Why do I cough when I eat?

Answer

Coughing during and after eating may be a result of a serious condition called dysphagia, which causes a person to have trouble properly swallowing and digesting food. Dysphagia can result in numerous symptoms, coughing while eating being just one. This is a complex condition that tends to occur in older people who struggle with dry mouth, notes About.com.

MedlinePlus identifies symptoms of dysphagia as choking, struggling to chew, food sticking in the throat, chest pain, heartburn, sour taste and nausea. A person may not experience all of these symptoms; however, it is important to see a doctor about this condition if coughing is persistent.

Elderly people displaying these symptoms are especially vulnerable. According to an article by Maura Keller on Today's Geriatric Medicine, older people are at risk of experiencing aspiration. This happens when food or liquid leaks into the lungs. Swallowing difficulties can also lead to malnutrition.

Multiple sclerosis is another serious disorder that has a direct link to dysphagia symptoms. Swallowing involves coordination between the nerves, muscles and brain. All of these areas are negatively impacted by MS. Symptoms related to dysphagia can come and go, according to Dr. Julie Stachowiak. If dysphagia is not the problem, the coughing may be caused by asthma, postnasal drip or gastrointestinal problems.

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