Why do I cough after I eat?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Why do I cough after I eat?”. We will also talk about the causes of the coughing after eating, when to see a doctor and the treatment of this condition.

Why do I cough after I eat? 

Coughing after eating can have various causes as coughing is a way of keeping the irritants out of the respiratory system, a natural phenomenon of the human body. If you cough after every meal or every time you eat something then there could be more underlying issues causing the cough.

There are several causes including acid reflux, asthma, dysphagia, and food allergies or simply the food stuck in the respiratory tract.

What causes coughing after eating? 

The potential causes of coughing after eating are discussed below.

Food allergies 

People having allergies to a certain type of food can experience coughing after eating that food to which they are allergic. Allergies typically develop during childhood and can develop at any other age too.

When someone is allergic to a certain food, the body’s immune system reacts as it believes it is a toxic substance causing coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and runny nose.

Common foods that people are allergic to are milk, soy, gluten, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, and shellfish.


Coughing is common in people suffering from asthma and certain foods and drinks often trigger asthma symptoms due to affecting the airways with exposure to an irritant most probably food.

Food containing sulfites should be avoided to eat if a person is suffering from asthma as sulfites can cause asthma symptoms. Food and drinks such as beers, wines, nuts, pickled onions, and soft drinks contain traces of sulfites.

Wheezing, trouble breathing and tightness in the chest are other symptoms accompanied by coughing in people with asthma.


Dysphagia is a condition where a person has difficulty swallowing foods and drinks and can cause discomfort and pain while doing so. The person can feel as if the food has been stuck in the throat can result in coughing and gagging as a natural response of the body to try to clear the throat.

If the person has dysphagia, the body takes more time and effort to move the food and drinks from the mouth into the stomach causing stress and discomfort with occasional coughing.

Respiratory infections 

Coughing is generally caused by infections of the upper respiratory tract which eases and clears up in a couple of days. A person whose upper respiratory infections have not healed can have chronic coughing after eating. 

These kinds of coughs caused by infection are harsh, dry, and persistent and cause inflammation in the airway leading to more coughing.

Acid reflux

Acid reflux is a condition that occurs when the stomach acids travel back into the esophagus due to the improper functioning of the sphincter responsible for blocking the acid to move upwards into the esophagus. The stomach acid irritates the esophagus and can cause coughing.

As the sphincter opens up when you eat food or drinks and does not close afterward causing the stomach acid to reach the esophagus which causes irritation and coughing immediately after eating.

Aspiration pneumonia 

While eating or drinking, sometimes the food and drinks particles can enter the lungs and stay there to introduce bacteria. These bacteria grow and cause a serious condition called aspiration pneumonia. 

A healthy lung normally clears out any foreign substance from the lungs but if it cannot do so, then the bacteria can grow. People with acid reflux and dysphagia are more susceptible to aspiration pneumonia.

The cough is wet-sounding and can also include mucus with blood in it. Other symptoms include painful swallowing, heartburn, fever, shortness of breath, and congestion after eating and drinking.

When should you see a doctor? 

It is important to go see a doctor if the post-eating cough is persistent and occurs frequently. If the coughing has lasted for more than 2 weeks and there is blood in the mucous, it is a good idea to consult with the doctor.

If the reason for the cough is unknown and the cough worsens day by day then it is good to seek medical advice as there may be underlying conditions causing coughing after eating food.

Can the condition of coughing after eating be prevented and treated? 

The treatment will vary with the underlying symptoms causing coughing after eating. It can definitely be prevented by following some eating and drinking habits such as drinking and eating slowly and drinking water between meals.

Also not talking while eating can also reduce coughing after eating. 


In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Why do I cough after I eat?”. We also talked about the causes of the coughing after eating, when to see a doctor, and the treatment of this condition.

I hope you find this blog useful. If you have any questions, please let us know.




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