What are the Causes of Shortness of Breath after Eating?

by Cindy Gray

Do you or someone you know experience shortness of breath after eating? This condition of difficult or labored breathing is known as dyspnea. It can be caused by several factors including heart problems, asthma or respiratory issues, digestive disorders or anxiety.

Lung problems may cause shortness of breath after eating

Here we look at some of the most likely causes that may explain shortness of breath after eating.

Arrhythmia and Difficulty Breathing

Arrhythmia is the medical term for a change of heartbeat due to an interruption in the electrical impulses generated by the sinoatrial node (nature’s pacemaker). The heart may beat too fast, too slowly or irregularly, causing an interruption in blood flow which affects the lungs and breathing as well as other major organs.

If you notice a change in your heartbeat, you should consult your doctor. He may prescribe treatment for tachycardia (racing heart with over 100 beats per minute) or bradycardia (less than 60 heart beats per minute). Once the underlying cause has been treated, you will find your shortness of breath after eating may be alleviated.

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Lung Problems Cause Shortness of Breath

If you suddenly develop shortness of breath, it may be caused by pneumonia or pleural effusion when fluid accumulates in the pleural space. Respiratory tract infections, asthma and chronic bronchitis may also limit breathing, particularly after physical activity. Dyspnea may occur after eating a large meal. The stomach expands and pushes the lungs upwards, causing breathing problems. Food allergies, eating too fast or eating too much oily or sugary food can all cause shortness of breath after eating.

GERD May Cause Shortness of Breath after Eating

If your shortness of breath occurs only after eating, it may be due to Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD for short. This digestive problem affects the ring of muscle between the stomach and the esophagus. It allows partly digested food and stomach enzymes to flow back up the esophagus causing burning or acid indigestion. This can affect natural breathing.

The solution to GERD-related shortness of breath after eating is to shed those excess pounds—for those who are overweight—and change to a healthier whole food diet. Avoid greasy, spicy and hard-to-digest foods and hopefully the GERD will improve.

Anxiety Disorders and Labored Breathing

Anxiety disorders, over and above normal worry, will certainly affect your rate of breathing. Panic disorders cause panic attacks with short shallow rapid breathing. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Social Anxiety Disorder may be hereditary, due to stress or environmental factors. Whatever the cause, it can make the sufferer feel nauseous or may cause panic breathing. All such anxiety disorders need to be discussed with a medical professional to get the necessary help. 

You may need professional help to diagnose what causes your shortness of breath after eating, but it’s always worth exploring the obvious causes first.

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