Coughing After Eating


Cough mechanism

Coughing is a forceful and explosive maneuver that is done during expiration, which may be due to deliberate or reflexive action for the purpose of clearing the airways and the respiratory tract. An irritated air passage results in cough due to reflex action as a result of any gastric or nervous disorder. However, chronic cough needs immediate attention. Normally, when phlegm or mucus gets produced, the body tries to cough up the mucus involuntarily.

Coughing after eating food causes

Coughing indicates that something is wrong in the body. It may either be a foreign body or improper functioning of an organ in the chest area. There are various reasons why a person coughs following eating and drinking. As some particles get stuck in the respiratory tract, it causes breathing and swallowing difficulty.

Consequently, people choke and begin to cough after eating. Though, the cough may only be a minor disturbance, but persistent cough that keep worsening over time, needs examination, as the possibility for a serious condition cannot be ignored.

Some of the medical reasons are as follows:


It is one of the chronic lung diseases resulting due to airway inflammation. On consumption of certain food items, asthmatics may experience exaggeration of symptoms, especially coughing. According to Departments of Health, the foods that trigger asthma attack include milk, wheat, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, soy, shell fish and fish.

Aspiration Pneumonia

This occurs as a result of food, liquid or stomach substances entering accidentally into the lungs, thereby causing an infection. Usually, when such substances get an entry into the airway, the immediate cough taking place prevents the substances from entering the lungs. However, sometimes there is an exception, where infection may occur and mucus gets accumulated causing pneumonia. This persisting infection cause increased coughing following meals.


Swallowing difficulty is considered as one of the causes of excessive cough post eating. It may be due to several causes, including throat inflammation, blockages, muscular and neurologic complications. Dysphagia is characterized by a feeling of stuck food in the throat, pressure or pain in the chest following eating that is accompanied by exaggerated coughing, most of the times.

2 types of dysphagia:-

Oropharyngeal dysphagia: Here, coughing may be caused either during eating or after eating, as the muscles of the throat become weak. In severe cases, people may experience gagging and regurgitation. Eg: neurological damage or disorder, cancer

Esophageal dysphagia: This is the most common. Due to regurgitation caused due to feeble or absent peristalsis force action, gagging and coughing may occur while eating or after eating.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, otherwise known as the acid reflux disease is caused due to problems in the mechanism and functioning of the lower part of the esophageal sphincter. The symptoms of Gastroesophageal reflux disease, abbreviated as GERD includes acid indigestion and heartburn. After ingestion of food, the esophageal sphincter is unable to hold down the ingested food along with the digestive acids and juices of the stomach.

As a result, some contents of the stomach get pushed back forcefully into the esophagus, resulting in coughing along with heartburn. The stomach acid that regurgitates may travel up to the pharynx and cause local irritation, which triggers the cough reflex. Recurrent irritation, as seen in chronic cases may result in laryngopharyngeal reflux disease (LPR).

Zenker’s Diverticula

  • Mostly seen in elderly population.
  • Males more affected than females.
  • Zenker’s Diverticula are pouches formed above the food passage (esophageal sphincter). While eating, food enters this pouch and gets trapped. Hence, due to irritation, coughing occurs.

Tonsillitis and Pharyngitis

  • In tonsillopharyngitis, coughing results due to the inflamed throat lining getting irritated repeatedly by the food items. The root cause for pharyngitis and tonsillitis is respiratory tract infection, especially upper tract.
  • Symptoms include sore throat, rhinitis, nasal congestion, sneezing, fever and hoarse voice.
  • Non-infectious causes include chronic necrotic tonsillitis that may trigger coughing. Here, the trapped small food particles in the crevasses, cough up the compressed or decomposed food particles, which often bear resemblance to small rice grains.


  • Respiratory tract inflammation is triggered by allergies caused by food items, which results in mucus secretion in a copious amount due to consumption of particular foods such as dairy products, nuts, wheat, egg yolk, etc.
  • There may be evidence of rhinitis, sneezing, nasal congestion or post-nasal drip in the nasal cavity.
  • In asthma, where there are secretion and accumulation of mucus along with airway hypersensitivity, dyspnea and abnormal breath sounds like wheeze may be seen.
  • Anaphylaxis in relation to certain foods being hypersensitive such as shellfish may cause acute life-threatening reactions, of which coughing may be one among the initial symptoms.

Coughing after eating food treatment and remedies

  • Treatment is dependent on the causative factors.
  • A cough caused due to choking, which is a rare cause may not need any kind of special treatment. Hence, chew and swallow the food slowly. If coughing still persists, consult a pulmonologist.

Coughing after eating food remedies

Home remedies used for the treatment of cough may prove to be useful in treating coughing after eating as well.

It includes:-

Eat foods that do not cause heartburn and acid reflux.

Foods to eat


  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Baked potato
  • Peas
  • Green beans


  • Banana
  • Apple
  • Apple juice

Meat (low fat)

  • Chicken breast
  • Ground beef
  • Egg substitute
  • Egg whites
  • Fish


  • Multi-grain
  • Wheat
  • Cereal or oatmeal
  • Pretzels
  • Corn bread
  • Rice cakes
  • Rice, white or brown


  • Cheese
  • Soy cheese
  • Sour cream

Sweets / Desserts

  • Jelly beans
  • Cookie
  • Baked Potato chips


  • Only mineral water

Foods to avoid


  • Onion


  • Lemon
  • Orange juice
  • Grapefruit juice
  • Tomato


  • Chicken nuggets
  • Ground beef, chuck
  • Buffalo wings


  • Spaghetti with sauce
  • Macaroni and cheese


  • Sour cream
  • Ice cream
  • Milk shake
  • Cottage cheese

Sweets / Desserts

  • Chocolate
  • Brownie
  • Butter cookie with high-fat
  • Doughnut
  • Potato chips
  • Corn chips


  • Wine
  • Liquor
  • Tea (decaffeinated/regular)
  • Coffee (decaffeinated/regular)

2. Avoid foods that cause allergy, in particular.

3. Practice healthy eating habits such as chewing well and then swallowing the food.

4. In hypochlorhydria, it is recommended to mix apple cider vinegar (one tbsp.) in water (8 ounces), and then drink this mixture before meals. This will help in re-balancing the stomach acids naturally within 3 days. But, if it still persists, consult a doctor.

Homeopathic Treatment

  • This treatment is gentle and safe for children. It boosts up the immune system and prevents suppression of the illness.]
  • Pay attention to the cough characteristics, and then treat it

When to seek medical help?

  • Long lasting cough (greater than a week)
  • Coughing accompanied by bloody sputum, high fever and chest pain


Coughing After Eating


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