Drinking water used to be slow, and stressful for me. This happened because my swallowing reflex had become discoordinated from hyperventilation commonly causing me to choke on my drink. Swallowing involves temporary closure of the epiglottis to keep food and drink out of the lungs. If it is not synchronized properly then the inhaling of liquid (pulmonary aspiration) can occur. Drinking fast felt perilous. Chugging felt like I was being waterboarded. Difficulty swallowing is known as dysphagia, everybody has a little bit of it and you want to minimize your bit. Use the exercise below so that you drink mightily with no unnecessary encumbrances.
Healthy Weight Activity #2: Chug Water Mightily
Pour yourself a large glass of room temperature or warm water. Tell yourself that there is no rush, and that you have nothing better to do at this moment than to observe your swallowing apparatus at work. Take a deep breath, and drink the water slowly and mindfully. Start with small gulps and make each one voluntary. Pay very close attention to the cadence of your gulping. It should be steady. Focus on the following:
1) During each gulp the muscles involved should move through their full range of motion decisively and uninterrupted.
2) Much of the swallowing process is an automatic reflex controlled by unconscious neurological mechanisms in the brainstem. You must give each swallow time to progress entirely through its reflex arc before you attempt to swallow again. You don’t want to interrupt a swallow by swallowing again too early.
3) It takes practice to get to know when, at the soonest, it is safe to initiate another swallow. It is like two people passing sand bags to each other down a line. The first person has to wait until the second person’s hands are free before they can pass another bag. Passing each bolus of water from the cup to your mouth, and then to the back of your throat should be efficient and quick, but not at all rushed.
4) You can hold your breath while you chug, or you can try to coordinate nasal breathing along with drinking. Either way, don’t let involuntary gasps interrupt the chugging process. You can’t breathe and swallow at the same time, and you must teach the involuntary aspects of breathing and swallowing to cooperate, and wait for their turn.
Using this exercise twice per day for two weeks will make is so that you will have no problem chugging 4 large glasses of water in 20 seconds. You will be able to put away a bottle of water, a fruit shake, or a smoothie in very short time. And you will never be afraid of choking on water.
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