Coughing and a stuffy nose are usually signs of the common cold; these symptoms tend to run full force all day long until the virus runs its course. When coughing and nasal congestion appear only after eating, you may have a mystery on your hands to determine the cause. Keeping track of your symptoms--timing, duration and what you've eaten--may help you figure out why you're coughing and feel stuffy after a meal.
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Reflux is known by numerous terms--acid reflux, gastroesophageal reflux and GERD are the most common. Stomach acid that travels back up your throat is called reflux; reflux is common after eating because your stomach is very active in the digestive process. The May 2006 issue of GI Motility Online explains that a chronic cough can be a sign of GERD, and is the most common cause of a persistent cough. Acid reflux manifests itself in many ways; you may feel a burning in your throat and chest, pain or the feeling that you have something caught in your throat. These sensations make you cough in an effort to clear your airways. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology explains that you might become hoarse from throat irritation and coughing in response to GERD. Some people who have a cough after eating may not experience other signs of reflux, yet upon examination may be diagnosed with the condition.
Developing a stuffy nose and a cough after eating can be an allergic reaction produced by one or more of the foods you've eaten. MayoClinic.com explains that food allergy symptoms can be instantaneous in some cases or you may not develop symptoms for an hour or more after eating. Nasal congestion, similar to the response you'll display when you have seasonal allergies, can be a sign of food allergy or intolerance, as your body produces histamines in response to the allergen. You also might feel a tightening in your throat, which may make you cough simply to try to open it up.
Dysphagia is the term used to describe a difficulty with swallowing. Swallowing difficulties can stem from both acid reflux and allergic reactions, but structural problems with your throat or degenerative conditions such as Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis can also contribute to dysphagia. You might feel like you have a lump in your throat when you have dysphagia, even if there is no real obstruction, according to the National Institutes of Health's MedlinePlus service. Whether the blockage is real or perceived, coughing after a meal can be a natural response to try to clear your throat.