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Speech Pathologist Creates EAT Bar for People Who Have Difficulty Swallowing

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If you or a loved one struggle to get adequate nutrition due to a health condition, speech-language pathologist Tia Bagan hopes to provide a solution.

Bagan is one of the co-founders of The EAT Bar, a melt-in-your-mouth snack bar that can provide calories to both children and adults who may have difficulty swallowing, reduced appetite or taste or sensory issues.

She explained to Dysphagia Cafe:

While treating patients across the lifespan in varied clinical settings, I saw patients and families struggle to find food options that were both tolerable and satisfying. Their struggles inspired me to explore ways to transform the eating experience for these patients and ultimately their caregivers. The idea of a crunchy, flavor filled, melt-in-your-mouth treat that provided a full sensory experience captured my imagination.

The EAT Bar comes in four flavors – dark chocolate, white chocolate, lemon and strawberry – and is GMO-free, gluten-free, nut-free and Kosher. It contains no artificial flavors or preservatives. According to The EAT Bar’s website, the meringue-coated bars are designed to require minimal chewing and dissolve quickly, making them easier to swallow.

A swallowing disorder, also known as dysphagia, can affect any (or all) of the three stages of swallowing. These include the oral phase (sucking or moving food or liquid into your throat), the pharyngeal phase (starting to swallow and squeezing food or liquid down the throat) and the esophageal phase (opening and closing the esophagus to squeeze food or liquid into the stomach).

Signs of a swallowing problem, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), may include:

  • coughing during or right after eating or drinking
  • wet or gurgly sounding voice during or after eating or drinking
  • extra effort or time needed to chew or swallow
  • food or liquid leaking from your mouth
  • food getting stuck in your mouth
  • having a hard time breathing after meals
  • losing weight

These symptoms can lead to issues such as dehydration, poor nutrition, aspiration (food or liquid going into the airway), pneumonia or other lung infections.

Though treatment can depend on the type of swallowing disorder you have, many speech-language pathologists recommend eating softer foods or thicker drinks to make swallowing easier.

However, Bagan wanted to go a step further. In creating The EAT Bar, she tried to keep in mind several other challenges her patients face when it comes to nutrition.

“The bar needed to be easy to pick up and hold as many of our patients have decreased limb mobility and strength,” she explained. “The packaging had to boldly state the word EAT, as to provide a directive cue for those individuals that may have speech-language or cognitive communicative deficits. It could also be used … as a treatment option for those wanting a change from a pureed diet.”

The creators of The EAT Bar hope it can be helpful to a wide range of people, from kids with sensory issues to seniors with reduced appetite and adults with dysphagia who are at risk of malnourishment.

“Food is so much more than just a source of nutrition,” said Bagan. “I have come to realize it’s truly a central part of the human experience. Everyone has a story of somebody who won’t or can’t eat. I’m so thrilled that I get to help change that.”

The EAT Bar can be ordered online from the company’s website. You can choose one flavor (9 bars) for $16.99, assorted flavors (36 bars) for $59.88 or an assorted sampler (12 bars) for $21.49.

Lead photo via The EAT Bar’s Instagram

Originally published: May 7, 2019
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