I've always had a fear of choking. I never actually choked, but I did accidentally swallow a jumbo-gumball sized candy back in middle school which put the fear of god into me. I've always been a slow eater. I have a partially open bite so not all of my teeth make contact. To compensate, I chew more than normal, both out of necessity and for fear of choking reasons.
Anyway, I'm 35 now, and within the past couple of months, my fear of choking has come back with a vengeance. I believe it was triggered by a couple of large chunks of food that I inadvertently swallowed. This brought back memories of the gumball incident and my anxiety has basically spiraled out of control since. It's gotten to the point where I don't even enjoy eating anymore, because I think I'm going to die with each swallow. And the thing about this type of anxiety is that it leads to awkward swallows, so I'm probably even more likely to choke. This has made me an even slower eater than I already was. For example, it took me 45 minutes to finish a sandwich.
So lately I've been teaching myself to swallow more like a normal person. My typical eating behavior involves chewing my food to mush, stuffing a lot of that mush into my cheeks, and then having to do multiple swallows to get it all down.
This got me thinking. Have I been eating wrong my entire life? I've been experimenting with letting more food collect at the back of my throat before swallowing, and this has been working pretty well. But it's also scaring me. Some swallows are super smooth but I feel that others are mistimed which makes them not so smooth.
Perhaps if I understood how other people eat and swallow it may ease my anxiety. So here's my questions to you guys.
1) If I'm using my tongue to manipulate my food bolus towards the back of my throat, what's keeping gravity from making it fall down into my windpipe? Just how far back am I supposed to push that bolus toward the back of my throat before swallowing? Is it possible to push it too far back to the point of no return where it just falls into my windpipe? I know the epiglottis swings down to cover the windpipe during a swallow, but my fear is that food will fall down my throat before I initiate a swallow.
2) Do people normally clear a bite with a single swallow? Like if I take a big bite out of a burger, am I supposed to chew that up and swallow the entire bolus whole? It seems like too much for one swallow. Yet I feel like this is what people do because they eat so fast. For me it takes at least 3 swallows per bite.
Anyway, I rambled on long enough. If you guys can shed some light on how you eat and swallow, perhaps it will ease my anxiety. Thanks for reading!