What Causes Shortness Of Breath After Eating? A Full Guide!

Written by Dr. Amber Jones

Eating is essential for our sustenance. But most people don’t eat just to sustain themselves. It could be for various reasons including pleasure.

In any case, you cannot even think about not eating. But what if you cannot eat? It is not about lack of food. Your tongue isn’t at fault either. But your body cannot.

Your system just doesn’t accept it. Unfortunately, some people suffer from disease conditions that can cause shortness of breath after eating. This article will discuss all those causes and what could be done to help alleviate the situation. Read on to help your loved ones or yourself.

What causes shortness of breath after eating?

Shortness Of Breath Causes

Shortness of breath also known as dyspnea can be the symptoms of many disease conditions. It could be related to the lungs or heart. However, we will be only covering dyspnea that is caused after eating.

The condition seems too dangerous to even endure. Several reasons can lead to breathlessness post-eating. They could be,

➡️ Overeating

This is almost always the major cause why some people find it difficult to breathe after eating. This happens because when you eat more than your capacity, your stomach starts to move its position.

As the muscles expand to make space, it begins to collide with the diaphragm. When this happens, the diaphragm could obstruct the lungs from inhaling and exhaling making it difficult.

Moreover, it could also happen that the resources of the body are given primarily to the stomach instead of the lungs. It usually triggers shortness of breath after eating.

➡️ Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease( GERD)

We know that our stomach produces lots of acids that help it digest the food we eat. While most times they are helpful sometimes they could find their way into the oesophagus or food pipe.

This is called GERD. GERD can lead to a burning sensation in the lungs which can exasperate when we eat something and take a siesta.

➡️ Food allergies or sensitivities

Certain people develop allergies to nuts, milk, and peanuts. Some are also known to be allergic to shellfish. This is caused because of a gene mutation or auto-immune disease.

In any case, eating foods you are allergic to can lead to severe breathlessness. It is also known as anaphylaxis where the oxygen supply to the body is cut off. So it could lead to shortness of breath.

➡️ Hiatal Hernia

Hernia simply can be defined as a swelling found on the body due to the increase in pressure. It often results in a bulge and when that happens in the stomach it can pressurize the other organs, especially the pulmonary system, leading to shortness of breath. This is called a hiatal hernia.

➡️ Obesity

Obesity can lead to multiple problems. One of them could be problems in eating food. Usually, when we eat, our body starts preparing to digest the food, but when we are obese, even though we eat a bit, the muscles start to expand and it can strain the respiratory system.

➡️ Inflammatory bowel disease

This could also happen when the individual has Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. In this condition, one’s gastrointestinal tract expands and undergoes inflammation. Again this can displace other organs leading to problems in respiration.

➡️ Asthma

Asthma is a condition where the individual finds it difficult to breathe due to dust or similar particles. It is caused by the inflammation of the trachea and its surrounding parts.

Since it is quite obvious that its placement is near the food pipe, it is only normal that they could collide which could lead to multiple problems. When this happens, wheezing could happen when you are eating.


In this condition, the airway is damaged beyond repair due to continuous exposure to multiple allergens and contaminants it could be triggered without any prior warning which can show up when you are eating food. In this case, patients can suffer from breathlessness when eating.

➡️ Cardiovascular diseases

Though cardiovascular diseases are caused by narrow blood vessels or the drop and rise of pressure inside the heart, its placement is not far from the respiratory system.

This proximity could lead to problems when eating food as well. The extra toll it puts on the gastro tract could be problematic for the heart.

➡️ Inhaled irritants

Quite possibly in a windy or dusty area, dust particles could enter the lungs including food particles. This can cause choking and can be a hindrance when eating or drinking water.

How to prevent it?

Though the major resolution is to solve the underlying cause of the disease, you could sometimes stop it from triggering by,

  • Eating in portions: Don’t overeat. Be sure of what and how much you are eating to stop overeating.
  • Eat slowly: You should not eat fast as it can lead to food obstructing the airway.
  • Avoid trigger foods: If you are allergic to something, don’t eat or carry the necessary medicines to control the situation.
  • Don’t lie down immediately: Lying down immediately can cause the stomach fluids to enter the lungs. So to prevent it, you should not lie down. Try walking or standing.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: When obesity can cause problems breathing and moving, you should look into dieting and exercise to reduce the kilos.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink water in copious amounts. Water can help ease any pressure.


Shortness of breath after eating is very common in some people. While some could be general, others have specific reasons which include pulmonary disorders as well as cardiac problems.

Most of the time managing the condition can help alleviate the trouble but in some cases, the breathlessness can be owing to controllable factors. This means we need to take control of our body including what we eat and drink.

Always keep your body weight according to your Body Mass Index. With regular exercise and dieting you can achieve it. Taking yoga or meditation can help you relieve the stress from work and get you sound sleep.

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Amber Jones is a sought-after dietitian nutritionist with expertise in public and community health. She holds a Masters in Public Health from Yale University and completed her dietetic internship with the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center

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