantity of thickener, the polymer chains would become a tangled network and the drink would be a thicker consistency. If very thick it would support a spoon and keep it upright.
All hydrocolloid thickeners work in this way, however it is important to choose the most appropriate one for each drink to ensure a drink will be the right consistency.
Hydrocolloids are derived from a wide range of natural sources such as extracts from plants, trees, bushes, flowers, seeds, grains; some are from the fermentation of gummy slime. Each has different properties which are affected by the properties of the drink they are added to.
This is why, when the same volume of thickener added to different drinks, they will not all be the same consistency.
To ensure the rheology (the consistency and texture) of a drink is an appropriate Stage 1: Syrup/ Nectar or Stage 2: Honey/ Custard , it is important to select a thickener which is appropriate for the drink, identify the quantity required for the drink and specify the volume of the drink it is added to.
This is done at Slõ Drinks by design.
In the initial formulation testing phase consideration is given to a hydrocolloids’:
- Molecular mass
- Molecular size
- Molecular structure
This is necessary as hydrocolloids with linear molecules tend to thicken better than highly branched (tree-like) molecules; but this does not mean that those with linear molecules are most appropriate.
Their ability to fully disperse in a drink and thicken it to a correct consistency is affected by a drinks’:
- Sugar level
- Fat level
- Electrolyte content
- pH concentration
This in depth design process is unique and ensures every drink a dysphagia patient needs and wants can be changed into a Slõ Drink that is a safe-to-swallow consistency, visually appealing and palatable to drink.