Have you ever had a coughing fit right after finishing a scrumptious meal?
Experiencing something like that is enough to make you wonder if you forgot how to chew your food before swallowing. But generally, the underlying issue is more complicated than that. Namely, you may just be one of the many people who have excess phlegm after eating.
But how is excess mucus responsible for your coughing fits? More importantly, is there anything you can do to put an end to your discomfort? That’s what we’re about to discuss.
Why Do I Get Phlegm After Eating?
Before we talk about why some people experience an overproduction of phlegm after eating, it’s important to note the difference between this type of secretion and regular saliva. Unlike saliva, which is clear and thin, phlegm tends to be thick and slightly tinted. Its primary purpose is to protect your respiratory system, from your nose and mouth to your lungs.
Occasionally, though, this type of mucus can become too thick for comfort. Moreover, it may even change colors, which can be a symptom of any number of health conditions. Either way, thick phlegm tends to collect in the back of the throat. If you don’t make an effort to thin it out and expel it, it even eventually clog your airways.
But why is it that this problem tends to come up so often after you enjoy a hearty meal? Well generally, excess phlegm can be caused by:
• Pollutants and physical irritants
• Smoking tobacco
• Seasonal or food allergies
• Viral or bacterial infections
• Digestive conditions such as acid reflux
• Lung illnesses
Now all you need to find out is which of these issues would specifically act up after a meal. The most obvious answer would be food allergies or at the very least food-related issues. Even if you’re not allergic to anything, certain foods can exacerbate mucus production.
Alternatively, the foods you have eaten could cause digestive issues that may, in turn, jump-start mucus production. For example, let’s say you’ve eaten something that’s triggered your acid reflux or GERD. In that case, the acid from your stomach would make its way up your esophagus, causing a burning sensation. Mucus production would be the body’s natural response to that kind of irritant.
But ultimately, if you want to know what’s causing the spike in phlegm production, consult a medical professional.
Treatment Options for Reducing the Production of Phlegm After Eating
Should you choose to begin treatment before getting a doctor’s opinion, here are some simple things you can try.
1. Steer Clear of Dairy, Wheat, Sugar, and Other Phlegm-Causing Foods
As we have previously established, some foods can lead to an overproduction of phlegm. You’ve probably noticed as much. For example, do you tend to avoid milk and other dairy products when you’re sick? Milk often makes it even more difficult to swallow when you’re already dealing with thick mucus.
But believe it or not, dairy isn’t the problem — lactose is. Other kinds of sugar and sugary treats would have the same effect. So if you really want milk, go for the lactose-free kind or try a rice-based alternative. Sadly, too much soy could also induce mucus production.
Aside from sugars, you may also want to avoid wheat, especially if you’re allergic to gluten. If that’s something you suspect, you should get tested sooner rather than later. It’s best to rule out food allergies early on.
Other foods that may cause excess phlegm after eating include red meat and anything deep-fried. The reason is simple — high-fat meals can trigger mucus production.
2. Limit Caffeine and Alcohol Consumption
If you tend to have alcohol with your meals or follow them up with coffee, you might want to reconsider that decision. Caffeinated beverages tend to dehydrate us, leading to excessive mucus production. In addition to dehydrating you, alcohol will also make the blood vessels in your nose expand which can lead to sinus congestion. Both of those factors can make you more phlegmy.
On top of that, the sulfites in wine, beer, and soft drinks can irritate asthma, if you have it. So none of those drinks are suitable for someone who’s struggling to get their phlegm under control.
3. Avoid Foods That Can Exacerbate Your Acid Reflux
If you’re just worried about reducing mucus production, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, and herbal teas should do the trick. However, if you’re also struggling with acid reflux or GERD, there’s another group of foods you’ll need to avoid.
In addition to dairy, coffee, and fried foods, you’ll also have to lay off the spicy stuff. Additionally, acidic foods like citrus fruit and pickled vegetables may further exacerbate your acid reflux. Carbonated drinks are similarly poor options for people suffering from acid reflux.
Other than avoiding these foods and beverages, you can also adjust your eating habits to manage your acid reflux. For one, you can make a habit of taking smaller bites and chewing slowly and thoroughly before swallowing.
You should also try to limit the amount of food you eat in one sitting. If that means you get hungry soon after your meal — so be it. You can always go back for another portion, as long as it’s not too large.
Last but not least, you can practice taking sips of water between each bite — which brings us to our next point.
4. Hydrate Regularly
Whether your phlegm production is caused by respiratory or digestive issues, keeping your throat hydrated should ease your difficulties. After all, the main problem with an overactive mucus membrane is that the secretion can become too thick to swallow. Increasing your water intake should thin it out enough to expel properly.
In addition to actually drinking more water, you can also get a humidifier. That should be especially helpful if you tend to become congested during the night. If the device doubles as a diffuser, you could also add some eucalyptus oil in there to help reduce your coughing fits. Alternatively, you can put a few drops in a hot bath and take your time inhaling the steam.
Alternatively, you can run hot water over a washcloth, wring it out, and place it over your face for twenty minutes or so. Breathing through the fabric will bring much-needed moisture into your nose and mouth. Additionally, the warmth should ease any pain you feel if your sinuses are acting up.
5. Try to Get the Mucus Out
As the mucus in your throat becomes more manageable, you should make an effort to get it out. Once your post-meal coughing fit starts, get a tissue and spit out any phlegm you can. Don’t try too hard though — you don’t want to damage your throat. And the same goes for any attempt to get the mucus out through your nose.
To help the process along, you can gargle warm salt water several times a day or use saline nasal spray. Don’t take cough suppressants unless you have to. Instead, only take your cough syrup when you want to sleep. The goal is to get the phlegm out without causing further damage.
6. Other Lifestyle Changes You Should Implement
Since we’ve already cautioned you against using cough suppressants, we might as well continue along that path. When it comes to medication, you should avoid taking too many decongestants while you’re trying to deal with your phlegm issues.
Those pills may temporarily rid you of secretions but they’re not actually doing anything to solve the underlying problem. With that in mind, you should only take them if you catch the flu or a similar illness.
Hopefully, any medication you take regularly has been cleared by your physician. If you suspect allergies are behind your increased phlegm production, they should be the ones to prescribe you medication. Don’t try to self-medicate your way out of seasonal (or food) allergies!
Even if you don’t have any allergies, you should take pains to avoid exposure to pollutants and irritants of all kinds. As we have mentioned, smoking or frequent secondhand exposure to tobacco smoke can trigger mucus production. On top of that, you may want to steer clear of harsh chemicals and fragrances too.
Ultimately, those tips should reduce the production of phlegm after eating. But if you continue to struggle with this issue, schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.
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