Coughing is your body’s protective response to keep irritants out of your airway. But many people have cough after eating. There are several reasons for this and most of them can be controlled  by dietary and lifestyle modifications.


      Some of the common causes of cough after eating are:


  1. Acid reflux

Acid reflux is when the stomach acid moves back up to your esophagus (food pipe). There is a circular band of muscle in the bottom of your food pipe called the lower esophageal sphincter. When you eat or drink, this sphincter is going to relax and  allows food and liquids to move into your stomach. But sometimes this sphincter does not  close completely leading to reflux of acid from stomach into the food pipe. This acid  will irritate your throat and can make you to cough. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (DERD) is a more severe form of this acid reflux and it is one of the most common cause for chronic persistent cough. Apart from cough, some of the other symptoms of GERD are nausea or vomiting, heartburn, sudden excess of saliva, bad breath and belching.



Coughing due to GERD is classically characterised  by

  • coughing mostly occuring  at night or after a meal
  • coughing that occurs while you are lying down
  • persistent coughing that occurs in the absense of common causes like smoking or taking medication that has cough as side effect.

Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR)  is a type of GERD that involves stomach acid passing through your food pipe and into your larynx (voice box) or even through your nose.  LPR can also make you cough during and after meals. Other symptoms of LPR include hoarseness of voice, constant need to clear your throat, sensation of lump in the throat.


2. Asthma

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the lungs. People with asthma are susceptible to a number of things around them like pollen, dust, smoke, and even stress.  It can cause wheezing, chest tightness, difficulty breathing and coughing. coughing due to asthma is usually bad at night or early in the morning. Asthma is managed by using medications and by avoiding asthma triggers which can be some food products like citrus fruits.

3. Food allergies

Food allergies or food sensitivities can be another reason for coughing after eating. Food allergies can develop at any age and to any food items. Food allergies typically cause an allergic reaction within two hours of eating. Such allergic symptoms can vary from person to person. These can affect the respiratory system and thus can cause you to cough. In extreme cases there could even be an anaphylactic reaction which can be life threatening. Pay attention to the ingredients of the food you consume, try to find out food that you are allergic to and avoid them.

4. Dysphagia

Dysphagia means to have difficulty in swallowing. If you have trouble swallowing, your body takes more time and effort to move food and liquid into your stomach and it may also change how food  moves through the upper digestive pathways. This can lead to coughing or gagging while swallowing. Dysphagia can also make it feel like you have food stuck in your throat, causing you to cough.

Many conditions can  cause  dysphagia. Work with you doctor to find out the reason for your dysphagia. Endoscopy would help in finding out the cause. Dysphagia can be dangerous in older age people and in children, especially those who have other neurological problems.


5. Aspiration pneumonia

Food travels through the food pipe and it is prevented from entering into the windpipe by protective mechanism in our body. Healthy individuals can clear out the food that has accidentally entered into the windpipe. But  people with underlying neuromuscular or structural disorders may not able to clear out the inhaled food particles. This accumulated food debris in the airway can lead to bacterial infections and can result in something called as aspiration pneumonia. A wet-sounding cough after eating along with fever and phlegm are usually the symptoms.  There can be recurrent episodes of fever and pneumonia. There could even be shortness of breath or fatigue while eating or drinking. If this condition is left untreated, very serious complications like lungs abscess or even respiratory  failure can happen.


6.Throat infection

If  you have a throat infection, your throat becomes sensitive and swollen. Eating in this condition can trigger bouts of coughing.Avoid cold foods, spicy irritant food items during episodes of throat infection. It is advised to consult with your health care provider to control the throat infection promptly.



As discussed, there are a lot of reasons for why you could be coughing after eating. Keep track of all your symptoms and work with your healthcare provider in figuring out the possible cause for the persistent cough and get treatment accordingly.

Irrespective of the underlying cause of coughing , there are some simple steps that when practised  can make you cough less.

  • Drinking plenty of  water is the very first thing that you can do. It will help to wash down any  irritants down your throat.
  • Always eat slowly. Make sure that the food is chewed up correctly for optimal digestion.
  • Give a gap of atleast 2 hours before lying down after food intake
  • Avoid eating during a cough attack.
  • Keep a food diary and mark down any foods that is making you cough.
  • Take all your medications, especially those for acid reflux or asthma and throat infection, as advised by your healthcare provider
  • Losing excessive weight can help
  • Quit smoking Know that smoking damages the protective lining of the throat.
  • Consume warm drinks  to soothe your throat in case of throat congestion
  • Abstain from foods that trigger a cough or allergies

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