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Dysphagia is, strictly speaking, not a disease. It is a sign or symptom of other diseases or abnormalities. In other words, certain types of cancer, birth defects are the cause, and dysphagia is the effect. This “effect” is that of having a hard time swallowing solids and/or liquids. It must be understood that dysphagia refers to difficult swallowing, not painful swallowing. The two symptoms can be related, but they are not the same. Difficult swallowing might not necessarily be painful, and painful swallowing is often the result of completely different causes (sore throat, oral thrush, etc.) from those associated with dysphagia.
Since the process of swallowing is actually rather complicated, dysphagia can have varying forms and degrees of severity. However, dysphagia can be divided into two main categories, depending on which end of the esophagus the problem is taking place. The issue can occur at the “top” end, in which case you will have problems moving food or drinks from your mouth to your digestive tract. If the problem is located at the other end, then the difficulty will be in moving food from your esophagus into your stomach (yes, this is also considered part of the swallowing process, even though the food has already gone through your mouth). Depending on how bad your dysphagia is, you might have to try just a little harder to swallow, or you might become severely malnourished because normal eating is just too hard.
Unfortunately, dysphagia does not just give people difficulty in eating. It can also lead to respiratory problems, since some suffers have trouble breathing and eating at the same time.
Even so, the respiratory aspects of dysphagia go both ways: dysphagia can cause breathing problems, but breathing relaxation techniques can actually lessen the severity of dysphagia. How so? We can understand the answer to this question if we see that many cases of dysphagia are rooted in muscular problems, especially of the muscles that move food along the esophagus. The esophagus can be so stiff that the necessary contractions will not occur, or will be too weak to be effective.
This is where relaxation breathing techniques come in. Better breathing can, among other things, make muscles more relaxed and flexible. More oxygenated muscles are also able to metabolize faster, thus becoming more powerful. Special breathing exercises can be learned and practiced in order to improve the condition of the esophagus.
Correct or optimal breathing is just one of the many options for treating dysphagia. However, it should definitely be considered, because many of the other treatments are quite drastic. These can include operations on the esophagus or throat, or medicines that might cause side effects. If the case is not too severe, regular use of breathing exercises might mean that such measures will be unnecessary.
Even though dysphagia is considered a primarily digestive problem, one must never forget that the entire body is a single functioning unit. Processes of another system, such as breathing, might have a huge effect on the gravity of a persons dysphagia. Before pursuing the more drastic measures-and even after such measures have been pursued-one ought to ask about the potential benefits of better breathing, and how they can ameliorate dysphagia.