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9 Common Causes of Coughing After Eating

Many people cough after eating. Coughing after eating could be normal when it happens at times. However, if coughing after eating occurs frequently, you should consult your doctor to determine the underlying cause. Yes, there are several causes of coughing after eating. Read below and know what causes coughing after eating.

9 Common Causes of Coughing After Eating

Coughing is a usual reaction of our body trying to clear irritants from our airways. Sometimes irritants are introduced into the body while eating, and this can cause cough after eating.

9 Common Causes of Coughing After Eating

A lot of people experience a mysterious cough after eating. This might happen after every meal they take or only occasionally. There are many possible causes of this, which include GERD, acid reflux, asthma, food allergies, respiratory infections, dysphagia, and many more. Most of these causes are treatable by changing your diet or eating habits or by taking medications as prescribed by the doctor. Let us now take a look at each of these causes of coughing after eating.

Acid Reflux:

Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid moves back to your esophagus. Around the bottom of the esophagus, there is a band of muscle called the Lower esophageal sphincter. When you drink or eat anything, it relaxes, thus allowing the liquid or food to move into your stomach. However, at times, it does not close completely after you drink or eat, thus allowing acid from the stomach to move up into the esophagus. This, in turn, irritates your esophagus, which might result in coughing after eating.

Sore throat, sour taste in the mouth, bitter taste in the back of your throat, and burning sensation in your chest or heartburn, are some of the other symptoms of acid reflux.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Or GERD:

GERD or Gastroesophageal reflux disease is an ongoing and more severe form of acid reflux. Though it is natural to assume having a chronic cough could be due to a respiratory issue, however, you might be surprised to know that studies indicate that a persistent cough is generally a sign of GERD or gastroesophageal reflux, or a condition.(1)

So, one of the most common symptoms of GERD is a chronic cough, especially after eating. Few other symptoms of GERD could be having acid reflux at least twice in a week, vomiting or nausea, wheezing, difficulty swallowing, or belching.

It is noted that people with GERD would also suffer from chest pain or heartburn, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, and bad breath, along with chronic cough after eating.(2)

Laryngopharyngeal Reflux or LPR:

Laryngopharyngeal reflux or LPR is sometimes known as silent reflux because patients with this condition do not have traditional reflux symptoms. It is a type of GERD that involves your stomach acid passing through the esophagus and into your larynx or even into your nose. One might have Laryngopharyngeal reflux or LPR with or without Gastroesophageal reflux disease. LPR can cause cough during or after eating. You might also cough while talking, laughing, or when waking up. Some other symptoms of LPR are hoarseness, a sensation of something dripping down the back of the throat from your nose or postnasal drip, and constant need of clearing the throat.

You should talk to your doctor if you experience any symptoms of LPR because an untreated LPR might eventually cause throat ulcers or voice disorders.


Asthma is a chronic disease affecting the lungs of people. This condition can cause chest tightness, wheezing, and coughing. Asthma generally begins in childhood, however, it can also appear while you are older. Cough that is caused by asthma is generally worse late in the early morning or at night. During an attack, symptoms of asthma worsen.

Usually, 75% of patients with asthma also have GERD.(3) And it is known that GERD can cause coughing after eating. You can treat your GERD and get relief from symptoms of asthma. Symptoms of asthma can be managed easily by taking prescribed medications and also avoiding common triggers of asthma, like sulfites that are present in wine and beer and also in dry fruits and vegetables and soft drinks.

Food Allergies:

You can also experience coughing after eating if you have food allergies. Though food allergies generally develop in childhood, they can also strike at any age. You can also develop a food allergy to a food that you have been eating for years.In general, food allergies cause an allergic response within 2 hours of eating the food you are allergic to.

It must be informed that symptoms of an allergic reaction vary from one person to another. Sometimes these symptoms might include those that are affecting the respiratory system, thus resulting in coughing. Wheezing or shortness of breath, are other respiratory symptoms of a food allergy.

NOTE: In rare cases, food allergies can result in a life-threatening condition, known as Anaphylaxis, that affects your breathing. So, make sure that if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of food allergy or if you suspect that you are having food allergies, then you should get immediate treatment.


Dysphagia is a condition that refers to having difficulty swallowing. If you suffer from Dysphagia, it takes more time and effort for your body to move food and liquid to your stomach, and thus making it painful and almost impossible for swallowing. This can cause coughing or gaggling while swallowing. You might also feel like you have food stuck in the throat, causing you to cough, if you have dysphagia.

Dysphagia can be caused due to several reasons, including GERD and acid reflux. You should talk with your doctor and figure out the underlying cause of dysphagia.

Sometimes even simple exercises can fix the problem. However, in more severe cases of Dysphagia, you might require an endoscopic procedure or surgery.

Aspiration Pneumonia:

What causes coughing after eating? Wondering if there are any more causes of coughing after eating? Yes, there are some more causes too, and one of those is aspiration pneumonia.

Sometimes small food pieces or drops of liquids are inhaled into the lungs, where they can introduce bacteria. Usually, this happens when someone swallows something and it goes down the wrong hole. Typically, healthy lungs clear themselves out. However, if they do not, these bacteria can lead to a serious condition known as Aspiration pneumonia. Having dysphagia or acid reflux increases your risk of developing the condition of aspiration pneumonia.

If you have aspiration pneumonia, you might experience a wet-sounding cough after eating. You might even cough up mucus that looks bloody or green. Some other symptoms of this condition are painful swallowing, heartburn, coughing or wheezing after eating, recurring pneumonia, extra saliva, fever that starts within one hour of eating, congestion after drinking or eating, and shortness of breath or fatigue after drinking or eating.

There can be various serious problems like lung abscess or respiratory failure if aspiration pneumonia is left untreated. So, if you suspect having aspiration pneumonia, then talk to your doctor as soon as possible and know about the best possible treatments.

Respiratory System Infections:

You might also suffer from coughing after eating if you have an upper respiratory system infection. If your cough does not clear properly, it can cause you to cough immediately after eating or drinking. Such a type of cough is hard to treat as it irritates your throat, causing coughing more and preventing the process of healing.

You can develop an infection in your larynx or the food pipe. Such a type of infection might be caused due to a fungus, virus, or bacteria. With the infection, your throat might become inflamed or irritated. The inflammation results in coughing after eating.

Upper respiratory infections causes cough, but these coughs clear up generally within 2-3 weeks. Any cough that lasts for 8 weeks or longer is chronic. A chronic cough after eating could be due to an infection that did not heal properly. A cough that is caused by an infection sounds like a dry, harsh, and persistent hack. This cough results in inflammation of the airway, which in turn can cause more coughing.

It is difficult to treat coughs that are caused by infections, and this is because the cycle of inflammation and coughing prevents the healing process. You should consult with your doctor and take prescribed anti-inflammatories like oral or inhaler steroids if your cough does not go away. You can get rid of cough after eating by treating the respiratory infection.

Eating Habits:

Some eating habits might cause coughing after eating. Let us take a look at some of these:

Eating Too Fast: When you gulp your food in a hurry, you will increase your chance of developing acid reflux after eating. If you are prone to acid reflux and also coughing after eating, you should try to eat slowly and see if your symptoms improve. Do not rush while you are taking your meal.

Eating Too Much In One Meal: Sometimes we eat a lot, especially when we see food that we are fond of. Isn’t it? However, overeating or eating too much in one meal can trigger symptoms of heartburn or a chronic cough. So, make a habit of eating smaller meals and not the large ones at once.

Lying Down Soon After Eating: Are you someone who loves to lie down soon after eating? If yes, then let us say that this is one of the nasty habits that do more harm to your stomach. When you lay flat on your bed or sofa after eating, it causes the acid in the stomach to travel into your esophagus quite easily, and when this happens you might suffer from chronic cough after eating. So, make sure that you do not lie down immediately after eating. Make sure you eat 2-3 hours before sleeping so that your stomach gets plenty of time to properly digest the food.

Eating Too Many Of Fatty, Greasy, Or Fried Foods: If you are fond of eating too many fatty, greasy, or fried foods, you might probably experience coughing after eating. This is because these foods are one of the major causes of acid reflux that might result in chronic coughing after eating. So, try to cut down on these fatty, greasy, or fried foods or quit them completely.

Drinking Excessive Alcohol Or Soda: Soda, soft drinks, or fizzy drinks; any beverage that has carbonation will not just make your stomach bloat, but also tend to add more pressure that can cause acid reflux. The same goes for alcohol, such as wine, beer, and liquor like whisky, brandy, and rum. So, make sure you quit drinking these beverages or drink moderately.

Consuming Excess Of Acidic Fruits Or Juices: Fruits and fruit juices are good for health. However, if you suffer from frequent cough after eating them, that means there are certain fruits and fruit juices that you should avoid or at least reduce. These fruits or fruit juices could be the acidic fruits like lemon, orange, grapefruit, and lime. So, try to avoid such fruits that are acidic and cause coughing after eating.

When To See The Doctor?

You might not require seeing a doctor if you experience a cough after eating. However, if you experience the cough frequently after eating or if it lasts longer than 2 weeks, or if there is blood in the mucus, coughing worsens, or if you are an active smoker and you experience coughing after eating, or if you do not know the reason of your cough, then you should see a doctor.

How Can You Prevent Coughing After Eating?

You can prevent coughing after eating and avoid complications like aspiration pneumonia by eating slowly, not eating during a coughing attack as it could result in choking, avoiding fruits and foods that might cause coughing in you, and taking all your prescribed medications, especially those that are prescribed for asthma or acid reflux.

Final Words:

So, we know that there are a lot of things that can cause coughing after eating, and we also know that most of them are treatable. You should keep a track of any other symptoms that you experience apart from coughing after eating and let your doctor know about the symptoms to figure out the underlying cause. Try to follow the above mentioned preventive measures and see if you get any benefit.

NOTE: You should consult your doctor if you have any concerns or doubt regarding your coughing after eating.


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:May 24, 2021

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