Your digestive tract and lungs both course through your throat. As a result, eating may irritate parts of your respiratory tract, causing you to cough after eating. Coughing after eating may be caused by food allergies or another disorder. If you consistently cough after eating, talk to your doctor to see if there is an underlying problem causing your symptoms.
Food allergies affect an estimated 6 percent of infants, a February 2003 article in the "Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology" notes. Although many people grow out of their food allergies during childhood, approximately 2 percent of American adults have food allergies that persist. Common food allergies include nuts, cow milk, eggs and soy. Although food allergies can cause different reactions in different people, oral allergy syndrome can cause swelling of the lips and face as well as irritation and tightness of the throat, which can lead to coughing. Common triggers for oral allergy syndrome are apples, peaches, avocados, citrus fruits, berries and celery.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease sometimes causes coughing after eating. GERD is the result of stomach acid and partially digested food escaping the stomach and traveling up into the esophagus. Because this acid irritates the throat, it can lead to a cough. Other signs of GERD include heartburn, a sour taste in the mouth and indigestion.
Problems with swallowing, also called dysphagia, can also cause coughing after eating. Dysphagia can occur after someone has a stroke or surgery on their neck. Dysphagia can also be caused by acid reflux or neurological diseases, such as Parkinson disease, multiple sclerosis, and Lou Gehrig disease.
With dysphagia, it becomes hard to swallow, which can lead to food and other contents from the stomach entering into the lungs in small or large quantities. Small quantities irritate the airways and typically cause frequent coughing, which may be worse after eating. Entry of large amounts of stomach contents into the lungs causes a serious condition known as aspiration pneumonia, which can be fatal.
If you have persistent coughing after eating, talk with your doctor. Removing foods from your diet that cause you to cough may help identify an underlying food allergy. A specialized x-ray study, known as a barium swallow, may help diagnose the cause of dysphagia. Your doctor may also prescribe medications or tests to diagnose GERD if he suspects that is the cause of your cough.