Throw up stuck in throat

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Object Stuck in the Throat

Topic Overview

Sometimes after you swallow a pill it may feel like it “got stuck” or didn’t go all the way down. This feeling usually goes away within 30 to 60 minutes if you drink liquids or eat a piece of bread.

You may not have any symptoms when something is stuck in your esophagus. But when symptoms are present, they may include:

  • Rapid, noisy, or high-pitched breathing.
  • Increased drooling.
  • Trouble swallowing, pain when swallowing, or complete inability to swallow.
  • Gagging.
  • Vomiting.
  • Refusing to eat solids.
  • Pain in the neck, chest, or abdomen.
  • Feeling that something is stuck in your throat.

If an object is stuck in your esophagus, your doctor will need to remove it.

Most swallowed objects pass through the digestive tract without any problem and show up in the stool within 7 days. But a swallowed object can scratch, irritate, or puncture the digestive tract, causing bleeding. Blood in the vomit can appear bright red or look like coffee grounds (partially digested blood) and usually comes from the stomach, esophagus, or throat.

Dysphagia: A Swallowing Problem

Swallowing seems like such a simple act that many of us take it for granted — until we develop a swallowing problem, and simple tasks like speaking and eating become a major challenge. Dysphagia is the medical term used to desribe trouble swallowing, and it’s a problematic symptom that needs treatment — maybe even speech therapy — to correct.

There are two main types of dysphagia, each categorized by the part of the body that is affected. The two types have different symptoms.

With esophageal dysphagia, the esophagus (the tube that connects the throat to the stomach, allowing food to travel into the stomach) is damaged in some way and swallowing is affected. Symptoms of esophageal dysphasia include:

  • Signs of malnutrition and dehydration
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of interest in food
  • Pain in the chest when you swallow
  • Coughing in the night that wakes you up
  • Vomiting up food after you swallow it
  • A sensation of food getting stuck in the chest in the area of the breastbone

Oropharyngeal dysphagia is a swallowing problem that originates from a problem or abnormality affecting the throat or mouth. Symptoms of oropharyngeal dysphagia include:

  • Signs of malnutrition and dehydration
  • Lack of interest in food
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent cough or choking during swallowing
  • Clearing the throat often
  • Swallowing frequently
  • Taking a long time to chew food
  • Moving the head or neck in a strange motion while swallowing
  • Painful swallowing
  • Problems breathing while eating
  • Getting food stuck in the throat often
  • Drooling
  • Expelling liquids out of the nose

Conditions That Cause Dysphagia

Dysphagia is a common symptom, particularly in older adults. Between 5 and 8 percent of Americans over the age of 50 will develop dysphagia. But it’s not only a factor of age, as anyone can experience trouble swallowing. Common causes of dysphagia include:

  • Diseases that affect the muscles
  • Congenital abnormalities that affect sucking or swallowing
  • A tumor in the throat or on the tongue
  • Neurological diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), multiple sclerosis, polio, and Parkinson’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia
  • A stroke
  • Damage to the esophagus (from radiation or ingesting toxic substances)
  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) or persistent heartburn
  • Cancer of the head or neck
  • An infection
  • Diseases that affect the vascular system, like lupus or scleroderma

Complications of Dysphagia

Dysphagia can keep people from wanting to, or being able to, eat and swallow — resulting in nutritional deficiencies, weakness, too much weight loss, and dehydration. The esophagus may also weaken and form a “trap” that allows food to become stuck in it, expanding and keeping food and liquid from reaching the stomach.

Another serious complication, called aspiration pneumonia, can occur when a person aspirates — or takes food into the lungs because of trouble swallowing. The food can become lodged in the lungs, where bacteria may grow and cause an infection.

Treatment and Therapy Options for Dysphagia

Treatment will depend on the cause of the dysphagia and which part of the body is affected. Surgery may be required to fix abnormalities of the throat or esophagus to make difficult swallowing a little easier. Medications may also be prescribed to treat an underlying condition that is responsible for dysphagia.

Many people need therapy to strengthen their muscles and improve swallowing. Exercises can boost coordination and build tone in the muscles of the face to manage dysphagia. Finding easier ways to eat (like turning the head a certain way or altering food and drink) may also help. Speech therapy often focuses on techniques to facilitate swallowing, and it can teach people with dysphagia how to continue to eat and swallow despite any physical limitations.

In the most severe cases, a feeding tube is necessary to ensure nourishment when a person can no longer chew and swallow independently.

Find more information in the Everyday Health Ear, Nose, and Throat Center.

Esophagitis

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Jan 28, 2019.

  • Health Guide
  • Disease Reference
  • Care Notes
  • Medication List

What Is It?

The esophagus is the muscular tube that carries food through the chest, from the mouth to the stomach. Normally you don’t feel it except when you are swallowing. However, if the inside lining of your esophagus becomes inflamed, you may experience pain or problems with swallowing. This inflammation of the esophagus is called esophagitis.

Esophagitis has several common causes:

  • Acid reflux — By far the most common cause of esophagitis is acid reflux (also called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD). It is a backflow of digestive acid from the stomach, resulting in a chemical burn of the esophagus.

  • Eating disorders — Similar to acid reflux, frequent vomiting can cause acid burn in the esophagus. Esophagitis sometimes is seen in people with eating disorders such as bulimia.

  • Medications (“Pill esophagitis”) — Some common medications also can cause a chemical burn in the esophagus. Pills that are most likely to cause esophagitis include:

    • aspirin

    • doxycycline

    • iron supplements

    • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn)

    • osteoporosis medications such as alendronate (Fosamax) or risedronate (Actonel)

  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer — Some of these treatments can injure the esophagus lining, resulting in esophagitis.

  • Infections — Infections in the esophagus also can cause esophagitis. They usually occur in people with a weak immune system. Esophagitis from infections is common in people who have HIV infection, use steroid medicines long-term, have had organ transplants, or have been treated with chemotherapy for cancer.

    Only a few types of infection are common in the esophagus, such as:

    • yeast

    • herpes virus (HSV)

    • cytomegalovirus (CMV)

    Even in someone who already has a herpes infection in the mouth, it rarely spreads down to the esophagus if the immune system is normal.

Symptoms

The main symptoms of esophagitis are:

  • Pain in the chest (behind the breastbone) or throat. The pain can be burning, heavy or sharp. If acid reflux is the cause of esophagitis, the pain may be worse after meals or when you lie flat. Pain from esophagitis may be constant or may come and go.

  • Swallowing problems including worsening of the chest pain when you swallow or a feeling of food sticking in your chest after you swallow

  • Bleeding, seen as blood in vomit or as darkening of the stools

Diagnosis

The diagnosis often is made based on your symptoms.

The most accurate way to check for esophagitis is for a doctor to look directly at the inside of the esophagus with a video camera called an endoscope. The endoscope has a camera at the end of a flexible, plastic-coated cord. This tube is long enough to reach through the stomach to the first portion of the intestine (duodenum). The procedure is sometimes called esophagogastroduodenoscopy or EGD.

Using the endoscope, the doctor can see evidence of injury from esophagitis. The doctor will look for areas where the lining of the esophagus has worn away (called erosions or ulcers), blisters or scarred areas. Some infections leave a deposit on the esophagus walls that can be sampled through the endoscope by using a remote-controlled brush. In some cases the doctor will biopsy the esophagus by snipping a small sample of the inside lining through the end of the endoscope. This tissue is examined under a microscope.

Since esophagitis is only one of the things that can cause symptoms of chest pain or swallowing problems, your doctor may order other tests to evaluate your heart, lungs or digestive tract.

Expected Duration

How long symptoms last depends on how easily their cause can be eliminated. Bad cases of reflux or resistant viruses, for example, might require several tries before the right medicine or treatment is found. In most cases, symptoms begin to improve within a few days of starting the right treatment. But it can take weeks for symptoms to go away completely. Esophagitis from an infection may be harder to cure if the immune system is severely weakened.

Prevention

The most common cause of esophagitis, acid reflux, sometimes can be prevented by some very simple measures:

  • Avoid heavy meals, especially within several hours of bedtime

  • Cut out cigarettes and alcohol

  • Avoid large amounts of caffeine, chocolate, peppermint and high-fat foods.

  • Control your weight.

If you have heartburn despite these measures, your doctor may suggest you take a preventative acid-blocking medicine.

All prescription and nonprescription pills should be taken while you are upright and should be swallowed with water. This is especially important for the medicines that frequently cause esophagitis.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the cause of esophagitis.

  • Acid reflux — Lifestyle changes help reduce reflux:

    • Lose weight if necessary

    • Eat smaller meals

    • Don’t lie down right after eating

    • Discover and avoid foods that cause symptoms

    Acid blocking medications, including H2-blockers and proton-pump inhibitors, are usually prescribed. For persistent esophagitis, your doctor may recommend surgery to tighten the lower esophageal sphincter.

  • Pill esophagitis — Drinking a full glass of water after taking a pill can help. Usually, if esophagitis has occurred, it is necessary for you to stop the medicine at least temporarily while you heal. Since acid can worsen esophagitis caused by medications, your doctor also may prescribe an acid-blocking medication to speed healing.

  • Infections — The choice of treatment depends upon the infectious agent causing the esophagitis. Some esophagus infections are difficult to treat with swallowed pills or liquids, so medicines may be given intravenously (into a vein).

While your esophagus is recovering, your doctor can ease your pain symptoms by prescribing pain relievers.

When To Call A Professional

If you are unable to eat or drink due to pain during swallowing, you should contact your doctor. Life-threatening dehydration can develop quickly if you cannot drink liquids.

Occasionally an injured esophagus can develop a hole, causing sudden worsening of chest pain, shortness of breath or fever. Report these symptoms to your doctor immediately.

If your symptoms do not clear up with initial treatment, consult your doctor. Occasionally, scarring in the esophagus will cause persistent swallowing difficulty that might require dilation therapy done through the endoscope.

Prognosis

Almost all cases of esophagitis can be cured. Some causes, such as acid reflux, may require long-term treatment.

Learn more about Esophagitis

Associated drugs

  • Esophagitis

IBM Watson Micromedex

  • Esophagitis

Mayo Clinic Reference

  • Esophagitis

External resources

American College of Gastroenterology
P.O. Box 3099
Arlington, VA 22302
http://www.acg.gi.org/

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Medical Disclaimer

Taking medications or supplements can feel like such a chore, especially if you hate swallowing pills.

You may feel anxious that jumbo tablet will get stuck in your throat, or fear you’ll choke or gag. It’s a common problem that can be helped with a few techniques and modifications.

Swallowing seems simple, but it’s a complicated process that involves 50 pairs of muscles working to help move food from your mouth to your stomach.

There are many medical and physiological reasons that can make it hard to swallow, including tumors and the effects of a stroke. Swallowing disorders are called dysphagia.

This guide is not about that, but rather the 30-40 percent of healthy people who have no problems downing food or drinks, but find it difficult to swallow a pill.

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Part of it may be our instinct to avoid swallowing something solid, said Dale Amanda Tylor, a board certified otolaryngologist at the Washington Township Medical Foundation in Fremont, California.

“We’re taught forever: Don’t swallow something that’s not been chewed,” Tylor told TODAY. “You’re totally going against that. … You have something solid that you would want to chew and you have to bypass that thought.”

In most people, the esophagus — or swallowing tube — has more than enough room to accommodate even the biggest pill, she noted. Think of all the times you’ve eaten a sandwich and swallowed a chewed-up mouthful. That resulting mix of food and saliva is many times bigger than a pill.

But if you think you’re not going to be able to get the pill down, your body may fight you on doing it, even though there’s no physiological reason for it, Tylor noted.

Here are seven tips that may help:

1. Drink lots of water

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It’s the No. 1 thing doctors teach patients because such a big part of swallowing is making sure the food is moist enough, Tylor said.

Drink water before you swallow to lubricate the throat, then take the pill with water, and keep drinking after you’ve swallowed to make sure it goes down all the way to the stomach, she advised.

This is especially important as you age because saliva production often goes down when people get older.

2. Try the ‘bottle’ method for tablets

This is one of two techniques German researchers found to be “remarkably effective” in helping people swallow pills, according to a 2014 study published in the Annals of Family Medicine.

  • Fill a flexible plastic bottle with water.
  • Put the tablet on your tongue and close your lips tightly around the bottle opening.
  • Using a sucking motion, take a drink from the bottle. Swallow the water and the pill right away.
  • Don’t let air get into the bottle as you swallow.

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3. Try the ‘lean forward’ method for capsules

This is the other technique the German researchers found to be so helpful.

  • Put the capsule on your tongue.
  • Take a sip of water, but don’t swallow yet.
  • Tilt your chin slightly towards your chest.
  • Swallow the capsule and the water with your head bent forward.

4. Try a lubricant

A product such Pill Glide may be an option. You spray it in your mouth to make the pill go down easier, though Tylor noted plain water will probably suffice in most cases.

5. Practice with different head postures

Tylor pointed to a study that found kids who had trouble swallowing pills did much better after practicing in a specific way for two weeks.

Head position influences “swallowing dynamics,” the Canadian researchers note. So they asked the kids to swallow small candy with a sip of water while their heads were positioned in five different ways: in the center, tilted up or down, or turned to the left or right. The kids then rated which position worked best over 14 days. All of the children who practiced found a favorite position and overcame their swallowing problems.

Related: Are child safety caps enough to keep kids out?

6. Put your pill in soft food

Take your pill with apple sauce or chew a bit of food and then put the pill in your mouth. It may make it go down easier.

But be careful about cutting, crushing or chewing your medication. Some pills are designed to dissolve slowly to ensure a steady release of the drug, so breaking the outer layer could disrupt the timing and potentially give you an overdose, Tylor said. Read the package insert and check with your doctor before cutting a pill.

Related: Majority of parents give their children the wrong dose of medicine

7. Tell your doctor about any changes

If you’ve been able to swallow pills all your life, but suddenly find it difficult, it could signal a problem, Tylor noted.

One common reason may be acid reflux, which can burn the throat and make it a bit more swollen, she added. Get the symptoms checked out to rule out more serious issues.

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What is dysphagia?

Dysphagia is the medical word for difficulty in swallowing. This symptom is usually due to a problem of the gullet (oesophagus). Less commonly, a problem at the back of the mouth, or something pressing on the oesophagus, can cause this symptom. There is a range of different causes of dysphagia – discussed below.

The severity of dysphagia can vary. When mild, it can mean a feeling of food just taking longer to pass through the oesophagus and it can be painless. Liquids may well cause no problem. When severe, it can mean both solids and liquids do not pass at all down the oesophagus and may cause you to vomit back (regurgitate) food and drink. When moderate, it can be somewhere in between these extremes.

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Symptoms that may occur at the same time as dysphagia are regurgitation of food, being sick (vomiting), coughing, choking and pain on swallowing (odynophagia). But none of these other symptoms may occur if the dysphagia is mild.

However, you should report any degree of dysphagia to your doctor – no matter how mild. Dysphagia is a symptom that always needs to be explained and diagnosed correctly. For example, the first symptom of cancer of the oesophagus (oesophageal cancer) is often mild, painless dysphagia that then gradually becomes worse over time. So, this often needs to be ruled out or confirmed as the cause of the problem as soon as possible. As a general rule, the earlier a serious problem is diagnosed, the better the chance that treatment may improve the outlook (prognosis).

Understanding swallowing

The oropharynx and oesophagus

The journey of our food from our plate to our tummy (stomach) starts in the mouth. The muscles of the tongue and mouth move the food to the back of the mouth, and then to the back of the throat. This area is the oropharynx. From here the food travels down to the upper gut.

The gullet (oesophagus) is part of the gut (gastrointestinal tract). When we eat, food goes down the oesophagus into the stomach.

The upper section of oesophagus lies behind the windpipe (trachea). The lower section lies between the heart and the spine.

There are layers of muscle in the wall of the oesophagus. These contract to push food down into the stomach. The inner lining of the oesophagus (the oesophageal mucosa and submucosa) is made up of layers of various types of cells and some tiny glands that make mucus. The mucus helps the food to pass through smoothly.

There is a thickened circular band of muscle (a sphincter) at the junction between the oesophagus and stomach. This relaxes to allow food down, but normally tightens up and stops food and acid leaking back up (refluxing) into the oesophagus. In effect, the sphincter acts like a valve.

Symptoms that may occur at the same time as dysphagia are being sick, coughing, choking and pain swallowing

What are the causes of dysphagia?

There are many possible causes. Broadly they can be divided into problems starting at the top of the swallowing process (in the oropharynx) and those caused by problems lower down in the gullet (oesophagus).

Below is a brief overview of the more common causes in each type of dysphagia.

Oropharyngeal causes of dysphagia

These are the causes which are problems high up in the swallowing process just below the mouth.

Neurological problems

There are many muscle and nerve disorders (neurological diseases) that can affect the nerves and muscles in the gullet (oesophagus) to cause dysphagia. Because the nerves and muscles are not working properly, the food can’t be manoeuvred normally to the top of the gullet. Difficulty swallowing as a result of these conditions can be common in elderly people, in some disabled people and in people who have had strokes. Examples of these neurological conditions include:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Severe learning disability
  • Stroke
  • Dementia
  • Motor neurone disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Myasthenia gravis

However, in general, in these situations dysphagia would not be the first symptom to develop and various other symptoms would usually also be present.

Infections

For short periods of time, severe infections can cause difficulty in swallowing. For example, very swollen tonsils (bad tonsillitis or quinsy), an abscess at the back of the throat or very swollen lymph nodes.

Tumours and swellings

Tumours or swellings which press on the oropharynx can cause problems swallowing. This includes cancers of the mouth and throat, lumps or cancer of the thyroid gland, or cancers which cause swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck.

Pharyngeal pouch

A pharyngeal pouch is an uncommon condition where a dead end pouch (diverticulum) forms coming off the lowest part of the throat (the lower pharynx). Most occur in people over the age of 70. It may not cause any symptoms but can cause symptoms such as dysphagia, a sense of a lump in the neck, food regurgitation, cough and bad breath.

Breathing problems

Conditions causing difficulty breathing, particularly chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can have a knock-on effect on swallowing.

Globus sensation

This is not a true cause of dysphagia but is mentioned here for completeness. Globus sensation is the term used when a person has the feeling of a lump in the back of their throat when actually there is no lump present when the throat is examined. Some people with this condition may have a feeling or perception of difficulty swallowing. However, in this condition there is no true dysphagia, as you can eat and drink normally. Many people with globus sensation notice the symptoms most when they are swallowing their saliva. See the separate leaflet called Globus Sensation for more information.

Oesophageal causes of dysphagia

Stricture due to severe oesophagitis

Oesophagitis means inflammation of the lining of the gullet (oesophagus). Acid reflux occurs when some acid leaks up (refluxes) into the oesophagus from the stomach. Most cases of oesophagitis are due to acid reflux. The acid irritates the inside lining of the lower oesophagus to cause inflammation. Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) is a general term which describes the range of situations – acid reflux, with or without oesophagitis and symptoms. A complication of severe long-standing oesophagitis is scarring and narrowing (a stricture) of the lower oesophagus. Oesophagitis due to acid reflux is common, but a stricture causing difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) is an uncommon complication of this problem.

Eosinophilic oesophagitis

This is another type of inflammation of the oesophagus with a different cause and different treatment. It is an increasingly common cause of difficulty swallowing. See the separate leaflet called Eosinophilic Oesophagitis to read more about it.

Oesophageal cancer

Cancer of the oesophagus (oesophageal cancer) is uncommon in the UK. Most cases occur in people over the age of 55, although younger people are sometimes affected. Those diagnosed at an early stage have the best chance of a cure. Dysphagia is often the first symptom and is caused by the cancer growing and narrowing the passage in the oesophagus.

Strictures due to other causes

Although oesophagitis and cancer are the most common causes of oesophageal narrowings (strictures) there are various other causes – for example, following surgery or radiotherapy to the oesophagus. Various medicines can irritate the oesophagus and cause a stricture. Drinking bleach or other chemicals can cause damage, scarring and strictures.

Oesophageal webs and rings

These are abnormal non-cancerous overgrowths (extensions) of normal oesophageal tissue. They are uncommon. Their cause is not clear although oesophageal webs sometimes develop in people who have iron-deficiency anaemia. Webs and rings may not cause any symptoms but they sometimes cause dysphagia.

Achalasia

Achalasia is a condition that affects both the muscles and the nerves that control the muscles of the oesophagus. Achalasia typically first affects the nerves that cause the sphincter between the oesophagus and stomach to relax. The muscles then do not contract properly to push food down. In addition, the sphincter does not relax properly so food cannot pass through into your stomach easily. This makes it difficult for you to swallow food properly. It mainly affects adults aged between 20-40 years. In most cases, no underlying cause can be found and the reason why the nerves and muscles in the oesophagus do not work so well is not clear.

Muscle disorders

Conditions which affect the smooth muscle or connective tissues of the oesophagus, preventing it from working properly, can cause difficulty swallowing. Examples include scleroderma and myositis.

Pressure from outside the oesophagus

Pressure from structures next to the oesophagus can sometimes affect the function of the oesophagus to cause dysphagia. For example, cancer of the thyroid, lung, stomach or spine, or a large aortic aneurysm may press on the oesophagus. Again, other symptoms would normally have developed before the dysphagia.

Other causes

These include various rare conditions that cause inflammation or reduced function of the oesophagus; infections of the oesophagus or swallowing large objects that get stuck (more common in children).

What should I do if I have dysphagia?

See a doctor promptly. It is very important to obtain a correct diagnosis as soon as possible.

What tests might be advised?

It depends on the possible causes of the difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), which may be determined by a doctor talking to you (your history) and an examination. Two of the most common tests done when someone has dysphagia are endoscopy and barium swallow.

Endoscopy

This is a test where an operator (a doctor or nurse) looks into the upper part of your gut (the upper gastrointestinal tract). An endoscope is a thin, flexible telescope. It is about as thick as a little finger. The endoscope is passed through the mouth, into the oesophagus and down towards the stomach and duodenum. The tip of the endoscope contains a light and a tiny video camera so the operator can see inside your gullet (oesophagus), stomach and duodenum. The endoscope also has a side channel down which various instruments can pass. These can be manipulated by the operator. For example, the operator may take a small sample (biopsy) from the inside lining of the oesophagus by using a thin grabbing instrument which is passed down a side channel.

See the separate leaflet called Gastroscopy (Endoscopy) for more details.

Barium swallow

This is a test that helps to look for problems in the oesophagus. The oesophagus and other parts of the gut do not show up very well on ordinary X-ray pictures. However, if you drink a white liquid that contains a chemical called barium sulfate, the outline of the upper parts of the gut (oesophagus, stomach and small intestines) shows up clearly on X-ray pictures. This is because X-rays do not pass through barium.

See the separate leaflet called Barium Tests (Swallow, Meal, Follow Through) for more details.

Other tests

The following tests may be considered:

  • Oesophageal manometry – this is a test where a pressure-sensitive tube is passed via your nose or mouth into your oesophagus to measure the pressure of the muscle contractions in the oesophagus.
  • Videofluoroscopy – this is a bit like a barium swallow. Different drinks and foods are mixed with barium and you are asked to do various things like swallow, move your head, etc, after drinking or eating the mixture. X-ray pictures are taken and your swallowing can be examined.
  • pH monitoring – during this test, a thin tube is passed through your nose or mouth and into your oesophagus. A monitor that is attached to the tube can measure the pH (acid level) in your oesophagus.
  • Blood tests
  • Scans such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

It is very important to obtain a correct diagnosis as soon as possible

What is the treatment for dysphagia?

The treatment depends on the cause. Follow the links to individual leaflets on the various diseases that can cause difficulty swallowing (dysphagia). Speech and language therapy assessment and treatment can be very useful, especially when treating patients who have had strokes, have dementia or who have other oropharyngeal causes for their dysphagia.

Medication may need adjusting if it is difficult to swallow tablets. Often there is an alternative form, such as a liquid, patch or injection.

What are the complications of dysphagia?

Difficulty swallowing may make it difficult to take in enough food and/or drink, resulting in malnutrition or lack of fluid in the body (dehydration). It may make it difficult to take necessary medication, which may go on to cause further medical problems. It leads to a risk of food ‘going down the wrong way’ (aspiration) towards the lungs instead of the stomach. This can cause choking or pneumonia.

Vomiting

Why do children vomit?

Vomiting is the body’s way of expelling material from the stomach, sometimes to get rid of something poisonous. Whatever the cause, your child’s stomach muscles will contract forcefully, and food will come back up through his esophagus and out through his mouth and sometimes his nose.

What causes vomiting?

A stomach virus or “flu” is the most common reason for vomiting. The medical name for this illness is acute gastroenteritis (AGE), and it often includes diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. Serious bacterial infections from E. coli, salmonella, and shigella — germs that cause food poisoning — can result in similar symptoms.

Surprisingly, respiratory infections can also lead to vomiting. When children swallow a lot of phlegm, the excess mucus can irritate their stomachs and cause them to throw up. Coughing can trigger vomiting as well — a reflex that’s actually designed to reduce the cough.

Other common causes of vomiting:

  • Toxins, such as poisonous plants, or herbs inappropriate for children, or medications.
  • Overeating, particularly at birthday parties and on Halloween.
  • Motion sickness. Traveling in a car, boat, or airplane makes some children queasy. Have your child eat a light snack before leaving, breathe fresh air, and focus on distant objects during travel.
  • Food allergies. Some food allergies can cause diarrhea or loose stools and occasional vomiting.
  • Appendicitis. Symptoms may seem indistinguishable from a stomach virus, but the illness can be much more serious, so watch for this pattern: With appendicitis, the abdominal pain usually begins around the belly button and migrates to the lower right side of the abdomen. Intestinal blockage causes vomiting that contains bile, a forest-green-colored stomach secretion.
  • Urinary tract infections. If your child has vomiting along with frequent, painful urination, he may have a urinary tract infection. Your doctor will want to examine him and check his urine.
  • Headache. When head pain accompanies vomiting, it can signal a viral illness. Severe headaches and vomiting, however, can be symptoms of migraine or meningitis, an infection around the brain. A stiff neck, fever, listlessness, and a bumpy purple or red rash are other signs of meningitis. Get emergency medical care immediately if your child shows these symptoms.
  • Pregnancy. Once a girl enters puberty, nausea and vomiting can be an early sign of pregnancy.

When should I call the pediatrician?

Dehydration is the most common complication of vomiting. If your child shows any signs of dehydration, contact your doctor. Symptoms to watch for:

  • No urine for eight hours
  • Crying without tears
  • Dry, sticky mouth
  • Confusion
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Dark urine
  • Damp, mottled skin on hands and feet
  • Muscle cramps
  • Sunken eyes
  • Sensation of cold in arms and legs

You should also call the pediatrician immediately if you see blood or bile in your child’s vomit. Normally, vomit contains items recently eaten or drunk; once the stomach is emptied, frothy-yellow stomach secretions may be the only thing that comes up. The presence of blood, whether bright red or dark like coffee grounds, is a serious sign. Likewise, bile, a forest-green secretion, can signal intestinal blockage — a potential surgical emergency.

Most children with vomiting have some stomach pain. But if your child’s pain seems severe, lasts more than four hours, or is located in the right lower abdomen, contact your doctor immediately.

If you suspect that your child has ingested bad food, medicine, plants, or chemicals, call poison control or your pediatrician immediately.

How do I take care of my child when he’s vomiting?

Change his diet. If he’s throwing up, stop all solid foods for at least eight hours. If he’s over 1 year of age and not dehydrated (see above), then give him Kool-Aid or clear liquids like broth or flat soda pop with no caffeine. (Avoid red Kool-Aid because it can cause the stools to look red and be confused with blood.) Avoid liquids that are cold or supersweet; they stimulate more stomach contractions and vomiting, making an uncomfortable child even more miserable. Don’t give your child fruit juice or milk. Water and ice chips are okay as long as he doesn’t have diarrhea.

If your child does have signs of dehydration, then use an electrolyte solution like Pedialyte, Infalyte, or Kaolectrolyte. Kids who are somewhat dehydrated will accept the salty taste of those liquids that are designed to replace important salts the body loses with vomiting and diarrhea. If your child has serious diarrhea, you need to replace those liquids with an electrolyte solution to keep him from getting dehydrated.

Give your child small amounts of fluid frequently; too much fluid too fast may further upset an already irritated stomach and he may vomit again. For children 1 to 6-years-old, start with one tablespoon of liquid every 10 minutes. (This works out to about one sip every commercial break.) Children over 6 should try an ounce every ten minutes. Double this amount when your child has gone four hours without vomiting. If vomiting persists, withhold all fluids for an hour and start again with smaller amounts.

Once your child has gone eight hours without vomiting, you can reintroduce bland solids like crackers, toast, soup broth with noodles, rice, and mashed potatoes. Resume a normal diet gradually, beginning 24 hours after the vomiting has ended. The vomiting that comes with a stomach virus usually goes away within 24 hours. (Don’t push solid foods as your child recovers. His stomach will tell him when it’s time to eat them.)

What if my child has a respiratory infection?

When your child vomits because of phlegm and cough, treat the vomiting by treating the other problems.

Are there medicines to help the vomiting?

There are no effective medications for vomiting caused by a stomach virus — and that may be a good thing. This kind of vomiting clears the body of infected material; it shouldn’t be suppressed.

Anti-vomiting medications can be potentially dangerous when they slow the action of the intestines and mask symptoms. Don’t use over-the-counter medications for nausea and vomiting without consulting your doctor first.

Over-the-counter medications include meclizine (Antivert), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), demenhydrinate (Dramamine), Emetrol (phosphorylated carbohydrate), Coca-Cola syrup, and Pepto Bismol (bismuth compounds). Meclizine is not recommended for children under 12 years old; the other medications should not be used for children under 2. Never give Pepto Bismol to children with influenza or chicken pox; it contains salicylates that have been associated with Reye’s syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition.

Prescription medications for nausea and vomiting include prochlorperazine (Compazine), promethazine (Phenergan), chlorpromazine (Thorazine), trimethobenzamide (Tigan), and a scopolamine skin patch (Transderm Scop). These powerful medications all have side effects, and they are not recommended for common stomach viruses. If your doctor prescribes any of these medications, use them strictly according to directions, watch your child closely, and report any changes to your pediatrician promptly.

What are some home remedies?

For children over 1 year of age, these include tummy-friendly teas like chamomile and peppermint. Ginger can also soothe a sick stomach. If you choose to give ginger ale, make sure it has real ginger and not just ginger flavoring. And as with all carbonated liquids, de-fizz it first.

If your child (other than an infant) has a stomach virus accompanied by fever, acetaminophen suppositories are a handy way to reduce fever without having to give medicine by mouth to a vomiting child.

American Academy of Pediatrics, Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5. Bantam. 2009.

The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two, William Sears, Little, Brown & Co., 2003.

Phlegm After EatingConstant Phlegm

Do you get phlegm after eating, or phlegm in your throat, or constant phlegm, so you have to clear throat mucus before speaking?

It might be

  • making you cough up mucus or
  • preventing sleep and/or
  • making you snore
  • embarrassing you when you speak
  • making your voice phlegmy or thick

Phlegm after eating in Chinese Medicine

One-quarter (25%) of the world’s population lives in China. (The European Union has about 7%, US and Canada 5%, the UK 1%).

They’ve got bad habits, like us. Many have constant phlegm.

When I stayed in Nanjing in 1982, there were spittoons on many streets: it was a punishable offence to spit on the road and there were phlegm wardens.

Many of the Chinese in Nanjing at that time had phlegm after eating, and frequent mucus or catarrh in their throats ie constant phlegm.

Of course the atmosphere then – and now – was sometimes full of smog, further weakening their Lungs and inclining them to retain phlegm.

Phlegm supply!

A cake we gave my son for his birthday (a long time ago!)

I remember walking to the Nanjing hospital clinic where I worked, unable to see more than 2 yards in front of me.

It was a good thing I knew the way. Even so I tripped over people selling things on the pavements.

Also, what many Chinese ate was full of garbage, just like in the West.

Chinese doctors have thought about it!

Phlegm after eating, sputum, mucus or phlegm in throat, have all been carefully thought about by Doctors of Chinese medicine.

Available in Kindle and

paperback from Amazon

I’ve written a book explaining it all. Before writing it, I looked at a huge number of websites to see what suggestions people made.

As far as I could see, nobody explained why their treatments worked. They all said, “this or that worked for me so try it”.

Well, there are good reasons why one treatment works for you but not for someone else.

Once you understand it, you can choose what’s best for YOUR personal type of phlegm, and not waste time on stuff that might even make it worse!

Kinds of Phlegm after Eating

Throat mucus (phlegm after eating, sputum) comes in various forms.

  • clear mucus
  • watery phlegm
  • white
  • yellow mucus/phlegm
  • green mucus/phlegm
  • hard phlegm
  • stringy mucus/phlegm

There are different reasons for each of these. For more on this, read phlegm colour, but if your phlegm has become a constant companion, it will usually be clear, watery or white.

That’s what this page is about.

The effect of the food you eat

This page is about ongoing, constant phlegm in throat, not about what happens immediately after eating, when the colour of the food you’ve eaten may colour the mucus in your throat.

For example, if you eat beetroot (have you tried my recipe for Best Borscht soup, full of beetroot?) the colour of your throat mucus (and a little later, the colour of your urine) will be purple. But an hour or so later it will revert to its usual colour – that’s the phlegm/mucus we’re talking about on this page.

Nor is it about the phlegm you acquire during a cold or acute illness, although sometimes the solution IS in the book, but don’t depend on it.

(When you’re ill, different rules probably apply. For more on this rather more complicated subject, you could throw yourself at one of the following pages:

  • Six Stages of Disease as Cold forces its way into you
  • Four Levels of Disease as Heat penetrates inwards)

By the way, for those of you who are picky about these things, I’ve used mucus and phlegm almost interchangeably here. That’s not correct, of course, because mucus is a natural biological necessity to keep our tissues, mouth and throat moist.

What is Phlegm?

So as not to repeat myself, I’ve written separate pages about this.

  • Go to Phlegm.
  • If you want to know more about the colour and consistency of your phlegm, go to Phlegm Colour.

These explain Chinese medicine in English, so if you’re looking for an explanation of phlegm after eating from the Western medical view point, look elsewhere.

Causes of phlegm after eating

OK, perhaps you were dismayed by the size of those pages! All right, but bear in mind that the following is a summary.

Simplifying, the phlegm after eating is made by your digestion and stored in your lungs – and your throat.

That means there’s something ‘wrong’ with one or more of these:

  1. Nutrition
  2. Stomach and Spleen energy
  3. Lung energy
  4. Kidney Yang energy

If you’re new to Chinese medicine, the last three above are a kind of shorthand used to save time when explaining things. If you click on them you’ll arrive on pages which I hope you’ll find interesting, even, dare I say it, educational and useful.

But if you can’t be bothered, what follows is a pale imitation.

1/ Nutrition

Food has good and bad effects on us.

  • Its nutritive value keeps us alive
  • Often we don’t use it for that, but for comfort, or because
  • Eating gives us something to do.
  • Eating also calms us down.
  • Chewing violently – gnashing our teeth – can ease stress
  • Some foods warm us up – Chinese medicine has lots to say about this, see Hot Foods
  • Other foods cool us down – see Cold Foods

How we eat affects our digestion

Eat fast and don’t chew and eventually you’ll mess up your digestion:

  • Working while you eat
  • Eating in a rush, gobbling food
  • Snatching food when you can
  • Not chewing enough – this is really important!
  • Eating when upset, angry, vindictive, anxious, mortified or just generally ‘hyper’
  • Eating when you are tired
  • Eating food that’s too cold for your digestion
  • The same goes for eating foods that are hard to digest
  • … and for food that is too sweet, too raw, to rich, too much…

2/ Spleen and Stomach

These are the equivalent in Chinese medicine of your digestion.

They are associated with various emotions or mental states, including worry and sympathy and the feelings that go with caring for others – and anxious about ourselves.

Their energy is badly affected by strong emotions like anger, grief, excitement, fear. It stops them working.

Stomach and Phlegm after eating

Any farmer will tell you that milk production from dairy cows is upset by over-exciting them. Making them run, frightened or cross reduces their milk-yield, and may change its taste.

Treat your digestion like a cow! It needs a calm, ordered, unhurried existence with regular meals and time to digest.

Your Stomach in Chinese medicine has the job of putting you in the right frame of mind to choose the food you need, then preparing, presenting and eating it.



Many would say that we’ve lost the instinctive ability to choose the foods our bodies need, but many pregnant women find themselves desiring or going off certain foods.

Many sick animals seek out plants that they’d normally ignore but which they desire when ill. If you’ve been on a very simple food diet, then are given the option of choosing by smell what your body desires you might be surprised by what you end up eating.



Putting too much into your stomach stops the processing of what you swallow: the actual translation (from the Chinese texts) of what the Stomach does is ‘rottening and ripening’ food.

This is like putting too much cold wood or coal onto a small fire: it absorbs so much heat before it lights that it may actually put the fire out. The same thing happens when you dowse a fire with water.

On the other hand, if the fire is more powerful than the water, you get steam and can easily scald yourself!

Over-feeding yourself leads to Food Retention. Lots of babies suffer from this after they’ve been fed on demand for a while. If you yourself tend to graze on food continuously, you could get this too.

Once the Stomach has rottened and ripened what you’ve eaten, it hands it over to the Spleen.

Spleen and Phlegm after Eating

The ‘Spleen’ covers a good deal of the rest of the digestive process, which most people would put under the intestines and absorption of nutrients through the walls of the intestines into the blood that goes to the liver etc. For more about this important subject read Blood.

Strong emotions, especially worry, affect the Spleen.

The Spleen does more than absorb food; it also clears garbage from your system, patrolling your circulation, muscles and flesh for foreign or waste products.

Now, here’s the important bit! Dumping stuff on your Stomach and Spleen prevents the latter from clearing out the garbage and interferes with proper absorption.

Hence from what you’ve eaten or ‘chucked down the hatch’ you end up with stuff your Spleen and Stomach can’t burn away or clear out.

Guess what is left? Phlegm!

That delicious cake you ate re-appears as snot, sputum, mucus, phlegm: stuffing up your throat and lungs!

Worse! There are various factors that increase the amount and longevity of that phlegm:

  • being tired
  • after an illness or an operation
  • as you grow older (because your yang energy decreases, see below)
  • how much, how long and how frequently you eat wrongly
  • the combination of foods that you eat which may slow how well you digest and absorb nutrients. For example, swallowing too much water with food can dilute stomach juices and make your meal harder to digest
  • the concentration of foods you eat: for instance if you eat very concentrated foods, such as vitamin supplements, they may be hard to digest. For more on this read supplements.
  • medications may upset your ability to absorb food, ie they mess with your Spleen and other energies. For more on this read Suppression.
  • your individual sensitivity to foods, which you might have acquired over time or, very occasionally, been born with
  • the temperature of the food you eat

Summary of foods bad for Spleen/Stomach

Read the pages linked below, but foods that in themselves may be fine but are NOT easy for your Stomach to rotten and ripen and/or which can mess up you Spleen’s ability to transform include:

  • raw – uncooked – food. That includes raw fruit and salads!
  • cold food
  • sweet food or food that turns quickly into blood-sugar, such as white bread or rice, white of potato etc. Also, alcohol is basically a form of sugar – unfortunately. And you may have to reconsider your attitude to biscuits and cake.
  • food swallowed in too great amounts at a time
  • un-chewed, or poorly chewed, food
  • very concentrated food
  • very rich food
  • very fatty food eg for many of us, dairy foods from cows

Of course, if you are very healthy and with an excellent digestion, these things matter less. However, as you age, your gastro-intestinal tract becomes less resilient to punishment so you may notice problems occurring more often.

Read more about Stomach and Spleen under

  • Stomach
  • Spleen

3/ Lungs and Phlegm after Eating

In Chinese medicine, your Lungs ‘rule’, or are responsible for a whole range of other activities besides your respiration. For example:

  • your skin
  • partly, your immune system
  • your energy
  • your ‘spirit’ – meaning how spirited you are
  • clearing or dispering fluids from your system

It’s that last function that concerns us here. If your Spleen has been unable to clear out the phlegm, which is, after all, a fluid of sorts, it is said to be ‘stored by’ your lungs.

Part of your body’s mechanism for making good Blood and Qi (energy) depends on good Lung function.

If your lungs are stuffed up with phlegm, your energy goes down and your Lungs can’t disperse the fluids. Hence the gradual growth of phlegm in your lungs and the arrival of phlegm after eating.

The result? You have to clear your throat before speaking.

So, is that all? Well, no…



Now, it’s Sunday as I write this. And, being Sunday, I’ve just enjoyed several bits of chocolate which someone gave us for Christmas.

I’ve enjoyed it greatly, though probably wolfed it down too fast – because I liked it too much and wasn’t thinking. So, shortly, if I answer the phone, I’ll have to clear my throat several times. And if I have to continue speaking, I’ll have to speak more loudly to overcome the phlegm. That, were I speaking in public, might tire me.

I know perfectly well that this will happen. I don’t regret it: at the moment! It will probably slightly upset my sleep tonight too. So I might not be at my usual sparkling best tomorrow. If so, some would advise me to have a coffee. But coffee has other problems, although the current medical view seems to suggest that coffee is good.



However, read the truth about coffee here!

Of course, the wrong foods soon start affecting other Lung functions, such as the state of your skin and your complexion.

But that’s another subject. Read about cosmetic acupuncture here.

4/ Kidney Yang energy

How does ‘Kidney Yang energy’ produce phlegm after eating?

Kidney Yang energy provides the ‘fire’ that maintains heat in our digestion. Kidney Yang deficiency has a whole range of problems which you can read by clicking the link.

But from the point of view of this page, as Kidney Yang weakens, your Spleen Yang energy weakens, and that leads onto other problems.

Kidney Yang is weakened mainly

  • from cold (weather, food, environment, not enough clothes…)
  • from dealing with illness, especially extreme or long-term
  • as you age
  • from over-strain, eg lifting too much
  • from emotions like fear and anxiety

There are things you can do about Kidney yang deficiency, but they take time. Find out more about the underlying ideas on Yang in my book on Yang Deficiency.

How to Deal with Phlegm after Eating

Your problem may be too far gone to cure by yourself. But you can do a great deal to reduce the problem.

Here are some suggestions. The first deal with general suggestions from what you’ve read above. Later there are tips to help.

For most people the following is good advice. There are always exceptions. If you find yourself saying as you read it that what you’ve read doesn’t suit you, well: you may need professional help.

This first set of suggestions help your Stomach, Spleen and Lung functions to work better.

  • Take longer over your food and drink
  • Don’t eat if upset. If you must, eat a little – perhaps an oatcake or some nuts – to recover your energy. Then when you feel better, go onto a bigger meal. A ginger drink may help (see below).
  • If tired or ill, eat only a little until you recover your energy.
  • Make sure you are warm when and after you eat: cold air is Yin which tends to drain your Yang. So if you go outside, wrap up well, especially round your chest and neck. Wear a warm hat. Keep abdomen and back warm.
  • Avoid air containing hazardous chemicals, paint odours, medications, cleaning chemicals, tar products (eg cigarettes), fuel odours… They increase phlegm by providing particles for your mucus to cling to and gather round.
  • Cut up your food and eat smaller mouthfuls at a time
  • Chew food well and don’t eat too much at a time
  • Don’t eat much immediately before you sleep
  • Don’t overeat
  • Drink slowly, in small sips
  • Eat a sensible diet – read Nutrition for some ideas
  • Eat regular meals
  • Don’t rush what you eat, and most people should probably not graze – ie eat too often. This leads to food retention, which overfed babies often get!
  • Most people with phlegm would be better if they avoided Cold foods. However, people who are naturally very warm-blooded should be cautious of Hot foods, especially damp-heat foods.

  • Avoid very sweet, sickly, fatty food, or food that is too rich or concentrated. Say no to pudding, chocolate, cake, sweet biscuits, sweets, foods containing sweeteners like honey and sugar… I’m sure you can think of more. These weaken your Spleen energy and quickly turn into phlegm after eating.
  • Avoid greasy/fatty food and dairy foods (milk, cheese, cream, yogurt). These also soon become phlegm after eating.
  • Avoid refined foods
  • Prefer food that is organic or at least free of herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, and has been grown on good rich soil
  • Avoid raw food and drink, including fruit and vegetables.
  • Avoid food or drink that is cold, especially chilled or frozen
  • Become aware of when your phlegm is bad: think about what you ate or have done recently. This page can’t cover everything, and you may be the odd one out who reacts to a so-called ‘healthy’ food!
  • Alcohol may cheer you up but probably interferes with the action of your Spleen. Also, alcohol is basically sugar. However, your body has to work hard to turn it into sugar, and in doing so it produces other chemicals that heat your Liver and interferes with the absorption of nutrients into your blood.
  • After eating, take a short walk then rest for a few minutes before returning to work.
  • Don’t work when eating
  • Don’t eat when working
  • Stop smoking. Smoking builds up carbon deposits in your lungs, hampering your breathing and interfering with the (Chinese medicine) functions of your Lungs, including descending your energy – so you cough – and dispersing fluids – so you can’t clear existing phlegm. That weakens your ability to absorb nutrients, which makes you more tired and weakens your Spleen and Stomach. That means you get more phlegm after eating.
  • Get enough sleep. Sleep is when your body repairs itself. If sleep is a problem, read insomnia.
  • Realise you must change your diet and food-habits if you really want to clear your tendency to phlegm after eating. Have another look at nutrition and the page on supplements.

More tips to help phlegm after eating

These are less important – in the long run – than those in the paragraph above, but as short cuts they may help.

  • Add sliced root ginger to hot water. Let it steep for a few minutes then sip it. Failing ginger, try hot water on its own, or try fennel seeds instead.
  • Add sliced root ginger to what you eat.
  • Every morning, first thing, add a tablespoonful of organic cider vinegar to warm water and drink it. Don’t add sugar or honey. This doesn’t immediately reduce your phlegm after eating, but tones your digestion. It also improves your complexion. For most people, this is also of long-term health benefit, but you have to do it every day!
  • What about drinking more fluids, eg water? This is sometimes good for clearing phlegm after eating, but too much liquid – whether warm or cold – puts a strain on your Kidney Yang energy, and that works against your interests. If you drink, take the fluid warm, and preferably with a little ginger, as described. But basically, check the colour of your urine: if this is clear or only slightly yellow, probably you are drinking enough. If it is coloured, you may need to drink more. (But you need to allow for it being coloured by vitamins or foods you’ve eaten, eg beetroot, as mentioned. Also, first thing after sleep it tends naturally to be slightly more coloured.)
  • In the short run, acid foods may help to break up the phlegm: squeeze some lemon juice into warm water and sip it. This has a similar effect, though not quite as good, as cider vinegar.
  • If you are taking medication, read our page on antibiotics and stock up on the foods mentioned there.
  • Spicy food or herbs may initially stimulate your Lung energy to disperse fluids (including phlegm) from your nose and throat, but too much spicy food may disrupt your Spleen energy and create too much Heat, which forces your body to do other things – like try to cool you down – before it digests food, so can worsen your phlegm after eating.
  • If phlegm rises to your sinuses and blocks your breathing, either gargle with slightly salty water or, if you know how, sniff up slightly salty water and spit it out. It helps to clear the sinuses and nose, though it doesn’t really reduce your underlying tendency to create phlegm.
  • a warm shower, with the water playing for a while on your upper back, helps stimulate your Lung qi which helps it to disperse the excess fluids including your phlegm. It may help you to hawk up and spit out the stuff.
  • Failing a warm shower, lean your upper back against a warm radiator, or apply a warm wheat bag or hot water bottle to the area in your upper back. You’ll soon realise where you like it placed, but be warned, don’t over do it! You don’t want a burn. (This area has special acupuncture points that can stimulate your Lung Qi.)
  • Remember the Chinese spittoons I mentioned? Phlegm is better out than in. Spit it into a handkerchief or paper tissue: not onto the pavement!

Treatment for Phlegm after Eating

Chinese medicine contains a lot of common sense. But it also includes some pretty good ways to treat many problems – not just phlegm after eating!

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs come to mind – developed over 3000 years, so there’s quite a bit of knowledge and experience there!

Acupuncture can be very relaxing, tones your body and mind and when used to treat syndromes defined as causing health problems, very effective. Anyway, by making your Spleen and Stomach work better it usually reduces any phlegm after eating.

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Jonathan Clogstoun-Willmott Books

All the books in the ‘Chinese Medicine in English’ series should be fully accessible on Kindles and Kindle apps. (Or you can buy the softback print editions, of course.)

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Request! Please!

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Here are some of the books I (Jonathan) have written.

Subscribers to Kindle Unlimited can borrow the first four for ‘free’.

Qi Stagnation – Signs of Stress

Yin Deficiency – Burnout and Exhaustion

Yang Deficiency – Get Your Fire Burning Again!

Yuck! Phlegm! How to Clear Your Phlegm …

Western Astrology and Chinese Medicine

Published 1986 and, amazingly, still selling. Western Astrology and Chinese Medicine was apparently used back then by at least one acupuncture college to help students understand Chinese medicine! See Reviews.

Seven Reviews so far for Yuck Phlegm. (Despite the lurid cover, it explains the five main types of phlegm and what works best for each type. I hope it’s easy to read and will be much more useful than all the websites on the subject.)

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Last Updated on January 6, 2020



Seeing a baby coughing and vomiting mucus or milk (which obtains a mucus-like texture) can be quite disturbing for parents. Spitting up is quite normal, but when mucus or projectile vomit seems to be a recurring incident, it may cause alarm. The reasons behind it can be quite varied, and it is important to figure out the actual reason why it’s happening to your child.



Is it Normal for a Baby to Throw Up Mucus?

A baby throwing up milk or mucus is not an uncommon thing at all. Many parents have seen their children vomit mucus or milk in their infancy. While this is quite normal, a repeated occurrence may be a cause for worry. The presence of blood or any gestures by your baby indicating pain or trouble warrants immediate attention.

Also Read: Mucus in Baby’s Poop




When Does it Occur?

Such a phenomenon usually occurs in babies early on as a result of an immature digestive system. One of the most important parts of the entire tract is the area ranging from the throat to the stomach. This section requires a good amount of time to develop fully and be ready to retain the food within the body. All the spit and the milk that a baby feeds on can easily find its way back up to the mouth, causing the vomit to be yellow in colour.

Most children stop throwing up spit or milk once they begin to sit up straight. While many babies do so after completing around 7-8 months of age, some children may continue to do so even up to a year after their birth.





What Are the Common Causes Behind an Infant Vomiting Mucus?

When a baby throws up milk or ends up vomiting mucus, there may not be just one reason that has made it happen. There could be a variety of causes for the same, ranging from illness to overfeeding.

1. The baby may have an infection or illness.

Since the immune system of a baby is still developing in the early months following birth, he makes for an easy target for various bacteria and viruses, leading to an infection or an illness. Usually, these can affect the respiratory system, causing him to cough extensively, which could lead to intermittent vomiting. Similarly, certain bacteria can affect the digestive tract or the intestines, leading to indigestion and diarrhoea, accompanied by vomiting.




2. The baby may be suffering from pyloric stenosis.

If a baby tends to vomit forcefully, which ends up emerging out in a projectile form, then there is a strong chance that the baby is suffering from pyloric stenosis. Quite a rare condition to come across in most children, it usually manifests in the weeks following childbirth. A muscle that connects the intestine to the stomach tends to swell up and become thick, which prevents any food from passing further. This condition is quite rare, with fewer than 1 million cases reported in India every year.

3. He may have other obstructions in his intestinal path.

While pyloric stenosis occurs due to the presence of a muscular anomaly, there might be other obstructions in the pathway as well. At times, a section of the bowel might slide towards the other section and form an obstacle in between. Some cases have also been observed where the intestines themselves have twisted up, causing food to remain stuck wherever it is. Such conditions can cause a baby to vomit forcefully.





4. He may have ingested a poisonous substance.

On a biological level, the act of vomiting is where the body rids itself of an undesirable element within the stomach or the digestive system. While undigested food falls in this category as well, vomiting may just as well be the result of the baby having swallowed something that is inherently toxic or unhealthy. If the ingestion of something poisonous has taken place, certain medicines can even cause the vomiting rather than treat it directly.

5. The baby may be susceptible to motion sickness.

Motion sickness is quite a common problem that plagues babies as well as adults. It is usually triggered when the brain seems to observe a disconnect between the visual and the aural signals it receives. If the eyes and the body don’t seem to experience motion the same way, motion sickness might come into play, causing vomiting to take place.




6. He might have been crying excessively for a long duration.

Crying is the only form of communication that babies are aware of, so they may burst into tears to convey hunger, fear, pain, or even plain irritation. However, if a baby continues to cry intensely for a long period, it can cause the gag reflex in the throat to be stimulated and lead to the baby coughing heavily, or even throwing up as a result of it.

7. He may have an infection in his throat or stomach.

The presence of viruses or bacteria that infect the stomach or the throat have a higher chance of resulting in vomiting. Throat infection usually causes cold and cough, both of which can trigger the gag reflex and lead to vomiting. Any infection of the digestive tract can cause the body to repeatedly throw up food, due to the weak capacity of the stomach and intestines.





8. He may be vomiting due to an allergic reaction.

Vomiting is usually a biological reaction to remove any toxic substance from the body, and the same is true for an allergic reaction as well. An allergy is nothing but the response of the body’s immune system to an allergen, which could range from anything such as nuts to milk to fish and so on. Such conditions usually occur if you have introduced your baby to a new food type recently.

9. Quick milk flow can also cause a baby to vomit.

Certain women tend to have nipples that are larger than usual or use bottles which have holes that are bigger than what’s usually available in the market. These can result in a milk flow that is fast and in copious amounts, causing the baby to drink down the milk speedily. Since the baby’s tummy is still in its development phase, it won’t be prepared for the intake of this quantity and may react naturally by throwing up.




10. The baby may be gassy.

This is rarely because of indigestion and has more to do with the baby swallowing too much air while feeding. Parents tend to use a pacifier more often than not or allow babies to suckle on an empty feeding bottle. This causes their tummies to be filled with air, which can cause reflux and lead to the milk being thrown up.

11. He may be overfed.

The digestive system of a baby takes quite a while to mature fully. One of the major aspects that need to develop is the valve that plays a key role in keeping the food within the stomach itself. Feeding on a lot of milk can put undue pressure on that valve, which can fail and cause the milk to rise up, leading to vomiting.




How You Can Help Prevent Your Baby From Vomiting

Thankfully, even if your baby vomits yellow mucus or milk, there are a bunch of ways you can employ to prevent it from happening often. There is a good chance it may not indicate anything serious.

1. Repeated burping helps.

While it is common to burp a baby after a feeding session has been completed, you can employ a different method for a child that vomits frequently. Make sure you encourage him to burp after he drinks 1/4th or even 1/8th the amount of milk he usually drinks, to reduce the risk of him throwing up after the whole feed.




2. Reduce the flow of milk.

If your baby is bottle-fed, make sure that the nipple on the bottle has a small hole, and nothing too big that will release a large amount of milk. This can help in controlling the milk flow and allow the baby to drink at his pace. While breastfeeding, squeeze some milk out of your breasts first to avoid a large flow and then let your child feed.

3. Switch to a different kind of milk.

If your baby has been throwing up after drinking cow’s milk, he might be lactose intolerant. Therefore, it is best to switch to soy milk and see if there is any change in his condition. In rare cases, a special formula of milk might be required for kids who are allergic to natural milk of any sort.


4. Feed less milk but frequently.

Your baby might have trouble keeping down the amount of milk he drinks due to a weak stomach valve. Therefore, you can try giving him a limited amount of milk while feeding him, while simultaneously increasing the frequency of feeding sessions. This can keep his nutrition on track and allow him to digest the milk effectively.

5. Change your own diet.

The presence of allergic substances in your own diet could affect the child as well since they find their way into your milk. If you’ve made any dietary inclusions or changes recently, try removing them to see if it helps stop your baby from vomiting. Adjust your diet until you figure out the culprit and plan accordingly.

6. Allow feeding sessions to happen at a relaxed pace.

Make sure that you don’t feed your child in a hurry. Go to a quiet place and let him feed slowly and calmly at his own pace. Let him relax after he’s done feeding and burp him gradually. Even after burping, allow him to lie down in an inclined manner for half an hour.

Is It Possible for Your Baby to Choke on Vomit While He’s Asleep?

It’s only natural for you to worry whether having your baby sleep while he’s prone to vomiting could lead to him choking on his own vomit. All the same, experts think that this scenario is highly unlikely as long as your baby is sleeping on his back (as recommended). Similarly, as long as your little one does not have a particular condition that makes it difficult for him to clear his airway, such as a cleft palate, he is unlikely to choke on his own vomit.


When to Worry

As mentioned earlier, vomiting usually occurs as a result of improper feeding or foreign elements. These issues can be corrected easily and the chances of vomiting can be reduced extensively. However, certain signs you notice can definitely be a cause for worry, since they indicate the presence of a complication.

  • While most vomited mucus has the same consistency as that of milk, there might be a situation when the mucus is quite thick. This can then be inhaled accidentally and cause the baby to choke on it, leading to breathing difficulty and further complications. If it finds its way into the lungs, that can be quite fatal and might need to be removed by use of an aspirator. Saline drops can be used to thin the mucus.
  • At times, you may notice the vomit of the baby might seem to contain traces of blood, or may even have blood in substantial quantities. This blood could stem from an injury in his mouth, which caused him to swallow the blood earlier. In a few cases, forceful vomiting or repetitive vomiting could lead to the inflammation of the oesophagus tissue, causing it to bleed internally. However, if the blood has a dark brown colour, your doctor may ask for a sample and send it for examination. If it is found to contain bile, then it could indicate the presence of an obstruction in the intestine, which will need proper medical attention.
  • Most babies tend to vomit out milk and seem to calm down or just act indifferent about it. However, if your baby cries uncontrollably and seems to be in pain after he has vomited, you need to take him to the doctor immediately. Severe pain following a vomiting session could indicate the presence of blocked bowels, or an intestinal situation that needs quick and urgent medical attention.
  • In some cases, you might find that your infant’s abdomen tends to look swollen on the outside. Touching the abdomen might even make you aware of its tenderness. This is quite similar to the existence of gas in the stomach or even other substances. It could also indicate a blockage in the intestines or other issues in the digestive tract. In any case, it would be best if this was examined by the doctor.
  • If your baby was not vomiting earlier (at least, not frequently) but has started doing so after having fallen down or after an injury that seemed minor, this could be a cause for concern, for sure. Your infant may have suffered a concussion (minor or major) and the body might be reacting to it by vomiting. Take your child to the hospital if the vomiting is uncontrollable and repetitive, since having fallen down.

Knowing why your baby might be throwing up milk or mucus is just as important as knowing how to solve it. Since the condition is quite normal, it is best to stay calm and figure out the reason behind it, while never hesitating to contact the doctor when required.

Also Read:

Spitting Up in Babies
Baby Spit Up Through Nose


What to Do If You Get Food Stuck in Your Throat

The following techniques may assist you in removing food that’s become lodged in your esophagus.

The ‘Coca-Cola’ trick

Research suggests that drinking a can of Coke, or another carbonated beverage, can help dislodge food stuck in the esophagus. Doctors and emergency workers often utilize this simple technique to break up food.

Although they don’t know exactly how it works, doctors believe that the carbon dioxide gas in soda helps disintegrate the food. It’s also thought that some of the soda gets into the stomach, which then releases gas. The pressure of the gas can dislodge the stuck food.

Try a few cans of diet soda or seltzer water at home immediately after noticing the stuck food.

Purchase seltzer water online.

Simethicone

Over-the-counter medications designed to treat gas pain may help dislodge food stuck in the esophagus. In the same way as carbonated sodas, medications containing simethicone (Gas-X) make it easier for your stomach to produce gas. This gas increases the pressure in your esophagus and can push the food loose.

Follow the standard dosing recommendation on the package.

Shop for simethicone medications.

Water

A few big sips of water may help you wash down the food stuck in your esophagus. Normally, your saliva provides enough lubrication to help food slide easily down the esophagus. If your food wasn’t chewed properly, it may be too dry. Repeated sips of water may moisten the stuck food, making it go down more easily.

A moist piece of food

It may feel uncomfortable to swallow something else, but sometimes one food can help push another down. Try dipping a piece of bread in some water or milk to soften it, and take a few small bites.

Another effective option may be to take a bite of banana, a naturally soft food.

Alka-Seltzer or baking soda

An effervescent drug like Alka-Seltzer may help break down food that’s stuck in the throat. Effervescent drugs dissolve when mixed with a liquid. Similar to soda, the bubbles they produce when dissolving may help disintegrate the food and produce pressure that can dislodge it.

Find Alka-Seltzer online.

If you don’t have Alka-Seltzer, you can try mixing some baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, with water. This may help dislodge food in the same way.

Shop for sodium bicarbonate.

Butter

Sometimes the esophagus needs an extra bit of lubrication. As unpleasant as it may sound, it may help to eat a tablespoon of butter. This can sometimes help moisten the lining of the esophagus and make it easier for the stuck food to move down into your stomach.

Wait it out

Food that gets stuck in the throat usually passes on its own, given some time. Give your body a chance to do its thing.

PMC

DISCUSSION

Perforation of the pharynx or esophagus most commonly occurs after instrumentation or foreign body ingestion (7-9). The remarkable increase in diagnostic and therapeutic endoscopy has made instrumentation the most common cause of esophageal perforation (9). The perforations can be iatrogenic but also occur spontaneously. Spontaneous rupture of the pharynx or esophagus is a rare condition and the tear is commonly at the lower third of the esophagus. The site is typically an area of natural narrowing, at the level of the aortic arch, the carina or left atrium, or at the esophagogastric junction (1). The pyriform sinus is also at risk because of the absence of a reinforcing longitudinal muscle layer (9). The mechanism of spontaneous pharyngeal or cervical esophageal perforation is thought to involve a sudden large increase in pharyngeal or upper esophageal pressure resulted in rupture of weak wall. This also involves a sudden rise in intraluminal pressure against closed vocal folds most commonly following forceful retching, vomiting, or nose blowing (3-5). In the present case, the rupture site was from the lateral oropharyngeal wall to the upper hypopharynx, which is higher than that of previous reports (3-6). This may resulted from a sudden increase in oro- and hypopharyngeal pressure by instant closure of the velopharynx and anterior oropharynx. The perforation site suggest that the pathophysiology of this case may be different from that of esophageal perforation in Boerhaave’s syndrome that is thought to be the result of a sudden rise in internal esophageal pressure produced during vomiting, as a result of neuromuscular incoordination causing failure of the cricopharyngeus muscle to relax.

Esophageal rupture often carries with a high morbidity and mortality, hence, early recognition is important. Late diagnosis, more than 24 hr after perforation, is associated with increased morbidity and mortality (1, 7, 8). Early diagnosis is often difficult and requires a high index of suspicion especially in patients with atypical presentation. A classical triad of constitutes Boerhaave’s syndrome: forceful vomiting, chest pain, and subcutaneous emphysema. Pain is the most common symptom and is usually localized to the site of the perforation. In cervical perforations, neck pain may be accompanied by tenderness of the sternomastoid muscle (9). Surgical emphysema of the neck is also frequent after cervical perforations and commonly detected with plan X-ray or CT examination. The symptoms and signs seem to be presented earlier and more typically in the perforations of the pharynx or cervical esophagus than those of classic Boerhaave’s syndrome. Respiratory or intrathoracic complications are uncommon in the pharyngeal or cervical esophageal perforation, occurring in approximately 10 percent of patients, compared with over 50 percent of patients with thoracic esophageal perforation (10). A swallow study with water-soluble contrast medium confirms the diagnosis and defines the exact site. In the present case, the perforation site was confirmed by both gastrografin swallow and CT examinations.

The management of spontaneous esophageal perforation is controversial and early surgical intervention is preferred in most cases of thoracic esophageal rupture (7, 8). The management depends upon the time of presentation, site of rupture and etiology. Most series of spontaneous pharyngeal or esophageal perforation were conservatively managed and cured without significant morbidity (3-6). Conservative management can be considered in patients with well-contained leak and no significant complications and include broad spectrum antibiotics and enteral/parenteral feeding (7, 10). Patients with a large, non-contained perforation and patients showing signs of shock or sepsis should be proper surgical intervention. Surgery consists of drainage with or without repair, esophageal diversion, or esophagectomy (7). In pharyngeal or cervical esophageal perforations, simple drainage of the paracervical space with or without primary repair, is commonly successful without significant morbidity and mortality (3-6, 10).

In conclusion, a rare spontaneous pharyngeal rupture can occur in a healthy patient after forceful vomiting. This case is unique as the tear site, involving the oropharynx and upper hypopharynx, differing from those of prior reports (3-6, 10). With clinical suspicion, initial examination of CT and contrast swallow studies should be performed as early as possible. The small uncomplicated pharyngeal rupture may resolve without surgical intervention.

You’re sitting down to enjoy a nice steak at your favorite restaurant, maybe sipping a little wine. Suddenly a piece of meat gets stuck in your throat. It’s not enough to block your breathing, so you’re not quite choking —but you also can’t get it down. You excuse yourself and go to the restroom, hoping you can dislodge the food by either coughing it up, inducing vomiting or drinking water.

Called “steakhouse syndrome,” this common scenario can lead to death if you take matters into your own hands this way, says Dr. Robert Glatter, emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital, N.Y., and assistant professor at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine.

“Anecdotally, a large number of people who suffer from steakhouse syndrome, and who succumb to its dangerous complications, are found dead in restaurant restrooms,” Glatter says. He notes that people often feel self-conscious or embarrassed and fearful when they can’t get their food down,and then excuse themselves to attempt to clear the blockage on their own. “This is the biggest mistake, and it can cost you your life,” he says.

“If you experience steakhouse syndrome, remain calm and let others around you know the food is not going down. This is not a time to feel self-conscious or embarrassed,” notes Glatter.

MoreThe Dangerous Side Effects of Acid Reflux Drugs

People who recurrently experience “food sticking,” or who have had steakhouse syndrome need to be evaluated by a gastroenterologist.

— Dr. Robert Glatter

By definition, steakhouse syndrome is a general term used to describe a food impaction in the esophagus, says Dr. Hardeep Singh, gastroenterologist with St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange, Calif.

“It’s typically a big piece of meat or bread, and it usually passes. But it presents a problem if it doesn’t pass — then the person should get to the ER,” he says.

Causes and Risk Factors

The risk of getting food stuck in your esophagus increases with age, which may be for several reasons, says Singh.

“It’s more common with increased body weight, which often occurs as we get older, and acid reflux, the latter of which causes irritation and a narrowing of the esophagus. In addition, the contractions of the esophagus become less vigorous with age,” Singh says. A lowered mucus production and some medications could predispose a person to acid reflux (GERD), he adds.

People who experience steakhouse syndrome are often diagnosed later with an abnormality called Schatzki’s ring, thickened tissue at the lower end of the esophagus from GERD, says Glatter. This ring acts like a speed bump in the esophagus. ‎It also may be associated with inflammatory conditions such as eosinophilic esophagitis, strictures or even cancer of the esophagus.

Alcohol can be a factor, since you may not be paying as close attention to the size of the piece of meat you’re eating or you may be eating too fast if you’re under the influence, says Singh. The most common problematic foods include dry turkey and well-done steak.

Prevention and Treatment

It’s important to take immediate action, since “waiting it out” could cause a perforation of the esophagus, which is life threatening, says Singh. “If you feel something stuck in your throat, try taking small sips of water or drink a carbonated beverage, which can also help. If that doesn’t work, go to the ER.”

More5 Surprising Heartburn Remedies

People who recurrently experience “food sticking” or who have had steakhouse syndrome need to be evaluated by a gastroenterologist, says Glatter. “A gastroenterologist can perform an endoscopy to evaluate for any conditions that can lead to obstruction of the lower esophagus.” Glatter has firsthand experience with steakhouse syndrome, having suffered from it himself.

In general, especially if you’re prone to this syndrome, preventive measures include eating smaller pieces of meat and chewing slowly. Be sure to chew your food completely, says Glatter, “and drink copious amounts of water with your meal.”

If you notice someone else having difficulty, it’s imperative to alert people and staff at restaurants to call 911. Do not attempt the Heimlich maneuver, since that can lead to perforation if enough pressure has built up in the esophagus, Glatter adds.

What Not to Do

The main risk of steakhouse syndrome is aspiration of the food into your lungs, since people often try to induce vomiting to clear the obstruction. “It’s dangerous to induce vomiting because this can lead to perforation if enough pressure builds up in the lower esophagus,” says Glatter. “And don’t try to gulp large amounts of water in an attempt to clear the obstruction as this can increase pressure in the esophagus and may also set you up for aspiration of contents to the lungs if you start vomiting.”

Past treatments involved under-the-tongue nitroglycerin to relax the esophagus to allow the food to pass, but that has been generally ineffective. Endoscopy is now considered the treatment of choice, says Glatter.

By Linda Melone, CSCSNext Avenue contributor Linda Melone is a California-based freelance writer and certified personal trainer specializing in health, fitness and wellness for women over 50.

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