Shortness of Breath after Taking a Meal

Shortness of breath can be a disturbing event which occurs due to many reasons. The occurrence of shortness of breath could well be body’s way of trying to increase the amount of air taken in to the lungs in order to fulfill the oxygen demand of the body tissues. In instances where the air passages are blocked or had become narrower or else the heart cannot cope with the increase tissue demand of oxygen with its current output, rapid breathing would be the compensatory mechanism.

Many people have felt shortness of breath at times of taking a meal. Usually, these meals will have certain characteristics. Some of these characteristics are,

  • Heavy meals
  • Taking meals too fast
  • Too acidic or spicy
  • Excessive fatty foods
  • Contains allergens

Heavy meals will make the stomach full and bloated and it can precipitate indigestion as well. The result will be the stomach pressing against the diaphragm which needs to expand when a person breaths. The limited expansion of the diaphragm will make the person take shallow and rapid breaths to compensate for the demand.

Eating meals too quickly and taking spicy or fatty foods would also give rise to indigestion and secondarily to shortness of breath.

Allergic reactions:

With certain foods, the person can develop an allergic reaction which can result in airway narrowing or broncho-constriction as part of the reaction. This usually will accompany other symptoms of an allergic reaction and needs urgent medical attention.

Apart from the direct effects of the foods, in certain instances, underlying conditions can also give rise to a shortness of breath which will be triggered off by eating a meal.

Acid reflux:

Acid reflux or gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD) is one such condition that can result in shortness of breath after eating. This could well be the acids coming into the esophagus and sometimes to the larynx which thereby stimulate a reflex mechanism which acts to prevent the acids from entering the lungs. The result would be sudden onset difficulty in breathing which will resolve after several minutes.

Compromised airways:

Patients who are suffering from asthma or COPD would feel short of breath when they take a relatively heavy meal. This is due to the further compromise in the diaphragmatic movements which is vital for their breathing. Therefore, they need to take small meals in order to avoid such symptoms.

Heart failure:

Severe heart failure can also result in making the patient breathless after taking a meal. This could well be secondary to increased oxygen demand following taking a meal which would require an already compromised heart to pump faster and trigger a rapid breathing from the lungs as well.


In other instances, patients who are suffering from tumors in and around esophagus and the wind pipe will feel short of breath while eating. The mechanism would be food boluses impinging on the flowing of air in the windpipe as a result of the growth.

What was described are several causes of shortness of breath following taking a meal and is no way comprehensive to diagnose a problem suffered by you. Therefore, if you are suffering from such a symptom, you should seek medical help.