Coughing is your body's natural defense when it detects irritants within your respiratory system. When things such as phlegm/mucus or food particles linger in the throat, your body will initiate a cough to assist in moving these out of the respiratory tract. Some easy lifestyle changes to avoid chronic coughing include the use of medication, modifying your eating habits, and/or changing your overall diet.1Generally speaking, an allergic reaction to a type of food will show signs within a few minutes or up to a couple hours post-consuming.3 While a serious allergic reaction needs immediate medical attention, and a further discussion with your doctor on targeting the root cause, here are the most common foods that make your allergies worse.4When you have a cough — whether it be from the common cold or allergy related — finding relief to ease and soothe is, most likely, at the top of your list. Here is a list of some of the common remedies to help you get back to feeling like yourself again.9
How Your Diet Can Affect Chronic CoughingIt's not uncommon to have experienced the feeling of food and/or water "going down the wrong way." When this happens, the initial response produces an immediate coughing fit, and will stop once the throat has been cleared. On the other hand, if a chronic cough lingers after eating, it could, possibly, indicate another issue. Here are some examples of what may contribute to a cough post-meal consumption:
- Congestion & post nasal drip from an upper respiratory infection
- Acid reflux and/or GERD
- “Silent reflux,” also known as Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR)
- Food allergies
Food Allergies and CoughingAllergic reaction symptoms vary by individual, and can affect the respiratory system, initiating a cough (and possibly shortness of breath, wheezing, itchy, watery eyes, rash, etc.). While food allergies will generally develop in your youth, they can happen at any age. It's even common to develop food related allergies to something you have been eating for years!2
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- Wheat (Gluten)
- Dairy, specifically milk products
- Nuts — examples include peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, Brazil nuts
Foods That Can Make Your Cough WorseYour diet can play a major role in irritating a chronic cough. Let's take a peek at some of the very foods that could, potentially, make your cough worse, and some alternatives to limit their intake.5
- Caffeine: While your morning cup of coffee or tea may be a favorite ritual, it is important to note its diuretic effects and how this can lead to dehydration and thicker mucus production. Limiting the amount of caffeine you consume is ideal but, if you do consume, make sure you replace the same amount of fluid ounces in water with that in the caffeinated beverage.
- Dairy: One of the biggest culprits in not only making your allergies worse but producing more and more mucus, initiating a persistent cough. Although dairy products provide a host of benefits, such as protein and Vitamin D to support the health of your bones, muscles, and overall heart health, limiting the amount you consume and/or replacing with a non-dairy alternative should improve symptoms.
- Alcohol: As a producer of inflammation, alcohol consumption not only weakens the immune system, hindering its ability to recover quicker but also dehydrates. The best practice is to limit the amount of alcohol you consume to CDC guidelines, or to eliminate altogether.6
- Fried Foods: While having some “fun” foods is perfectly okay in moderation, consuming TOO many animal by-products in the form of butter, lard, and other unhealthy fats (most of which you will find in fried foods) has a direct impact on the amount of mucus produced. Focusing on well-rounded, balanced, and healthy meals is your best defense in keeping your immune system in check.
- Sugar: Similar to alcohol, sugar is another major producer of inflammation and directly affects the immune system too.
- Foods that produce histamines: Your immune system makes chemicals called histamines that assist your body with disposing of something that is not of any benefit to you. An example of this would be allergens. Histamines alert the body when you have ingested something that may cause you an allergic reaction. When this happens, histamines prompt more mucus formation, especially if you are suffering from a cold or an allergy. There are food sources that are normally high in histamines, which can add to the issue and aggravate it. Foods to be mindful of include avocados, mushrooms, strawberries, fermented foods, alcohol, yogurt, vinegar, and even dried fruits.
- Salty Foods: An excessive amount of salt can make you dehydrated and, in turn, increase mucus production resulting in a cough. Additionally, It can cause a fair amount of bloating, which can make breathing feel a bit more difficult.7
- Spicy Foods: While it is common to use foods with spice to help clear up symptoms of a cold/allergy - think wasabi to clear those nasal passageways - there are some who may experience “gustatory rhinitis” after consuming spicy foods. One of the major symptoms is the on-set of a uni or bi-lateral runny nose.8
What You Should Eat If You Have a Cough
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- Chicken broth or soup
- Hot tea, specifically chamomile
- Pineapple (fruit and/or juice)
- Pomegranate juice
- Freshly squeezed lemon in warm water or tea
- Fresh ginger
- Raw honey