Coughing After Eating - Causes, Food Allergies & Treatments

The Hyfe Mind

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August 5, 2020
CoughPro is not a medical product. It is a wellness app intended only for users to obtain a better understanding of their cough. It is not intended to diagnose, monitor, or treat any illness.

We at Hyfe, Inc., are a company devoted to working on tools to better understand the importance of cough. It is Hyfe’s intention in the future to seek regulatory approval for medical products that analyze cough in order that they may be used to diagnose, monitor, and facilitate better treatment of respiratory illnesses.

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Is coughing after eating a serious issue?

Coughing is your body’s way of clearing obstructions from the airway. At the same time, there are many causes of coughing. Here we share some common reasons why you may be coughing after eating.

Food Allergies

Coughing within two hours after eating may indicate a food allergy. Although these usually start during childhood, you can still develop a food allergy at any age. Surprisingly, you can even be allergic to something you have been eating your whole life. Allergies can also depend on the type of food.

Foods

The usual food allergens include:

  • Dairy
  • Soy
  • Eggs
  • Shellfish
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts

Why do I start coughing after drinking or eating dairy?

Because you may be allergic to dairy products, your immune system can usually filter harmful from harmless substances. But when you have a food allergy, your immune system thinks it is dangerous. 

What happens is that your immunity overreacts and mounts an attack against the allergen to clear it from your body. In the process, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny nose
  • Tingling or an itchy mouth
  • Hives

These symptoms usually occur soon after you eat. In severe allergic reactions, it is possible to develop anaphylaxis. This potentially life-threatening condition is rare but alarming. When anaphylaxis happens, your airway constricts, making it difficult to breathe. Call your doctor immediately. 

Most of the time, food allergy symptoms are usually mild. Nevertheless, knowing what you are allergic to will definitely help your doctor provide you with the best care.

How to stop coughing from spicy food?

Try not to eat spicy food as much as possible. You can even add some butter to make the food less spicy. Secondly, have some milk after such food. You can also replace spicy food with soft food.

Why do I cough after I eat?

Acid Reflux

In acid reflux, the acid in your stomach travels upwards through your esophagus. Since your esophagus is just a conduit for food to pass through and is not resistant to acids, it may get irritated. When this happens, you can develop a cough. Along with it, you may also feel a burning sensation in your chest and a bitter or sour taste in your mouth. If this cycle continues for too long, it may point to a more severe condition.

What is GERD coughing after eating?

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a chronic form of acid reflux. Common symptoms of GERD include:

  • Excessive gas
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty swallowing

Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) is a condition similar to GERD. However, this time the acid may travel all the way up to the nasal passages. When this happens, you may experience nasal drip and hoarseness.

What to do about coughing after you eat?

There is, unfortunately, no cure for these conditions, but here are some steps you can take to alleviate the discomfort and coughing:

  • Eat slower and chew food thoroughly before swallowing
  • Avoid triggering food such as coffee, citrus fruits, alcohol, fatty food, soft drinks
  • Consume smaller meals
  • Avoid lying down immediately after eating
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day

Infections That Cause Coughing After Eating

Upper respiratory infections can also cause coughing. Sometimes, the cough may even persist long after your body has cleared the infection. The affected airway becomes more challenging to treat because the cough prevents healing. It also leads to further inflammation of your airway, further worsening the cough. When this happens, your doctor may prescribe an anti-inflammatory drug to break this cycle. 

Other infections that viruses, bacteria, or fungi may cause can affect your windpipe and larynx. Conditions like strep throat and laryngitis are examples of these. They cause inflammation of the throat and coughing, especially after you eat. 

Treatment

In terms of treatment, targeting the cause of the infection will usually relieve your cough as well. In addition, your doctor may prescribe you proton pump proton inhibitors, which are the medications that lower stomach acid production.

Asthma Cough

A black woman using an inhaler

Asthma is a common condition that causes coughing. This type of condition is known as chronic cough. It is usually worse at night, and food may exacerbate it. Common symptoms associated with asthma include coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.

To reduce coughing, you should avoid foods containing irritating sulfites like:

  • Dried fruit
  • Pickled vegetables
  • Jam
  • Potato chips
  • Wine
  • Beer
  • Soft drinks

Food allergies can also worsen an asthma attack. Therefore, it pays to be aware of your triggers and consult your doctor on the proper medication and management.

Aspiration Pneumonia

Illustration of lungs with pneumonia

Aspiration pneumonia occurs when tiny particles like food get trapped in the airways. The lungs may have difficulty expelling these substances. In addition, their extended stay where they are not supposed to be might enable a bacterial infection to take hold. 

You may experience chest pain along with a cough. People suffering from acid reflux or who have difficulty swallowing are at the highest risk of developing aspiration pneumonia. Aside from wheezing and coughing after eating, common symptoms of aspiration pneumonia include:

  • A fever that develops within an hour of eating
  • Excessive drooling
  • Congestion after eating or drinking
  • Fatigue or shortness of breath while eating
  • Painful swallowing
  • A burning sensation in the chest

Aspiration pneumonia is a severe condition that requires treatment. This condition may be “silent” in severely compromised patients because they cannot cough despite the pooling of substances in the airways. Without treatment, this can lead to lung abscesses or even respiratory failure.

Aspiration from Dysphagia

What causes aspiration from dysphagia?

Dysphagia is a condition that leads to difficult and painful swallowing. Apart from this, you may also experience a sensation of food stuck in your throat. This disorder leads to coughing or gagging while eating. In addition, conditions such as acid reflux, esophageal cancer, or a head injury may cause dysphagia. 

Aspiration from dysphagia takes place when throat muscles do not work correctly. Consult your doctor to determine the underlying medical condition causing your symptoms. You may then receive appropriate treatment to address the underlying cause. If left untreated, dysphagia may lead to weight loss. It can also cause repeated lung infections or coughs.

When Should I See a Doctor?

A doctor examining a patient

Firstly, keep noting your symptoms. Most coughs resolve at home with rest, plenty of fluids, and over-the-counter medications. However, you should consult your doctor if you experience coughing after meals along with these symptoms:

  • Unknown cause of your cough
  • Frequent coughing after meals
  • Pink or blood-tinged mucus
  • Fever, nausea, vomiting
  • Worsening cough
  • Cough lasting longer than two weeks

Coughing after eating is pretty common. While some of these conditions can be chronic, you can take simple steps to reduce the symptoms and alleviate the discomfort. However, there may be a more serious underlying condition when the symptoms mentioned above come with the cough. 

Consult your physician if the cough continues for a long period. Your doctor will determine the cause of your coughs per your history. For instance, your doctor might ask you to do a barium swallow test to diagnose the issues of the upper gastrointestinal tract.

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