A barium swallow is a type of X-ray test that helps your doctor take a close look at the back of your mouth and throat, known as the pharynx, and the tube that extends from the back of the tongue down to the stomach, known as the oesophagus.

Your doctor may ask you to do a barium swallow to help diagnose any condition that make it difficult for you to swallow or if they suspect that you have a disorder of the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Your upper GI tract includes the oesophagus, the stomach and the first part of the small intestine, called the duodenum.

The test involves the patient swallowing a chalky white substance known as barium. It’s often mixed with water to make a thick drink that looks like a milkshake, and is occasionally given with marshmallows if your doctor wants to see how you swallow more solid food. When swallowed, the liquid coats the inside of your upper GI.  Swallowing this liquid allows the healthcare professional to see your organs by highlighting them in white so they can be seen on an X-ray. This process not only shows the organs, it also shows their inside linings and the motion of your swallowing.  These images help your doctor diagnose any disorders of the GI tract.