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6 Causes of Shortness of Breath After Eating

Feeling short of breath can be a very uncomfortable and distressing experience but is not a cause of much concern. There are many reasons that may make a person feel short of breath and the treatment too would depend on the cause.

6 Causes of Shortness of Breath After Eating

6 Causes of Shortness of Breath After Eating

  1. Food Allergies

    It is estimated by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology that around 4% of adults and 4-6% of children in the United States have a food allergy.(1)

    Shortness of breath is one of the several symptoms of food allergy. A doctor should be informed in such a case. Food allergy is diagnosed by doing the safe test, which includes oral food challenges involving eating small amounts of suspected trigger foods.

    The best way to avoid food allergies is to avoid eating the food causing it. There are no treatments for food allergies but research is being carried out to know how people can build tolerance for specific foods.

  2. Anaphylaxis

    Anaphylaxis is a rare, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that has shortness of breath as a symptom.

    Other symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

    Those diagnosed with severe allergic reactions should carry EpiPen, a device that a person can self-inject to counteract the allergic reaction. Also, emergency services should be contacted after delivering the injection.

  3. Inhaling Food Particles

    Sometimes people inhale small particles while eating food or liquid. This is called pulmonary aspiration.

    A person with a healthy lung is able to cough up these particles. Coughing can lead to shortness of breath and sometimes sore throat. If these particles are not coughed up, aspiration pneumonia can develop as the particles cause an infection inside the air sacs of one or both lungs. The symptoms of aspiration pneumonia include:

    Aspiration pneumonia treatment depends on the overall health of the person and the severity of the condition. Mostly the doctor gives antibiotics for the treatment of infection.

  4. Heartburn

    A person may experience shortness of breath on experiencing heartburn after eating. It happens because the stomach acid flows back up the esophagus.

    Heartburn is a common symptom of acid reflux as the acid rise can irritate the airway and cause them to swell leading to breathing difficulties.

    Other symptoms of heartburn include:

    • Burning pain in the middle of the chest
    • Warmth, heat, and burning in the chest or throat
    • Acidic taste in the mouth
    • Burning and indigestion-like pain
    • Difficulty in breathing is a symptom of acid reflux.

    The treatment may include proton pump inhibitors, antacids, and H2 blockers. Lifestyle and dietary changes can also be helpful in easing or preventing heartburn.

  5. Hiatal Hernia

    A hernia occurs when an organ or a tissue squeezes into the part of the body it does not belong, hiatus hernia is a condition in which the stomach bulges up into the chest through the muscle wall that separates the diaphragm and abdomen. This can lead to shortness of breath that worsens after eating.

    Paraesophageal hernia is a type of hernia that occurs as the stomach squeezes up next to the esophagus. On growing too big, it pushes the diaphragm and squashes the lungs leading to chest pain and shortness of breath. The symptoms worsen on eating as a full stomach increases the pressure on the diaphragm.

    Some paraesophageal hernias do not require treatment. In case of certain symptoms, surgery may be needed. These include:

    The hernia is repaired using keyhole surgery or laparoscopic surgery. Laparoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive procedure in which most people recover within 4 weeks.(2)

  6. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

    Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a progressive lung disease that makes it difficult for the air to move inside and outside the lungs.

    As breathing and digestion require a lot of energy, COPD may cause shortness of breath after eating. Other symptoms of COPD include:

    Also, a full stomach may worsen breathing difficulty in people with COPD.

    A few practices can be helpful in reducing shortness of breath. These include:

    • Eating slowly
    • Giving the food time to digest
    • Eating food that requires less chewing
    • Avoiding lying down
    • Eating fewer sugary foods
    • Avoiding eating when short of breath

    People experiencing shortness of breath after meals should speak with a doctor to determine the underlying cause and ease the symptoms. Sometimes the breathing difficulty can be due to a serious underlying condition that would need urgent medical attention.

Also Read:

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 3, 2022

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