Do you ever cough right after eating? Feel short of breath? Some say it’s from acid reflux. However, I don’t have GERD and yet, I occasionally cough. Why, why, why?
Dr. Noah Greenspan, author of Ultimate Pulmonary Wellness, has a plausible theory for some people--The Suitcase Theory. He suggests that it is about the relationship between the thoracic cavity where our lungs reside and the abdominal cavity. He asks us to think of the thoracic cavity as one side of a suitcase and the abdominal cavity as the other side. By overfilling the abdominal cavity, we leave less room in the suitcase for the thoracic cavity. He further explains that it doesn’t matter whether the substance is solid, liquid or gas. If we overfill our stomach, it is going to decrease space in our lungs.
My Sunday afternoon ritual is an example of when I “overstuff my suitcase”. On Sundays, I often treat myself to a large afternoon meal. My favorite is a big bowl of pasta, a salad, bubbly water and a glass of wine. After my meal, I look forward to spreading out the Sunday New York Times on the table and reading for an hour.
This leisurely indulgence is frequently interrupted by bouts of coughing, even when I have exercised and cleared my airways earlier in the day! I know that my meal includes some of my triggers—tomato sauce, vinegar, wine (did I mention the piece of dark chocolate?) so I figured that their acidic, irritating nature were making me cough. However, I had to dismiss this theory because, when I choose to get up and clean the kitchen instead of staying seated with the paper, I don't cough.
After reading about the Suitcase Theory, I had my answer. It stands to reason that my main issue is that I overstuff the abdominal half of my suitcase, the contents of which then press against my lungs, especially when seated. I’m sure the acidity in my Sunday indulgence doesn’t help matters but, for the most part, because I cough immediately after eating and I do not cough if I am standing, there is a high likelihood that I cough from overpacking.
To prevent a post-meal coughing bout, I suggest eating small to medium quantities of food, 4 or 5 times a day so that you “pack light”. If you are trying to put on weight, use healthy oils and nuts generously. If you have a BMI over 25 and you are trying to slim down, eating low calorie frequent mini-meals is a good approach. Depending on your weight distribution, your belly might be pushing against your lungs even when you are not eating, so “packing light” with smaller meals is a good idea.
#bronchiectasis #ntmlungdisease #GERD #acidreflux
Greenspan, Noah. (2017). Ultimate Pulmonary Wellness. New York, NY: Printed by author, pp.156-157