Is it painful to swallow food or even water? This is a common problem and people of all ages can experience it.
You may feel the pain high in your neck or lower down behind your breastbone. The pain often feels like a strong sensation of squeezing or burning. The pain is most often triggered or worsened by eating certain foods.
Some of the most common causes of painful swallowing include the common cold, the flu, a chronic throat infection, acid reflux and tonsillitis.
Other causes may include swollen lymph nodes in the neck, some kind of throat injury, an ear infection, swallowing large pills and improper swallowing of food with rough edges, such as chips or crackers.
When it comes to treating pain when swallowing, it is important to determine the cause of the problem. This will allow you to deal with the root cause and soon the pain will be gone.
In the meantime, you can try some simple yet effective home remedies to reduce the pain.
Caution: It is important to consult a doctor if the pain is chronic, severe or interferes with eating, drinking or breathing. This may be an indication of a more serious condition.
Here are the top 10 home remedies to deal with pain when swallowing.
1. Salt Water
The best home remedy to reduce pain when swallowing is gargling with warm salt water. The warm water will have a soothing effect on the throat, and the salt will help kill any virus or bacteria that may be causing a throat infection.
Plus, the salt helps reduce swelling and inflammation in the lymph nodes in the neck.
A 2011 study published in the Journal of Family Practice found that doctors in clinical settings still recommend salt water gargles for throat pain (1).
- Mix ¼ teaspoon of salt into 1 cup of warm water.
- Gargle with this solution, but do not swallow it.
- Do this a couple of times daily for about 1 week.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
Whether it is acid reflux, tonsillitis, or a sore throat that is causing the pain you’re having when swallowing, apple cider vinegar is a very effective home remedy.
Apple cider vinegar has natural antimicrobial effects in fighting infections. Because of its acidic nature, it also helps break down mucus in the throat and stop bacteria from spreading.
If you’re dealing with acid reflux, it helps balance acid production in the stomach, which in turn prevents acid reflux.
- Mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar into 1 cup of water and gargle with it. Do this 3 or 4 times a day.
- Also, add 1 teaspoon of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon of raw honey to a cup of warm water. Drink it slowly. Do this 2 or 3 times a day.
3. Warm Turmeric Milk
Drinking warm turmeric milk can help bring down the swelling of enlarged lymph nodes as well as help treat strep throat and the common cold.
Plus, it has anti-inflammatory as well as analgesic properties that help reduce swelling and pain.
It can also fight infections and boost immunity.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder and a pinch of ground black pepper into a glass of warm milk.
- Optionally, add a little honey.
- Drink it twice daily to speed up the healing process.
4. Lemon and Honey
When it comes to strep throat, the common cold, or tonsillitis causing pain when swallowing, the combination of lemon and honey works well.
The vitamin C in lemon helps combat the growth of bacteria that cause strep throat as well promotes overall health. Honey keeps the throat well-moisturized and relieves soreness and inflammation.
- Mix 1 tablespoon each of honey and lemon juice into a cup of lukewarm water.
- Sip the mixture slowly.
- Drink this as often as needed for several days.
5. Marshmallow Root
Marshmallow root can help with inflammation in the throat related to tonsillitis or strep throat. When mixed with water, it forms a gel-like substance that coats the throat and can reduce the pain.
In addition, it helps deal with acid reflux, thanks to its demulcent and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Add 1 tablespoon of dried marshmallow root to 1½ cup of boiling water.
- Cover and allow it to simmer for 20 minutes.
- Strain the solution, add some honey and drink it.
- You can have 3 cups of this herbal tea a day.
Caution: Marshmallow root is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women, or people who are diabetic.
6. Slippery Elm
Slippery elm contains mucilage, a gel-like substance that can ease soreness, inflammation, and pain in the throat. In fact, slippery elm is a traditional remedy for a sore throat.
Due to its mucilage content, slippery elm is also useful for easing heartburn and acid reflux.
- Add 1 teaspoon of the inner bark of slippery elm to 2 cups of boiling water.
- Cover and allow it to simmer for 5 minutes.
- Strain, add a little honey and drink it slowly while it is still warm.
- Drink it 2 or 3 times a day.
You may also try slippery elm lozenges.
Ginger can be helpful in reducing the pain in your throat that causes difficulty swallowing. It has antiviral, expectorant, and anti-inflammatory properties that help fight any kind of infection and pain.
Plus, it is soothing for digestive troubles as well.
- Make ginger tea by adding 1 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger to 1 cup of boiling water and letting it steep for a few minutes. Add some raw honey and lemon juice. Enjoy this tea up to 3 times a day.
- Also, you can grate fresh ginger and eat a small amount several times a day.
8. Chewing Gum
If the pain when swallowing is due to acid reflux, try chewing gum.
Chewing gum stimulates production of saliva, which in turn washes away acid accumulated in the gut. Being alkaline, saliva also helps neutralize stomach acids.
A 2005 study published in the Journal of Dental Research found that chewing a piece of sugar-free gum for about 30 minutes after a meal can help relieve symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) (2).
All you need to do is pop a sugar-free or cinnamon-flavored piece of gum in your mouth after a meal and chew it slowly.
9. Warm Liquids
Increasing your fluid intake is important to keep the body hydrated and your throat moist. However, to reduce pain when swallowing, it is recommended to sip warm liquids as much as possible.
Any hot beverage will help soothe your throat, but try to avoid caffeine, which can a dehydrating nature and thus can worsen the symptoms.
A glass of warm water, milk, or any herbal tea will help. For added benefit, you can add a little honey to your warm beverage before drinking it.
To get relief from a sore throat and reduce the pain you are experiencing swallowing, it’s helpful to breathe in moist air.
A humidifier converts water into moisture that slowly fills the air. This increases the humidity in the room, and breathing in this moist air can ease throat inflammation and relieve a sore throat.
Use a humidifier wherever you spend most of your time, and also in your bedroom to add moisture to the air while you sleep. Be sure to clean the humidifier when needed, and change the water daily so that bacteria do not grow.
- You may have to take antibiotics prescribed by your doctor to treat an infection of the throat, tonsils or esophagus.
- You may also take anti-inflammatory medications to reduce inflammation in the esophagus, throat or tonsils.
- Avoid substances that are known to irritate your throat like allergens, chemicals and cigarette smoke.
- You can suck on herbal lozenges to ease a sore throat and throat pain.
- Get plenty of rest to ensure quick recovery.
- Eat slowly and chew your food well.
- Eat soothing foods like broths, soups, cooked cereal, mashed potatoes, soft fruits and yogurt that are easy on your throat.
- Avoid very cold or very hot foods if they make your symptoms worse.
- Clinical Inquiries- Which treatments provide the most relief for pharyngitis pain? Evidence-based answers from the Family Physicians Inquiries Network- The Journal of Family Practice. https://mospace.umsystem.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10355/10730/WhichTreatmentsPharyngitisPain.pdf. Accessed March 14, 2018.
- The effect of chewing sugar-free gum on gastro-esophageal reflux. Journal of Dental Research. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16246942. Published November 2005. Accessed March 14, 2018.