What causes shortness of breath after eating?

Image result for What causes shortness of breath after eating?

Charlotte Lillis 
by Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, COI
allergy | Inhaling particles | Hiatus hernia |GERD-related asthma | COPD | When to see a
doctor | Summary 
Image result for Everything you need to know about R-CHOPShortness of breath after
eating can be an uncomfortable or distressing experience, but is usually not a
cause for concern.
There are many possible
reasons why a person may feel out of breath after eating, and the treatments
differ depending on the cause.
This article outlines some of
these causes, along with information on treatments and when to see a doctor.
Food allergies
The American College of
Allergy, Asthma & Immunology estimate that 4 percent of adults and 4–6
percent of children in the United States have a food allergy. Most symptoms
arise within minutes or hours after eating.
of breath after eating is one of several symptoms associated with food
People who suspect a food
allergy can talk to their doctor. A doctor can diagnose food allergies by doing
safe tests. Tests may include an oral food challenge, which involves a person
eating small amounts of the suspected trigger food.
The best way to prevent
allergic reactions is to avoid trigger foods. There is no treatment for food
allergies, but researchers are currently carrying out clinical trials to try to
work out how people can build up a tolerance for specific foods.
Shortness of breath can
indicate a rare but potentially life-threatening allergic reaction known as
anaphylaxis. People who experience anaphylaxis require urgent medical
The signs and symptoms of
anaphylaxis include:

  • shortness of breath
  • repetitive coughing
  • a weak pulse
  • hives, rashes or swelling on
    the skin
  • tightness in the throat
  • a hoarse voice
  • difficulty breathing or
  • nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • abdominal pain
  • a feeling of doom
  • rapid heart rate
  • low blood pressure
  • dizziness or fainting
  • cardiac arrest
People with severe allergic
reactions need to carry an EpiPen, which is a medical device that allows people
to self-inject epinephrine to counteract the allergic reaction. People should
phone the emergency services after delivering the injection.
Inhaling food particles
Occasionally, people may
inhale small particles of food or liquid while eating. This is called pulmonary
People with healthy lungs are
usually able to cough up these particles. Coughing can cause short-term
shortness of breath, and possibly a sore throat.
When a person’s lungs are not
healthy enough to cough up the particles, they may develop aspiration
pneumonia. This occurs when the particles cause an infection inside the air
sacs of one or both lungs.
Symptoms of aspiration
pneumonia include:

  • chest pain
  • wheezing
  • shortness of breath
  • a cough producing
    foul-smelling, green, or bloody phlegm
  • unpleasant breath odor
  • difficulty swallowing
  • fever
  • excessive sweating
  • fatigue
Treatment for aspiration
pneumonia depends on a person’s overall health and the severity of their
condition. In most cases, a doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat the
A hiatus hernia

A hernia occurs when an organ
or tissue squeezes into a part of the body where it does not belong.
A hiatus hernia is where the
stomach bulges up into the chest through the wall of muscle that separates the
diaphragm and the abdomen. A hiatus hernia can cause shortness of breath that
worsens after eating.
A paraesophageal hernia is a
type of hiatus hernia that occurs when the stomach squeezes up next to the food
pipe. If it grows too big, it can push on the diaphragm and squash the lungs,
causing chest pain and shortness of breath. These symptoms may be worse after
eating, as a full stomach increases the pressure on the diaphragm.
Some paraesophageal hernias do
not require treatment. However, a person may require surgery if they experience
the following symptoms:

  • chest pain
  • pain in the middle or upper
  • difficulty swallowing
  • stomach ulcer
  • GERD
A surgeon will usually repair
a paraesophageal hernia using keyhole surgery, or laparoscopic surgery. They
will place a tiny lighted camera, called a laparoscope, into the food pipe to
view and move the stomach back into position.
Laparoscopic surgery is a
minimally invasive procedure, and most people make a full recovery within 4
GERD-related asthma
People who have asthma may
experience shortness of breath after eating, particularly if they also have
gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
is asthma?
Asthma is a disease affecting
the airways within the lungs. In asthma, allergens or irritants entering the
lungs cause the airways to narrow. This triggers a range of respiratory
symptoms, including:

  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing
  • coughing
  • tightness in the chest
is GERD?
GERD is a digestive disorder
affecting the muscles in the food pipe, which is the tube that connects the
mouth and stomach.
Typically, the muscles in the
food pipe get narrower to keep the food in the stomach after eating. When a
person has GERD, these muscles do not close up completely, which allows stomach
acid and partially digested food to travel back up into the food pipe. This
acid reflux can cause heartburn.
is the link between GERD and asthma?
An estimated 89 percent of
people with asthma will also experience GERD.
In GERD-related asthma,
stomach acid irritates the nerve endings in the food pipe. The brain responds
by narrowing the small airways in the lungs, which triggers asthma symptoms.
Sometimes, a person might
inhale some stomach acid into their lungs. This irritates the airways and can
cause breathing difficulties, coughing, and chest tightness.
The key to treating
GERD-related asthma is to treat acid reflux. Treatments include:

  • over-the-counter medications
    (for example, Zantac-75, Pepcid A-C)
  • eating five or six small meals
    a day rather than three large meals
  • wearing loose clothing around
    the waistline
  • avoiding lying down within 3
    hours of eating
  • quitting smoking
People with GERD may also
choose to avoid the following foods, which may trigger acid reflux in some

  • fried and fatty foods
  • alcohol
  • caffeinated drinks
  • chocolate
  • peppermint
  • citrus fruits
  • onions
  • garlic
  • tomato-based products
  • spicy foods
COPD, or chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease, is a progressive lung disease that makes it difficult for
the body to move air into and out of the lungs.
People with COPD may
experience shortness of breath resulting in reduced energy levels. This can
make everyday activities difficult.
Because breathing and
digestion both require a lot of energy, some people with COPD may become breathless
after eating meals.
Other common symptoms of COPD

  • frequent coughing
  • tightness in the chest
  • wheezing
Having a full stomach or a
bloated abdomen can worsen breathing difficulties in people with COPD. People
may notice improvements in their symptoms if they eat small, frequent meals
instead of fewer large meals, and avoid foods that cause gas and bloating.
The COPD Foundation offer some
other tips for reducing shortness of breath after eating, including:

  • resting for 30 minutes before
    and after a meal
  • eating slowly
  • reducing sugary foods that can
    cause tiredness
  • avoiding lying down after
  • avoiding eating while short of
    breath as this can trap gas, which worsens breathing difficulties.
to see a doctor
People who experience ongoing shortness
of breath after meals should see a doctor. The doctor will conduct tests to
determine the underlying cause and may prescribe medications to alleviate
Sometimes, shortness of breath
can indicate a serious underlying medical condition. According to the American
Lung Association, it is important to seek medical attention if shortness of
breath occurs while at rest, lasts longer than 30 minutes, or occurs alongside
any of the following:

  • pain or pressure in the chest
  • difficulty breathing when
    lying flat
  • wheezing
  • lightheadedness or dizziness
  • fever, chills, and cough
  • blue tinge to the lips or
  • swelling of the feet or ankles
Breathing difficulties that
occur after eating may be a one-off symptom caused by breathing in a small
particle of food or liquid.
However, people who experience
shortness of breath after every meal, or after eating certain foods, should see
a doctor to find out the cause. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause
of breathlessness.
Sometimes, breathing
difficulties can suggest a serious underlying medical condition. It can help to
know the signs and symptoms that indicate a need for urgent medical attention.
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.