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ALS Smack-down

No, it’s not what you think. This is not referring to a physical altercation or a verbal assault. I’m referring to the loud smacking when eating, associated with progression of our ALS. There’s a reason for this smacking when we eat and it’s not because ALS has taken our manners.

If you are not in the know, let me serve up a a few bites for you to digest.

First Course: ALS affects the nerves for voluntary muscles. Did you know that the tongue, cheeks and throat are innervated with voluntary muscles? They are, and eventually they can fail, but not for everyone. This is evaluated by our doctors with those silly requests to—stick your tone out, puff your cheeks and push your cheeks with your tongue.

Second Course: As your tongue weakness increases the ability to discern different textures in food and move the food becomes more difficult. This can cause gagging and choking, which if not careful can lead to aspirations and pneumonia.

Main Course: The reason for the smacking when we eat is based on the two causes above. You see as the body fails, it (the body) will find compensatory mechanisms to make up for the deficiencies. It does this aided by our indomitable spirit and desire to hang on to every ounce of independence. Food has a primordial connection to our existence. Memories, comfort, warmth and a myriad of others that anchor us to moments and people. How can we be expected to give this up without a fight.

Let’s skip dessert and go straight to an after dinner drink. My choice is a Tawney Port and a nice cigar, what’s yours?

I digress…

The compensatory mechanisms are rather simple mechanically, but effective. Open mouth manipulation of food, which can lead to drooling or food bits falling out. Longer eating times at meals, and loud smacking ensues. All of this in order to continue enjoying one of life’s greatest pleasures and essential needs to sustain life.

You will have to forgive us as we put a Smack-down on what may be our last delectable morsel. By extension a proverbial Smack-down on ALS.


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