Self-Dissolving Cracker Makes Swallowing Simpler for Individuals Battling Dysphagia
Approximately 10 million adults in the United States struggle with dysphagia, the term used to describe difficulty swallowing. This problem is common in people with Alzheimer’s disease, but it also occurs in people with autism spectrum disorder and patients who are undergoing cancer treatment such as chemotherapy. It can also affect people with Down syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, or multiple sclerosis, and those who have recently been given a ventilator or feeding tube.
Often there are not many places to eat for these people. Typical grocery stores and supermarkets only sell three types of products aimed at people with dysphagia: Safe, Boost, and a generic equivalent. All of them are very sweet thickened liquid meals, which means that people with dysphagia are often withheld the joys of solid and savory foods. These meal replacements can also be deficient in certain nutrients and are high in sugar.
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“It’s like a silent problem,” says Reva Barewal, prosthodontist and inventor of the savorease crackers. “We have to make a paradigm shift in the approach to feeding people with disabilities.”
Dr. Barewal suffered from jaw problems as an infant, likely due to the use of forceps to give birth, and underwent years of medical treatments as a child that left her with chronic jaw pain and a large gap between her jaws. She knows some of the problems with dysphagia and other oral dysfunction firsthand, and she used that experience as motivation as she spent six years developing a new type of food for people who can’t eat the way they can most people do it.
Over the years, Dr. Barewal slowly being able to chew their food, although some foods are still stressful for them. However, she refuses to feel sorry for herself, but lets her past fuel her future.
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“I don’t want this project to be a pity on me,” she says. “I use my experience as a flash to do shit in this world.”
This brave woman not only has a background in the dental field but also in French cuisine, which makes her the perfect candidate to come up with something functional and delicious.
Dr. Barewal’s experiments began in her kitchen in Portland, Oregon. She has attended conferences and support groups related to dysphagia and used what she learned to make changes to her product. She then took her product to the Food Innovation Center, an Oregon State University-funded kitchen, laboratory, and consumer testing center for help developing the perfect product. Dysphagia patients, swallowing therapists, a nutritionist, and a geriatrician were called in to ensure that no problems remained unresolved.
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Now their efforts on Dr. Revas Savorease, a brand of savory crackers sold through Dr. Barewal’s company, Taste For Life LLC, which can be used to pick up a dip, but can melt in the mouth, regardless of whether the consumer can use their teeth, tongue, or saliva to aid the process.
Savorease is made by drying small circles of aquafaba foam, which is made from the thickened liquid you may use to drain a can of beans, known as aquafaba. Natural stabilizers are added to the product along with natural flavors.
Savorease is currently available in carrot, chicken vegetable, and pea flavors. The crackers also come with easy-to-swallow dips, if that’s your thing. So, users get the experience of a firm, crispy meal without having to chew it properly to prevent suffocation, and they also get the hearty flavors they’ve been missing.
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In addition, in addition to real vegetables, savorease crackers contain a lot of fiber and protein. These are nutrients that are often lacking in typical shakes, purees, puddings, and other meal replacement products for people with dysphagia.
The crackers are available online at savorease.com for $ 2-4 per bag, each containing approximately 25 crackers. When consumed with the dip, each serving provides around 200 calories and eight grams of protein.
Dr. Barewal’s primary concern in developing this product was the quality of life of its patients and consumers. From her time in dentistry, she knows several people whose ailments have made them feel out of place, taken away the pleasure of eating and only led to a general state of sadness. She hopes Savorease can help people enjoy their lives again and experience less stress while eating.
“All of the social problems I was struggling with because of my jaw,” says Dr. Barewal, “it makes you want to help people with problems to find their way around.”
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So far, the crackers have received rave reviews and people who have tried them say things like, “What a great product” and “Thank you very much for offering this creation to patients like me.” Feeding purees, smoothies and meal replacement shakes, this new food is a welcome source of nutrition and an exciting alternative to pureed or liquid foods.
Michelle Dawson, a speech pathologist specializing in pediatric eating disorders, says the product also has uses that go beyond being a nutritious and tasty alternative for people who may never eat normally again. It’s also a great way to introduce children who have never been able to eat any of their first solid foods, and it can help people switch back to solid foods after they haven’t been able to eat for a long time to eat this.
Dr. Barewal says the dysphagia market isn’t as glamorous as other food trends, so it takes a while for it to get the traction it needs to grow and make savorease available to more people. However, it has shown that the product is needed. She hopes the science behind her crackers can be used in the future to make other chewable foods like tortilla chips, cinnamon toast, or popcorn.