Coughing After Eating? Here’s Why and What You Can Do About It
Published May 8, 2023
The awkward experience of coughing after eating can be irritating. It can make gatherings as well as meals uncomfortable. But what triggers this kind of reaction, and how can it be avoided? In this article, we will discuss the causes of coughing after a meal and the solutions to help you enjoy food without discomfort.
Coughing After Eating: What are the Causes
There are many possible causes why you might cough after eating. These are some of the most common reasons:
Acid reflux, also referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is when the acid from the stomach travels back up into the esophagus. This can irritate the lining of the esophagus and cause coughing, especially after eating. Other symptoms of GERD are chest pain, heartburn, as well as difficulty swallowing.
Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) can cause coughing after or during a meal. LPR, a type of GERD known as “silent reflux,” is characterized by stomach acid passing through the esophagus and into the nose. LPR may occur with or without GERD.
If you have a food allergy, your immune system may overreact to certain foods and trigger symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and hives. When someone has a food allergy, they often experience symptoms within two hours. The most common food allergens include peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, soy, wheat, and milk. In rare cases, anaphylaxis can be caused by a food allergy.
Dysphagia is a condition that can occur at any age; it is a medical term when a person has swallowing difficulties. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including nerve damage, muscle weakness, or structural problems in the esophagus. In addition, numerous conditions, including acid reflux and GERD, can cause dysphagia. When you have dysphagia, food or liquids may get stuck in your throat, which can cause coughing.
Aspiration occurs when food or liquid enters your lungs instead of your stomach; this can introduce bacteria to your lungs. This can happen if you have a swallowing disorder or if you inhale while you’re eating or drinking. Normally, the lungs will clear out any bacteria on their own, but if they don’t, it can lead to aspiration pneumonia. Aspiration can cause coughing, wheezing, and even pneumonia.
It is possible to choke if something is stuck in your throat. For example, if you are not attentive or do not properly chew your food, it can partially obstruct your esophagus, resulting in coughing. Seek immediate medical attention if you are coughing after eating and you feel like you will choke.
What Can You Do About It?
If you’re coughing after eating, here are some things you can do to prevent or relieve the symptoms:
Eat Smaller Bites
Taking smaller and thoroughly chewing your food to break it down into smaller pieces can help you swallow more easily and reduce your risk of coughing.
Avoid Certain Foods
If you have food allergies or GERD, avoiding certain foods may help prevent coughing. Common triggers include spicy foods, citrus fruits, chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol. In addition, keep a food journal and list the foods that cause your coughing.
When eating, keep a glass or bottle of water close by. Drinking water or other liquids can help wash down food and prevent coughing.
Elevate Your Head
Sleeping with your head elevated can help reduce the symptoms of GERD and prevent acid reflux.
Treat Underlying Conditions
If you have dysphagia, aspiration, or another underlying condition that’s causing your coughing, you may need to seek medical treatment. Your doctor may recommend medications, surgery, or other therapies to help manage your symptoms. Take all prescribed medications as directed.
Be Aware of Your Cough
Coughing after eating can be uncomfortable, but knowing why can help you prevent it. Acid reflux, choking, asthma, food allergies, and GERD are some reasons why you may cough after eating.
It is best to talk to your doctor if you notice frequent coughing after eating, as they can diagnose the underlying condition and advise on steps to prevent it. Eating slowly, chewing food properly, and avoiding food triggers can also prevent you from coughing after eating. With these tips, you can enjoy meals without worrying about coughing.
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About The Author
Krizzia Paolyn has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She started her career as a content writer for various digital magazines and renowned publications. It has always been her passion to share her voice, and at the same time, to encourage other people to speak up.