Coughing is the result of the body trying to rid itself of something that is irritating the throat or your airways. While everyone has a bout of coughing now and then, if you experience regular coughing after eating it could be a sign that something more serious is going on. To cough as a result of eating something very cold is a normal reaction. When you cough as a result of eating other types of food or every time you eat then there could be a nervous system disorder or gastric problem present. Make sure you know what signs to look for and when it is time to see a doctor.
What Causes Coughing After Eating?
There are two different types of coughing that can occur after eating. One if the brief cough to clear your throat, which isn’t much to worry about. The other is the prolonged fit of coughing. That could be caused by any one of the following conditions. Don’t self-diagnose, see your doctor so if there is a problem you can take care of it while it is easy to treat.
1. Acid Reflux
Acid reflux is also known as GERD. The main symptom is that food that has entered the stomach then reverses and returns to the lower esophageal passage. This is because the sphincter muscle at the end of this passage is not closing complete, or is re-opening during digestion. As this condition introduces partially digested food into the esophagus, its high acid content can cause irritation that leads to coughing after eating, and during.
Allergies and food sensitivities are a common cause of irritation and reaction that can lead tocoughing. It doesn’t always have to be the food that causes it but the temperature and preparation of the food too. If you aren’t used to a food type that can also trigger a sudden coughing reaction.
3. Infection or Inflammation
This is one of the most common reasons for recurrent coughing after eating. When you get an infection or inflammation of the esophagus, larynx and other parts of the throat area it can cause all of the parts to malfunction. This can cause difficulty in swallowing and more. The cause of the inflammation can come from multiple sources - bacteria, virus or even environmental allergens. Coughing isn’t the only issue to worry about with infection or inflammation, choking can also occur.
4. Dysphagia (Discomfort in Swallowing)
Part of the reason that this disorder can affect how much you cough when you eat is it makes swallowing difficult. When you eat, it can trigger a defense mechanism in the body that causes it to want to cough and get rid of the object (food). Eating softened food, pureed food and taking much smaller bites can help with this.
There are two sides to the asthma coin when it comes to coughing after eating. It could be the result of an allergic reaction, or it could be more complicated depending on the type of asthma you have. It is not uncommon for the asthma itself to be the cause. A chronic infection of the airways can almost always lead to a coughing bout.
6. Aspiration Pneumonia
This is not the infection based pneumonia that stems from a virus but the problem is caused by you breathing in (aspirating) food, liquid or vomit into your lungs. This condition should not be taken lightly.
What to Do About Coughing After Eating
The good news is there is a lot you can do to reduce coughing after eating. Your doctor may prescribe some medication to help control the thickness of phlegm and any heartburn that may be occurring, or may direct you to try some OTC remedies first. That helps to get the phlegm under control, but then you need to do the following to really get the condition under control.
- Slow down - Teach yourself to eat more slowly. Use smaller bites and chew the food longer to help make it easier to swallow and digest. Make sure you are taking small sips of water as you eat too.
- Avoid foods that seem to make it worse - Keep track of which foods seem to cause more of a problem and avoid them. Many times sensitivities or allergies to certain foods or spices can be a contributing cause.
- Eat healthy - Strive for a healthier and more balanced diet. Avoid processed foods, salt, and sugar. This will help take care of any allergies and nutritional imbalances that can be the cause of the problem, it will also boost your immune system too.
- Breathe warmed air - Take hot showers and breathe in the air, use an air vaporizer and sit so you can breathe the mist, cup your hands over your mouth and nose and take several deep breaths - anything to warm the air you are breathing. Warm air can reduce the phlegm reaction.
- Keep your throat moist - Drink teas and warm liquids throughout the day to keep your throat moist. A dry throat can cause phlegm overproduction and a raspy cough.
What Others Have Experienced
It is extremely important that you see a doctor as soon as possible if you are experiencing coughing after eating. The potential for this to be a symptom of a high risk issue is great and the earlier you can be diagnosed and treated the better. Here are two cases of people who had similar symptoms and how they handled it.
“I had no idea what was going on for a long time, except that things were getting worse and I was having more and more of a hard time eating and breathing. It started off with what I thought was post nasal drip. I tried OTC remedies and my doctor even prescribed some medication to try and get rid of the constant thick, stringy mucous I had at the back of my throat. When I spoke it sounded like I had a frog in my throat too. I didn’t think it was anything serious as I had just moved from Southern California to Colorado and chalked it up to a change in climate. I didn’t have any tests done because I told my doctor what I thought it was rather than ask him what it could be a symptom of. It’s awful. I always feel like something is stuck in my throat. Now, I have had several tests and been to see specialists. They have diagnosed me with having a hiatal hernia and reflux. The heartburn is awful. I am on medications that help, but there is still the stuff in my throat. I can’t swim or enjoy the hot tubs as I now have respiratory issues too and the heat just makes it impossible to breathe.”
“For me, there may be a chance a part of my problem is I have acid reflux. That would be strange since I am not one to get heartburn often and when I do have a bout some over the counter stuff takes care of it. The issue for me is all the phlegm and mucous. It’s everywhere and nothing seems to stop it and nothing I try seems to make it better. I haven’t been to a doctor about it yet, I thought I would try posting online to see if anyone has a solution first. It’s like I am constantly congested - everywhere. I have phlegm in my lungs, chest, throat and it gets worse when I eat. There is so much phlegm when I eat I have a really hard time breathing. I don’t know what it is but I am starting to think I need to see a specialist about this, but I am just not sure which kind of specialist to go too and am hoping someone here can help.”