What causes Coughing after Eating in adults?

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Coughing after Eating

Coughing after eating can be very annoying for you as well as others around you. You may feel very uncomfortable if you have to cough after a nice meal with family or friends. Cough after a meal can be very painful and distracting.

Do you often think Why do I cough after I eat? Have you ever worried about cough at the dining table? Do you feel embarrassed with cough at family dinners or business lunches?

 

Well, if you say yes, you are not alone. There are many people out there who too often cough after eating.



Coughing after eating is a condition that has been attracting some medical attention lately. There has been a good amount of research into ‘coughing after eating’ worldwide.

As a result, researchers made significant advance in understanding what causes coughing after eating.

These researches concluded that there are many different reasons why people cough after they eat. The researches also established that the condition can be dealt with and managed easily.

By treating the underlying conditions, coughing after eating is no longer a difficult situation to deal with!

What causes Coughing after Eating in adults?

Well, if you are coughing after eating just for a bit to clear your throat after a nice meal that’s okay.

But if you are coughing constantly for a long time after eating, that is something you may want to pay more attention to.

In this article, we will try to explain you as much as we can about what causes coughing after eating in adults.

What causes Coughing after Eating in adults?
What causes Coughing after Eating in adults?

Please note that the author is not a professional doctor or an expert in coughing after eating. The contents of this article are only the findings from the research that this author did out of personal interest.


We strongly advise you to see a doctor if you think necessary rather than treating your cough after eating on your own.

Coughing after eating is generally caused by one or more of the below reasons.

Please note that these conditions may not be directly causing coughing after eating. Coughing after eating may be the side effect of one more of these conditions.

So next time you wonder Why do I cough after I eat, you can check if you have any of the below conditions.

  1. GERD or Acid Reflux

Coughing After Eating GERD

GERD means gastro esophageal reflux disease. Some doctors also call it GORD or Acid Reflux.

It is the most common cause for coughing after eating and heart burn. For this reason sometimes cough after food is called as acid reflux cough.

As the name suggests, a reflux action in the stomach area upwards causes coughing after eating.

Semi-digested food from your stomach re-enter your food pipe when the muscles at the entry to your stomach do not close as they should after eating  or re-open during digestion.

When semi-digested food comes back into your lower esophagus, it causes irritation in your throat. When this happens, your brain causes a reflux action that results in coughing.

Cough due to acid reflux generally occurs after eating but in some cases, it may also occur during eating.

Some simple tips to deal with GERD cough include:

  • Use a bed or pillow customised for GERD relief such as this
  • Avoid over eating; instead have smaller meals throughout the day
  • Avoid going to bed soon after eating a meal; give it a couple of hours after a meal so you do not go to bed on a full stomach.
  • Try to eat slowly at a leisurely pace and chew all food very well before swallowing
  • Identify what foods trigger cough after eating in your case and stay away from such foods
  • Try to bring your body weight to a healthy level; lose weight if needed and avoid being obese
  • Try and drink more water throughout the day and keep your body well-hydrated

If your acid reflux cough condition does not improve soon with above tips, please see a doctor and seek medical advice.

Some people also use over the counter medicines to deal with GERD cough. OTC medicines may be good but a medical consultation is highly recommended for any persistent cough.

  1. Allergy

Coughing After Eating Allergy

Have you ever wondered if your body quiet does not like certain types of food or certain kinds of cooking?

That could be a food allergy. Food allergy can make you cough after you eat. 

Allergy  could be another reason why you cough after eating. It could be that certain foods or types of foods or the way food is cooked or the temperature of the food that can cause coughing after eating.

Before you eat such food next time, you may find it helpful to know what allergy means and how to suppress a cough caused by allergy. You may be allergic to certain foods or the way food is cooked.

In simple terms, allergy is a damaging immune response by your body to some foods. When you eat an allergen, your body perceives the food as a danger and produces histamine. Histamine causes allergic cough and other allergy symptoms. Allergic cough due to food can be mild or very severe.

Your body may be hypersensitive to some foods. People of any age can suffer from an allergy but it is more common in children.

Some children find their allergy disappearing as they grow into adults whereas, some adults start to show allergy symptoms to certain foods to which they were not allergic during childhood.

Most common food items that can trigger an allergic reaction in humans are nuts, fruits, shellfish, eggs and milk. The best way to deal with an allergic cough is to keep away from such foods that may cause an allergy.

You can see a doctor and seek medical advice when you feel you are being allergic to certain foods. Doctors can prescribe you medicines like antihistamines or decongestants or steroids.

In some cases, doctors may recommend immunotherapy to deal with coughing after eating.

Immunotherapy means you get exposed to an allergen in a controlled manner over a long period of time by which your body gets used to the allergen and does not react with a severe response such as a cough.

  1. Infection of Esophagus or Larynx

Coughing After Eating Infection

Infection of esophagus and larynx can cause inflammation in the areas through which food passes when you swallow. This may result in malfunction of the parts that help you swallow food.

As a result you may cough while you eat. This may even make you cough after you eat.

Infections and inflammations of esophagus and larynx can sometimes cause more serious problems than just coughing after eating.

These include difficulty in swallowing, severe irritation or even choking.

If are coughing after eating or you see any of these symptoms or you know you have such an infection, you must see a doctor as soon as possible for a medical advice. Your doctor may offer you some antibiotics.

You cannot buy antibiotics over the counter without prescription in many countries. Even if someone offers you antibiotics without a prescription, you must avoid such use as it might harm you in the long run.

You must use antibiotics only when necessary and in the right dosage for the right duration. Only a qualified doctor can help you with how to suppress a cough with antibiotics.

  1. Dysphagia

Coughing After Eating Dysphagia

Dysphagia is a condition that causes discomfort in swallowing.

If you have dysphagia, your body tends to reject the food you try to eat. This can result in coughing after eating. In some cases, you may even cough while you eat.

Other symptoms of dysphagia include the below. 

  • choking when eating or drinking
  • bringing food back up sometimes through the nose
  • sensation that food is stuck in your throat or chest
  • persistent drooling of saliva

If you see any of these along with coughing after eating, you must see a doctor.

If neglected, dysphagia can lead to weight loss and repeated chest infections in the long term in addition to  difficulty in swallowing.

Dysphagia is generally caused by another inherent health condition such as stroke, head injury, dementia, mouth cancer, oesophageal cancer or GERD.

Treatment of dysphagia includes:

  • changing the consistency of the food and drink thus making it easier to swallow
  • feeding from nose or direct into stomach via a tube
  • placing a stent in the esophagus to widen the food passage by surgery
  1. Asthma

Coughing After Eating Asthma

Asthma is a very common condition that may cause difficulty in breathing.

It may not be a direct reason for coughing after eating. An allergic reaction or an infection of the airways that is related to your asthma is what causes coughing after eating.

If you have asthma and cough after you eat, you may want to find out if they both are related. You may refer yourself to a chest specialist.

A chest specialist would conduct some tests on you to determine if you are coughing after eating because of asthma.

If asthma is not the cause for your cough after you eat, he may look for other causes. If your cough with food is found to be a result of your asthma, doctors may do something to treat your asthma.

Common drugs used for asthma are in the form of steroids.

  1. Aspiration Pneumonia

Sometimes as you swallow food, accidentally food enters into lungs. This might happen either when you eat or drink something in a hurry or during a vomit.

In either of these cases, you may end up coughing.

So, when food or drink enters your lungs, your body responds with a cough to expel the foreign material. This is what happens in coughing after eating due to aspiration pneumonia.

So if you are coughing after eating, and you feel food or drink entered your lungs or respiratory tract, you must see a doctor to check out if it is aspiration pneumonia.

A doctor can help you with medical advice to get rid of your coughing after eating due to aspiration pneumonia.

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What is Acid reflux Cough?

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What is Acid reflux Cough?

Acid reflux Cough is one of the most common types of cough in adults. Acid Reflux is also known as GERD. 

GERD cough is a result of the reflux action of the body when contents of your stomach re-enter the food pipe upwards. Body makes this reflex action to ease the irritation of oesophagus muscles caused by acidic or non-acidic contents from stomach.

Acid reflux cough is very common and acid reflux is one of the top causes of cough after eating or drinking. If you have persistent cough after eating with or without phlegm and you cannot figure out why you are coughing, it is very likely ‘acid reflux cough’.



GERD cough is so common that experts say if a cough is persistent, there is 25% chance that it is due to acid reflux or GERD.

When you have acid reflux cough, you may see a doctor for a diagnosis of reflux cough. In some cases, you may also seek help from a nutritionist about foods that help acid reflux. You may want to avoid spicy and oily food to suppress acid reflux cough.

We may also see reflux in new-borns. Symptoms of reflux in babies cannot be ignored. Parents of new-borns must be aware of signs of reflux in babies.

New-born reflux causes difficult times for parents if they are not aware what GERD is. GERD in babies makes parents nervous about travel as they never know when the baby cries. Consulting a good paediatrician may help.

What causes acid reflux cough?

When you have a cough, it may be very helpful to know some common causes of cough.

Acid reflux cough is triggered when acidic or non-acidic contents of stomach re-enter esophagus or areas above esophagus. The semi-digested from the stomach irritates your throat when it re-enters food pipe. When your body notices this irritation, it responds with a cough to ease the irritation. This cough is called acid reflux cough.


A new-born can also suffer from acid reflux cough. However, new-born reflux can have its own causes and can be discussed in more detail with a pediatrician.  

Can children get acid reflux cough?

Yes children can get GERD. Usually GERD can cause acid reflux cough in children after 1 year of age and rarely in infants.

The main symptoms of GERD in babies include vomiting and refusing to eat. It may not be always easy to understand baby reflux symptoms and often, symptoms of reflux in babies go unnoticed.

When you see signs of reflux in babies, visiting a paediatrician can help to find out what helps treat acid reflux. Sometimes it is referred to as silent reflux in babies. 

Do I need to see a doctor for acid reflux cough treatment?

The acid reflux cough remains persistent unless a doctor treats it. Sometimes it may be difficult to diagnose GERD cough without a doctor’s help as it is not generally accompanied by any other related complaints such as heart burn.

If a patient has cough that cannot be explained by any other reason, doctors usually suspect GERD. A doctor’s medical advice will help you deal with Phlegm after Eating. So you must see a doctor for treating GERD.

How is acid reflux cough diagnosed?

Acid reflux Cough
Acid reflux Cough

GERD cough or acid reflux cough is not an easy one to diagnose. Common tests cannot detect GERD as it is not accompanied with heartburn etc.

There are a couple of special tests that doctors use to diagnose GERD.

One of the GERD tests is to put the patient on PPI (proton pump inhibitors) a medication for GERD for about 3 months and see if the GERD symptoms come down.

If PPI helps the person to treat GERD cough, then it is also the confirmation of GERD itself.

Popular GERD Tests
Popular GERD Tests

Another GERD test uses a 24 hour pH probe. This probe measures the pH of esophagus for a continuous period of 24 hours.

Based on how the pH varies, one can say whether the acidity in the esophagus is raised.

If acid reflux cough is the reason, then the acidic pH values confirm that.

It may be more difficult to diagnose silent reflux in babies. It is even more difficult to diagnose reflux in newborns.

Baby reflux symptoms may be difficult to figure out and may need a specialist to help you.

What are acid reflux cough risk factors in adults?

In adults, the risks factors for acid reflux cough include consumption of excessive amounts of foods that may cause acid reflux. Examples include alcohol, coffee, chocolate and fried foods.

Spicy foods and fatty foods are the common foods that cause acid reflux cough. Such foods contribute to GERD more than others.

Knowing what foods to avoid with acid reflux and taking them out of your diet helps treat acid reflux cough.

Thus, adults can see some relief from GERD or acid reflux cough by certain lifestyle changes.

It is important that you know the foods to avoid with acid reflux cough. These include consuming less alcohol, less spicy food and non-oily food as part of their diet.

Even if you like foods that cause acid reflux very much, eating less of acid reflux foods to avoid improves your condition. You can eat more of the foods that help acid reflux.

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What not to eat when coughing? Foods that aggravate cough

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What not to eat when coughing is important to be clear about.

Cough by itself is very irritating, painful, annoying, tiring and can lead to sleepless nights. Various factors like cold, infection, pollution, allergy and side effects of medicines can trigger a cough. But, if any food you eat aggravates your cough, your condition can quickly become lot worse. So you need to know what not to eat when coughing and avoid foods that aggravate cough.

Let us see what not to eat when coughing.

What not to eat when coughing?

Not eating certain foods when coughing can help overcome infection, inflammation and allergy quickly. The following are some foods to avoid when coughing, as they are likely to aggravate cough, inflammation, irritation etc.on:



Dairy based food and drinks

If you are coughing or have an inflammation or infection in your respiratory tract, avoiding dairy based foods and drinks can help relieve your symptoms to some extent.

Why not to consume dairy based foods or drinks when coughing?

Researches have proved that consumption of milk and other dairy based foods and drinks triggers excess mucus production. Milk, when digested apparently stimulates mucus production in the digestive tract. Similarly milk and other dairy based foods and drinks trigger excess mucus in the respiratory tract too.

If you already have a cough, infection or inflammation, consumption of dairy based foods and drinks can produce even more mucus making your condition worse. Excess mucus thus produced can make your cough more severe.

Consumption of diary products may also make your mucus thick and stickier, making it difficult for you to expel mucus. So, experts advise us to avoid milk, cheese, yogurt, cream, cottage cheese and any other milk based foods and drinks when you have a cough.


So what not to eat when coughing? When you are coughing, avoid all milk based foods and drinks so you feel better. You need to avoid eating or drinking any dairy based foods or drinks when you have a cough or inflammation or infection of respiratory tract.

Foods that aggravate asthma and cough

Asthma makes you wheeze, breathless and leads severe cough at times. So if you suffer from cough due to asthma, you need to stop eating foods that aggravate your asthma.

How do I know which foods aggravate asthma or cough?

You can check with your doctor if your asthma is related to your diet. If yes, you need to avoid all foods that aggravate your asthma and cough. Examples of foods that can aggravate asthma include nuts, yeast, eggs, shellfish, fish and milk etc.

You need to maintain a diary of what you eat and how your asthma fluctuates as you eat different foods. Such food diary and analysis of cough symptoms can help you understand what not to eat when coughing.

Caffeine

When you have a cough, it is important that you keep yourself well hydrated. Water is the best drink when you are coughing.

If you have a chesty cough, you need to drink lots of fluids because you need your mucus thinned. You can easily expel the mucus easily when it is thin. Your chesty cough will come down when your mucus is thinned.

On the other hand when you have a dry cough, you may suffer from a dry throat and difficulty in swallowing. To heal dry throat, dry cough etc,. you need to drink lots of fluids. Many people say you can drink any fluids you wish but coffee is not very good to hydrate you.

Why is coffee bad for you when you are coughing?

Coffee makes you pass more urine. When you pass more urine, you may get dehydrated and your cough may become more difficult to treat. So you need to avoid coffee when you have a cough.

If you are coughing after eating due to GERD, acidity or acid reflux,, you need to stop consuming caffeine based food and drinks. If you drink a hot coffee, you may feel a temporary relief from cough for an instant. But consuming coffee loosens the esophageal sphincter which allows more acid and semi-digested food from stomach into esophagus. This aggravates cough due to GERD or acid reflux.

Alcohol

Consumption of alcohol aggravates dehydration. Dehydration in turn aggravates cough.

If you have a dry cough, dehydration makes your throat dry, itchy and you cough more. Dry throat makes you feel very uncomfortable and painful to drink or swallow. This discomfort may in turn aggravate your cough.

If you have a chesty cough, dehydration makes your mucus thick and sticky, you may feel stuffy and congested. This makes it difficult for you to expel your mucus. If you cannot expel your mucus, chesty cough persists.

So you need to avoid alcohol when you are coughing. Instead you need to drink lots of water to keep yourself well hydrated.

Processed and refined foods

Processed foods and refined foods are low in essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fibre. So when you eat processed and refined foods like packaged snacks, white bread, white pasta etc. your body will not get the essential vitamins and minerals etc. Foods made from white sugar and white flour slow your body’s natural healing process by suppressing the immune system.

Why should you stop eating processed or refined foods when coughing?

When you are coughing, your body needs a strong immunity to infections etc. To build immunity, your body needs sufficient vitamins, minerals and fibre etc. You need to avoid processed and refined foods when you are coughing as they are very low in nutrients like vitamins and minerals. You need to eat more whole foods and green leafy vegetables when you are coughing as whole foods can get you more vitamins, minerals and fibre.

Sugar and sweets

Sugar and sugar based sweets lower your body’s immunity and you lose the ability to fight infections and inflammations. When you consume high sugar foods, at first your stress hormone levels get elevated due to adrenaline stress but soon you are depleted of these and feel adrenal fatigue. As low cortisol levels make you more susceptible to colds, coughs and infections, you need to avoid eating sugar and sweets when you are coughing.

You can go for honey and honey based sweets instead of sugar. Honey is a great natural remedy for cough so when you consume honey, your cough gets suppressed.

Cold foods

When you are suffering from a cold or cough, eating cold food or drinking cold drinks is not a good idea. Cold foods like ice creams and milk shakes make your cold and cough worse.

Generally cold foods and drinks dry out your respiratory lining and make you more susceptible to infections, inflammation and may trigger an irritation. So you must be avoiding cold foods and drinks when you are coughing.

Fried foods

Fried foods aggravate cough and digestive problems. If you are coughing, you need to avoid fried foods like french fries, chips, burgers etc. as such food may aggravate your cough and trigger digestive complications too.

Why should you avoid fried foods when coughing?

When you fry foods in hot oil, the process genrates an unsaturated aldehyde called acrolein. Acrolein is a colourless liquid with a piercing and acrid smell.

You might have noticed the typical smell when you heat cooking oil to its smoking point. This smell is caused by glycerol from the fat breaking down into acrolein when you heat the oil to smoking point.

Acrolein is an allergen that can lead to itching in throat and aggravate coughing. As fried foods contain excess acrolein, you need to avoid fried foods when you are coughing.

Mango, Banana, Citrus fruits and juices

Mango, banana, citrus fruits and juices have citric acid, aggravates throat irritation and cough. You need to avoid mango, banana, citrus fruits and juices when you are coughing.

Mango, banana and citrus fruits are very essential and healthy when you are not suffering from cold and cough. You just need to careful with such foods when you are coughing. Instead, you can go for other fruits high in water such as water melon, pine apple, pears, grapes etc.

Heavy or Late Dinner

If you are coughing after eating due to GERD or acid reflux, eating a heavy meal just before going to bed can make it worse. Eating a heavy meal makes it easier for semi-digested food and acids from stomach to re-enter the esophagus. This is more severe in people suffering from GERD because the esophageal sphincter muscle does not contract and relax properly when you have GERD.

To avoid any aggravation of coughing after eating, you need to avoid overeating at night and late dinners. You can have a smaller dinner around 2 hours before bed time.

Smoking

Smoking damages your respiratory system very badly. The damage that smoking causes to your body can start with a simple irritation in throat or dry cough and can eventually lead to bronchitis or cancer.

So if you are coughing for any reason, you need to avoid smoking if you want to recover quickly from your cough. If you are not a smoker, you need to stay away from smokers as passive smoking can be as bad for your health as smoking itself.

Foods that lower your immunity

Some common foods can lower your immunity or impair body’s natural healing ability or increase inflammation.

Examples of such foods include veal, hot dogs, donuts, ham, soda and energy drinks etc. So you need to avoid such foods when you are coughing.

If you continue to eat or drink foods that lower immunity or increase inflammation, your cough may get worse. Such foods may also aggravate GERD and acid reflux which in turn make your cough more severe.

Summary | What not to eat when coughing?

As you have seen above it really helps to know what not to eat when coughing. The above foods and drinks are just a few foods and drinks from what not to eat when coughing.

To know precisely what not to eat in your case, you need to check with your doctor. What not to eat when coughing may be different for different people. The above is a general opinion of what not to eat when coughing.

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