Eating food is supposed to be enjoyable. However, if you experience shortness of breath, there could be some underlying, treatable causes behind it.
The medical term for this condition is dyspnea, which is an uncomfortable respiratory sensation. It may be caused by digestive problems, respiratory diseases, anxiety, and poor eating habits.
In most instances, the problem may be medical, so take the time to understand what could be the cause.
Consider other accompanying symptoms as each set of indications is unique to a specific illness. If the condition is not temporary, ensure you seek medical treatment.
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Why You Experience Shortness of Breath After Eating
1. It could be GERD
Gastrointestinal reflux disease or GERD is a condition in which stomach acid regurgitates from the gut. It happens when the esophagus does not close properly. This may be a result of other accompanying conditions.
If you feel a burning sensation in your abdomen or lower chest, hoarseness, asthma and dry coughing you may have this disease, research shows. Find out from your medical doctor whether this is the source of your discomfort.
2. A hernia may have caused it
A hernia refers to swelling from a tissue or organ. The swelling often extends into another part of the body that it does not belong to.
In certain instances, the stomach walls bulge into the chest and the diaphragm thus squeezes your chest organs. Shortness of breath often accompanies eating if you have a hernia because at that time, the stomach itself is already expanding.
You need a surgical procedure to treat the hernia and adjust the stomach position.
3. You may have arrhythmia
As the name implies, arrhythmia denotes a condition in which your heartbeat is out of rhythm. If you finish eating and feel out of breath, it could be an arrhythmia.
Research shows that sometimes when the condition is severe, it could cause chest pain, dizziness, and fatigue. If you leave this condition untreated, it may cause more severe heart conditions like stroke. Treatment involves medication, surgery or lifestyle habits that lead to weight loss.
4. Asthma has similar symptoms
Asthma often causes shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness. These come about when irritants enter the lungs and cause an allergic reaction.
However, more often than not, asthma may not cause this reaction after food. It usually happens when you have GERD, which triggers respiratory problems.
5. You could have inhaled your food
As odd as this may seem, sometimes small particles from the food or drink you are taking can enter the respiratory system.
Usually, you will know when this happens because you will witness it and start coughing or getting teary. The episode can sometimes end without shortness of breath.
However, if your lungs are not strong enough, you could start wheezing and may develop a fever. The latter are symptoms of aspiration pneumonia, which is triggered by inhaling food and having weak lungs.
6. Don’t rule out COPD
COPD is an acronym for chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. This is a lung disease that prevents air from moving out and into your lungs. Most people with the illness struggle to perform regular daily chores because these require energy.
For you to get energy, you need oxygen to metabolize your food. If you have a shortage of oxygen in your system, anything requiring energy will be strenuous. Sometimes even the process of eating/ digestion could trigger COPD. This may manifest as shortness of breath after you finish what you eat.
7. Anxiety may be the cause
There are times when our mental state affects our physical health. Anxiety is one of the mental conditions that alter our physical state. If you are worried and stressed out about an issue, this could tighten your respiratory muscles.
As a result, you could start to breathe quickly and that would minimize the availability of air in your body. This can cause panic, even shallower breathing and shortness of breath. In case you eat food very quickly, it is possible that this could encourage shallow breaths. The latter may trigger all the conditions above and thus lead to a vicious cycle.
To avoid these scenarios, try to eat your food slowly and stay calm as you do so. Practice taking deep breaths through the nose and out through pursed lips.
8. Food allergies may be to blame
Some people are allergic to specific food types. When you eat food that falls in this category, you may experience shortness of breath soon after doing so. To determine whether this is the cause, you need a food allergy test done by a doctor.
In the test, you are given small amounts of the suspected food and your reactions are observed. Once these adverse reactions are noted, you should avoid the foods that cause them.
9. Anaphylaxis is a common trigger
Anaphylaxis is a dangerous condition which emanates from food allergies. If not addressed, it could cause a loss of life. The shortness of breath in this condition often comes almost immediately or as long as 2 hours after eating.
In these circumstances, you may struggle to breathe and could also have hives or swollen lips. It usually looks and feels like an asthma attack. However, when you try to use an inhaler to treat it, it won’t respond.
10. It could be overeating
As simple as it seems, overeating could lead to shortness of breath when you eat. This is especially true if you eat food that leads to bloating like cabbage and beans.
When you are bloated, the swelling and air affects the diaphragm. This is a muscle that separates your abdomen from your chest. If there is excess pressure on your diaphragm, it will not move easily.
That way, it may limit the amount of air that can flow through your system. The result is severe discomfort. Avoid overdoing it with food, especially if the food you are eating causes bloating.
11. You could be anemic
A person that has anemia is someone with a low quantity of iron in the body. Iron is critical in the transportation of oxygen in the body. If you don’t have enough oxygen in our body, you constantly feel weak. Your body would struggle to perform normal functions.
Sometimes when you are eating and you do so quickly, the demand for oxygen may increase. An anemic person does not have the capacity to meet that demand. The result would be shortness of breath or chest pain.
If you notice that you often have cold hands and feet as well as pale skin, this could be the cause.
12. Activities after eating
When you finish eating, it is always a good idea to give your body the time it needs to digest the food. We are not designed to eat and then rush off to other activities. Set aside about 30 minutes or so for resting after eating.
If you start running or doing vigorous activities, you may experience problems in your gut, and this could translate into shortness of breath.
If you run short of breath after eating, it is a sign that you have complications with your lungs or your respiratory system.
Sometimes those conditions are triggered by the foods you eat. In other instances, it may be the manner in which you eat.
However, most times, just the mere act of eating could trigger these symptoms. Whatever the route, shortness of breath that is prolonged and frequent could lead to acute outcomes if not addressed by a medical professional.