Not Called Bari-yum

A new multiple sclerosis test


I don’t mean to brag but I think I opened MS Awareness month in a truly MS aware way.  Late in the morning of March 1st I found myself at a local hospital undergoing a new, previously scheduled MS test.  This test was called a Modified Barium Swallow.

I was directed to take this test due to troubles I have swallowing.  Specifically, sometimes I forget how to swallow (old issue I have pretty much ignored,) and when swallowing I don’t always swallow completely (fairly new issue of concern.)

The latter swallow problem is quite frustrating. I hate doing things halfway. If I swallow I want to swallow everything!  It’s sort of like my bladder problems.  When I go, I don’t go completely and have to go again.  Now when I swallow, I don’t swallow completely and I have to swallow again.

The even weirder thing is that this doesn’t happen with food and drinks.  No, those I manage just fine.  The problem just involves swallowing saliva whose whole purpose is to be swallowed!ID-100147070The test is exactly how it sounds.  You go to the radiology department and they alter (modify) your normal swallowing (swallow) by getting you to swallow barium sulfate (barium) to watch your swallowing procedure light up in pretty colors on an x-ray machine so they can see what you’re doing wrong.

In the x-ray room a nice woman who said she was a speech pathologist explained the test to me. She said she would give me various consistencies of foods to eat to watch how my innards responded.  My thought was, “great, free lunch.”

Then she put on a whole set of lead aprons- did you know they make a lead apron skirt- it looked pretty cool- and then told me to stand in front of the x-ray machine.ID-10057006

Hey, where was my lead skirt?  I know I’m pretty much pass my child bearing years but still, I’ve got stuff I’d like to keep intact.

Next she asked me to take a sip of barium that was the consistency of water.  Then I was to take a sip of barium in the consistency of milk.  Next it was a nectar consistency which I thought was pretty impressive because I didn’t know that nectar even existed.  I just thought it was in religious circles as in “the nectar of the Gods..”

I’m sure this wasn’t the same thing. If this nectar was supposed to be God like I’m sure God would make it taste better.ID-100265528

Then it was a honey consistency.  Did you know they made so many variants of barium?  I’ll have to pay closer attention in the barium aisle at Wal-Mart.

I got excited for the next part of the test-pudding! Yea for pudding.  My sweet tooth and I were ready.  But barium sulfate pudding does not taste anywhere near as good as it sounds.  You’d think they could add a little bit of chocolate to spice it up.

The final part of the test was that I got a cookie.  Yea again!  I figured the cookie was the reward for having to eat all of this barium stuff.  Kind of like when you give the Red Cross your blood and they give you Oreos after to make you feel better.ID-100285311

I wondered what kind of cookie it would be?  The girl scouts had been out selling recently- maybe it would be Thin mints or Tagalongs?  That only seemed fair.

But no, the excitement faded when I was handed a plain boring cookie dipped in barium!  Seriously?

But with my consumption of the disappointing cookie the test was over and we sat down to discuss the results.  The findings?


This nice pathologist kindly explained that she didn’t see any issues.  She told me that “we often see patients who have saliva pool in the back of their throats.”

“Yes, I responded, that’s exactly it!  That’s what happens.  I swallow and some of my saliva just pools in the back of my throat.”

“But the test doesn’t show that,” she responded.

How can the test not show that?  I could feel the saliva hanging out in the back of my mouth even as we were discussing it.  Why didn’t the machine show it?  I not only had a pool, I likely had a whole tikki bar hanging out back there. Maybe even a water slide or two.ID-10074314

But alas, the test failed to show this.  The pathologist said that the swallowing issues could be MS related but usually nerve dysfunction in this part of the body would show other things; like diminished taste for example. Did I have diminished taste?

I didn’t think so.  The barium stuff had a taste. A disgusting taste but a taste none the less.  I had been at a friend’s house the other day and she made chocolate chip cookies that tasted pretty good.  I had about four of them just to be sure.

After more discussion we did come to a conclusion.  The pathologist told me I had a new medical condition.  Brace yourselves my friends- this is pretty upsetting.

After testing and talking it was determined that I now had xerostomia.

What is xerostomia you ask?  How serious is it?  What can be done about it?

Let me spare you from heading to WebMD out of concern for my health.  Xerostomia goes by another more common name that you might be familiar with.

Dry mouth.ID-10038435

The testing showed that the only thing the x-rays could really confirm was that I had dry mouth.  Since that is likely the fault of my “don’t pee all night” meds that only SOMETIMES work, my xerostomia is a direct result of multiple sclerosis.

Still, the new diagnosis didn’t completely explain the saliva swimming pool that was always in my mouth.  But then again, all this took place on day 1 of MS Awareness Month, which means no explanation was necessary.

The main thing that people need to be aware of when it comes to MS is that there really is no explanation at all….

Also in keeping with MS Awareness month I want to thank Modern Day MS for the great interview!  Check out this fabulous website for lots of great stories including how I try to use humor to cope with the MS crazy in my life!


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8 thoughts on “Not Called Bari-yum

  1. Barium swallows are from the OLD days so sorry not a new test and the fact that you have dry mouth or their fancy name is NOT from MS but from the drugs you take. So sorry you had to go through this and DO NOT do it again. We all drool and some of us choke on our drool and others let it run out of our mouths and then there are some of us that just take it in stride and try to hide but but I will tell you – you made a bundle of money for your neuro and the hospital by submitting to yet another unnecessary test as Obamacare pays out the provider based on testing and drugs prescribed so you just did your part for his or her new car or college fund for the kid or really just paying the bills since reimbursements are so darned low now I tell everyone who is interested in Med School DON’T! But all in all you are a trooper and your writing and wit is just wonderful. So if anyone has to go through the testing and telling it should be you! BTW I finally am going to submit to the lousy MRI (machine broke on the day I was to have it -so sad NOT) but a friend sent me a wonderful article (he is a radiologist) from Huffington post about WHY you should not fart in an MRI machine. I will copy it and send it to you as I plan to give it to the tech when I go and if they screw with me… I told the gal who called to tell me I have to reschedule and when she finally could speak again she asked if I really was going to bring it in and give it to them and my answer was “hell yes.” I also told her beware as I am the queen of gas and truly if they screw with me watch out!!! You could do wonders with this article so I will send you the link. Keep writing woman you actually bring levity to a miserable disease.

    • Thank you so much my friend! I was kind of frustrated that the test didn’t give me specifics about the issue but when I was whining about that to a friend I said, “oh well, at least I’ll get a blog out of it!” I did see the Huffington Post article and it was pretty funny. I have to admit I had a hard time with it though. It grossed me out which makes no sense. I can talk about pee and spit constantly and I’ve changed the yuckiest of diapers but bring up gas and I get totally skeeved out! Since that is just crazy I will blame that on MS too! Good luck with your MRI. I hope they have good music to offer you.

  2. Yvonne~
    I just went through a battery of tests as well, which included a barium swallow, but they took pictures intermittently until the barium made it all the way through my small intestine. It’s always good to hang out at the hospital for four hours! Another test my GI doc did was an esophageal motility test, as I also have swallowing issues & choking at times. This test involves putting a very small, flexible tube into the nose, down the back of the throat & into the stomach…GAG REFLEX IN OVERDRIVE! You take sips of water (10 in my case) & the little sensors in the tube show how effectively the water moves down. Well, like you, all the tests he did to check my swallowing were normal. He said it was totally an MS thing. I had more tests that did reveal problems in my gut, but I will not go into it since you don’t handle gas topics well. This would “blow” you away, pun intended! If you want to check it out, google Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). Have your barf bag handy!

    • So weird Susan as my neuro didn’t think my swallowing stuff was MS related-hence the test. After hearing about your tests though I’m super grateful I only had to do that one- barium sulfate pudding and all! Probably not going to look up your test as I am cringing just thinking about it! Yikes my friend- I feel for you!

  3. Hi Yvonne:
    I went for a similar test this week . The thing is…a video-fleuroscopy only catches a few moments in time…and only what’s visible with the barium. I had a cracker-barium sandwich last, and had crumbs in my mouth 20 minutes after the test—but those crumbs didn’t show up on the video because they weren’t coated in barium. It can be a very useful test in some circumstances though.
    Sounds like you may have too much saliva, I may not have quite enough…so I’m guessing you get to swallow more, and I need to chew more to get more spit.
    It’s a pleasure to fine your webpage today. May good things come with MS awareness month. Keep giggling!

    • Interesting point Trudy and I kind of wondered about the validity of the test myself. I wondered how they could see my saliva since it didn’t consist of barium. But hey, what do I know…. Thank you so much for your comment and wishing you the best for MS awareness month! I hope you keep on visiting my website!

  4. Glad your test came up negative. (Just realized it is probably not the right word choice using “came up” when describing a swallow test).
    Was just discussing this with my doc. I really must watch how I eat…taking smaller bites, especially bread stuff.
    Isn’t MS grand?
    My best to you!

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