Why Do I Encounter Wet-Sounding Cough and Mucus After Eating? Reasons Explained!

People often complain that they encounter coughing after eating. Normal coughing can be tolerated but the thing that bothers is mucus after eating. Facing such situations frequently is a matter of concern. Maybe or maybe not, it could be an indication of any underlying pathology. 

So, what are the possible reasons behind coughing or mucus after eating? 

There could be many reasons, the most common reason includes acid reflux, food allergies, and respiratory infections. Each of them has different diagnostic criteria and treatment modality which may well prove to be beneficial in relieving cough or mucus after eating food.

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If you are among those sufferers, we would recommend you to give it a read carefully till the end for in-depth discussion.

Coughing after eating could be a symptom of food allergies. Usually, the cases where a person complains about coughing after eating, the coughing starts within two hours after having a meal. 

Is It Normal to Have Mucus After Eating?

You might be thinking that if it’s normal to have mucus after having a meal. So, let’s know about this first before moving into the reasons behind this. 

To cough for once in a while or occasionally after eating is normal. But, coughing frequently and getting a sore throat or mucus after eating might be a thing that needs due attention. You need to self-examine yourself to reach a proper conclusion that why it is happening. 

mucus-after-eating

Do you encounter such a situation after every meal or only sometimes, either once or twice a week? Do you get a cough after eating a specific food type like dairy products etc? Can you tolerate spicy food or does eating spicy food triggers coughing?

All these mentioned facts are needed to be considered to reach an appropriate conclusion. Once the reason is diagnosed, it can be stated clearly that whether the situation is serious or not. Depending upon the cause, you can adopt the relevant treatment plan for it. 

All these measures will eventually help you to get rid of the coughing and mucus after eating.

Reasons for Mucus After Eating

Multiple factors could be the reasons for coughing or mucus after eating. Among the different causes, the most common and frequently reported causes for coughing after eating are listed below:

Food Allergies

Coughing after eating could be a symptom of food allergies. Usually, the cases where a person complains about coughing after eating, the coughing starts within two hours after having a meal. 

food-allergies

If the condition gets severe, the coughing or wheezing can lead to anaphylaxis. In severe cases, it is advised to get immediate medical assistance because if delayed the condition could result in a life-threatening condition.

Acid Reflux

When stomach acid moves back up to the esophagus, the condition results in acid reflux. The lower esophageal sphincter, a band of muscle, is present around the bottom of the esophagus. 

It relaxes when you eat or drink, allowing food and liquid to move into your stomach. Sometimes it doesn’t completely close after you eat or drink, allowing acid from your stomach to move up into your esophagus. It irritates your esophagus, which may cause you to cough.

Other symptoms of acid reflux are:

  • Sour taste in the mouth
  • Bitter taste at the backside of the throat
  • Sore throat
  • Heartburn (burning sensation in the chest)

Respiratory Infections

Upper respiratory infections can also cause coughing in many people, but the coughs usually clear up within three or maybe two weeks. If a cough lasts for eight weeks or longer, it is categorized as chronic. Any infection that never healed properly can cause a chronic cough after eating.

respiratory-infections

A cough resulting due to any infection is dry, sounds like a harsh and persistent hack. The inflammation to the airway that the coughs may cause can lead to more coughing. 

Coughs caused by infections are typical to treat because the cycle of inflammation and coughing hinders the healing process. If the cough is not cured, the doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatories, such as oral or inhaled steroids.

The lungs may not be healthy enough to expel the tiny particles in other cases. When this occurs, bacteria from the food may become trapped in the lungs, resulting in aspiration pneumonia.

Asthma

Asthma is a chronic condition that adversely affects the lungs. It can cause chest tightness, wheezing, and coughing. Asthma usually starts in childhood, but it can also appear at old age. Coughing caused by asthma is usually worse early in the morning or late at night.

During an attack, the symptoms of asthma worsen. Many factors can cause an asthma attack, including dried fruits and vegetables, sulfites in beer and wine, pickled onions, and soft drinks. If you tend to cough after eating or drinking any of these, asthma could cause. 

You can often easily manage asthma using medications and avoiding common asthma triggers.

Aspiration Pneumonia

People might inhale small particles of food or liquid during eating. The lungs will expel these particles through coughing in healthy people.

aspiration-pneumonia

The lungs may not be healthy enough to expel the tiny particles in other cases. When this occurs, bacteria from the food may become trapped in the lungs, resulting in aspiration pneumonia.

People are more prone to aspiration pneumonia if they have acid reflux or trouble swallowing.

Symptoms of aspiration pneumonia are:

  • Extra saliva
  • A wet or wheezing cough following eating
  • Painful swallowing
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heartburn
  • Congestion after eating and drinking
  • Fever shortly after eating

When a person experiences these symptoms, he must consult with a doctor. Aspiration pneumonia can cause severe medical problems, such as lung abscess or respiratory failure. 

Dysphagia

Difficulty when swallowing is one of the symptoms of dysphagia. After the onset of dysphagia, the body of the person has great difficulty moving drink and food from the mouth into the stomach. It can result in discomfort or pain.

dysphagia

Dysphagia may make a person feel like food has become lodged in the throat. The feeling can lead to coughing or gagging after eating as the body tries to clear the perceived blockage from the throat.

Conditions such as acid reflux often cause dysphagia. A doctor can determine the underlying cause. 

Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR)

Laryngopharyngeal Reflux is a condition known as LPR. It happens when the stomach acid moves high enough to affect the nose or larynx. 

It is silent reflux, which means that the person might hoarse or need to clear the throat, but he does not have other symptoms of acid reflux.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

GERD is a pathology known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease is a severe condition of acid reflux.

Acid reflux can be caused by spicy food, so after a spicy meal, the coughing might be more frequent. Common ingredients are hot sauce and peppers.

If you get a cough after eating any food type, the coughs are frequent and tend to be chronic coughs; this is an indication that the person might be suffering from Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or simply GERD.

Preventive Measure to Avoid Coughing and Mucus After Eating

Depending upon the cause of the coughing and mucus after eating, the precautionary measures might vary from person to person.

In all those cases in which coughing occurs after eating, should slightly modify their food intake. The following dietary changes depending upon your case specificity will contribute a lot in overcoming the hassle of coughing and mucus after eating.

The changes should be made considering the following food types: 

Citrus and Acetic acid

Some ingredients induce the cough center and might result in coughing after eating. Carefully observe the coughing symptoms after eating citrus foods, such as limes, oranges, grapefruits, and lemons. Acetic acid, which is found in vinegar or pickled vegetables, can cause a similar result.

After eating such foods types, if the coughing increases, you might need to eliminate or minimize them in the diet.

Minimize the Intake of Phlegm-Causing Foods

Some food types can cause phlegm after eating, such as dairy products. Some people have sensitivity to milk, cheese, and cream.

The body might increase the production of phlegm, which increases the likelihood of coughing after the meal. Avoiding dairy ingredients might help to manage the coughing.

Spicy Food

Acid reflux can be caused by spicy food, so after a spicy meal, the coughing might be more frequent. Common ingredients are hot sauce and peppers.

If a person has been diagnosed with acid reflux or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), follow the recommendation advised by the doctor and try to minimize all such food types that contribute to such conditions. It can also be significant to use medications as prescribed.

When to Consult a Doctor

Not every person who encounters a cough after eating will need to consult a doctor. However, it is a good idea to see a doctor for a post-eating cough when:

  • It lasts longer than two weeks
  • It occurs frequently
  • There is blood in the mucus
  • Coughing worsens
  • The reason for the cough is unknown
  • The person experiencing the cough is an active smoker
  • The person experiencing the cough experiences other symptoms

FAQs

Why does dairy give me phlegm?

People often report that eating dairy products makes their throat feels coated, and mucus is harder and thicker to swallow. According to the latest research, it is reported that such feelings are due to the texture of the fluid and occur with similar liquids of the same viscosity or thickness.

Why do I have to clear my throat after eating dairy?

Sensitivity or a food allergy, in some cases, may cause a tickling in the throat that makes the person clear it. Dairy is the most common cause reported, but foods such as rice, soy, and eggs may also cause the sensation. 

Can lactose intolerance cause phlegm?

It is not yet confirmed that whether lactose intolerance can cause phlegm or not. Proceed symptoms associated with dairy intake include gas, nausea, diarrhea, bloating, stomach rumbles, abdominal pain, or vomiting. 

All the mentioned symptoms might occur after a few hours of dairy intake.

Why do I get phlegm after eating spicy food?

The capsaicin in spicy food is a strong gustatory stimulus that promotes airway secretions. Eating spicy food can cause gustatory rhinorrhea, and this observation demonstrates a link between gustation and airway secretion of mucus.

Final Words

If you have reached here, you will surely be clear enough about the query regarding mucus after eating. Depending upon your case, you can now easily evaluate the reasons in your case and why you are facing coughing and mucus after eating. 

Carefully examine your case, and try to adopt preventive measures accordingly. If the situation does not worsen, it is advised to consult a doctor and get a proper checkup to rule out the real cause for better treatment.

Dr. Omair Ansar, MBBS, MSc

Dr. Omair Ansar, MBBS, MSc

Dr. Omair is a skilled medical doctor with a degree in Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from Baqai Medical University. In 2018, he completed a Master of Science degree in Healthcare Management with distinction from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, UK. With 9 years of clinical and non-clinical experience, Dr. Omair has gained hands-on experience and extensive knowledge in the medical field. He is currently working in a multinational healthcare organization in Saudi Arabia where his primary responsibility is to train doctors, pharmacists, and nurses about the most updated clinical guidelines as well as conduct case discussions with various specialties to ensure patient safety and satisfaction. Dr. Omair is also an exceptional medical reviewer with expertise in the field of healthcare, pharmaceutical, food and nutrition as well as medical insurance. He has years of experience in writing and reviewing medical articles.

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