At some point or another, most people have experienced an episode of coughing following a meal or having a drink. While the rare or occasional coughing fit may be uncomfortable or even embarrassing, it generally isn't something to worry over. However, if the coughing occurs frequently or every time you drink or eat, it could be the result of an underlying problem. Several potential causes exist. Consult your doctor to determine exactly what is causing your post-meal cough.
With aspiration, food or drink may accidentally make its way into your trachea, or windpipe. This situation results in reflexive coughing to bring the food particles back up and prevent them from entering the lungs. In some cases, the coughing is insufficient to solve the issue. The food enters the lungs, resulting in an infection that turns into aspiration pneumonia. People with aspiration pneumonia also may notice continuous coughing, particularly after eating food or drinking fluids.
Gastro-oseophageal Reflux Disease
When gastric acid flows from your stomach back up into the oesophagus, the condition is called gastro-oseophageal reflux disease (GERD). When this happens, the food, drink or stomach acid that is forced partially up may trigger a coughing response in addition to the heartburn often associated with GERD.
Dysphagia, also known as difficulty swallowing, is one of the causes for excessive coughing after a meal or drinking. There are two basic types of dysphagia, oropharyngeal dysphagia and esophageal dysphagia. With oropharyngeal dysphagia, your throat muscles may become weakened and cause coughing or even choking when you swallow. This issue can be caused by cancer or a neurological disorder or damage. Esophageal dysphagia may cause coughing due to the feeling that food is caught at the back of your throat. According to the University of Maryland, this problem is the most common type of dysphagia.
Coughing that follows meals or drinking may be the symptom of a condition that is called Zenker's diverticula, which are pouches that form above the esophageal sphincter. When eating, food may enter these pouched and become trapped. If this problem occurs, irritation may develop, and as a result, cause coughing. According to Columbia University, Zenker's diverticulum is more commonly associated with the elderly. and it is one and a half times more likely to occur in males than females.
- NYU Langone Medical Center
- Columbia University Department of Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine: Dysphagia in Adults
- University of Arkansas For Medical Sciences: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease/Heartburn in Children
- Columbia University: Division of Laryngology -- Zenker's Diverticulum
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Dysphagia
- Mayo Clinic: Difficulty Swallowing - Causes