Food allergy and silent reflux (also called laryngopharyngeal reflux, or LPR) are the two most common causes of sore throat after eating.
It is important to watch your other symptoms, as a swollen throat caused by a food allergy can quickly advance to anaphylaxis, which requires immediate medical help.
Foods that cause sore throat
Several foods can trigger symptoms in the throat. However, certain types of food seem to cause problems more often. Some of these common trigger foods are:
- sweets (chocolate, candy, cookies)
- sugary drinks, like soda or energy drinks
- greasy food, oily food, fried food
- milk, eggs, nuts
Some of these foods are known to trigger reflux, while others are common allergens.
Typical symptoms are described as:
- tight throat, throat tightness
- throat irritation
- pain in throat
- scratchy throat
- lump in throat
- swollen throat
- itchy throat
Irritation, itchy throat usually indicate allergic reactions, lump in throat is a typical reflux symptom. However, it’s best to talk to a doctor about all the symptoms in order to get a proper diagnosis.
Sore throat and food allergy
Food allergy is an abnormal reaction of the immune system to certain foods or an ingredient.
Albeit food allergy might cause stomach pain, it is not related to the digestive system. If the body is unable to digest certain foods and it causes symptoms, we talk about food intolerance.
If you are allergic to certain foods, symptoms are usually triggered right after swallowing the food.
These are the common symptoms of food allergies:
- itchy mouth and eyes
- hives and skin rash
- swelling of various body parts (usually the lips, face, tongue, and throat)
- runny nose
- trouble breathing
- trouble swallowing
- stomach pain
Food allergy symptoms can be mild, however, sometimes can be very serious. The most serious symptom is anaphylaxis, which requires immediate help.
If you think food allergy causes your sore throat after eating, it is important to consult with an allergist to identify the kind of food allergy you might have.
There is a wide variety of foods people can be allergic to, however, these are the most common foods that might cause allergic reactions:
- tree nuts
- cow milk
While a food diary can help to identify which foods you are allergic to, talking to an allergist is still essential, and a food allergy test is also highly recommended.
Sore throat immediately after eating
Having symptoms like a sore throat immediately or within a few minutes after eating is a likely indication of a food allergy.
Digestive problems usually take more time to cause symptoms, as the body needs to start digesting the food.
The immune system usually reacts a lot faster, therefore immediate symptoms are more likely to be allergic reactions. (However, sometimes it can take up to two hours for allergic reactions to develop.)
If you are having throat irritation, scratchy, or itchy throat right after eating, you should stop eating and contact an allergist to get tested.
Sore throat and silent reflux
When contents of the stomach seep back into the food pipe and irritate the lining of the esophagus, we talk about acid reflux. The typical symptom of this is a burning sensation in the chest, called heartburn.
In case of silent reflux (, or laryngopharyngeal reflux, or LPR), stomach acids find their way up to the throat and voice box, irritating the back of the throat.
These are the common symptoms of silent reflux:
- sore throat
- frequent clearing of the throat
- lump in throat
- coughing after eating
- phlegm in throat
- trouble swallowing
Many people with LPR don’t experience heartburn at all, that’s why LPR is called silent reflux.
It might take 30-60 minutes after eating for the symptoms to flare up and might last for 2 hours.
Common trigger foods are:
- fatty foods
- spicy foods
- sugary foods
- deep-fried foods
- certain fruits, like citrus fruits
- certain vegetables, like tomato or onion
Identifying and avoiding the foods that trigger silent reflux can help to manage your condition.
Several lifestyle changes can further reduce the risk of LPR symptoms:
- eat smaller meals more frequently
- chew your food well
- no physical exercises after eating
- do not lie down after eating
- do not eat 2-3 hours before bedtime
Can sugar cause sore throat?
Yes, any that contains a lot of added sugar can cause a sore throat. That includes not only sweets, like chocolate or candy but also certain beverages – like soda, which is especially high in added sugars.
What causes a sore throat after eating sweets?
It is still debated if a true sugary allergy exists or not, but scientists seem to agree, even if sugar allergy exists, it’s probably very rare. (However, sugar intolerance is more common.)
This means chances are silent reflux is causing the sore throat after eating sweets, chocolate, candy, or even drinking soda.
Sore throat after eating oily food
Even though saturated fat might induce food allergy, it is more likely that silent reflux is the culprit in this case.
Oily and fatty foods are very hard to digest, they stay in the stomach for a long time and need a lot of stomach acids to digest.
On top of that, it is easy to eat too much from these foods, which makes the acid flow-back more likely.
Sore throat and fried foods
Fried foods usually contain a lot of fat, salt, and are very high in calories. It is also very easy to eat too much of them.
Fried foods are known to cause several health issues in the long term, like diabetes, heart issues, or high blood pressure.
However, in the short term, experiencing throat irritation after fried foods is quite possible. This is because fried foods are hard to digest, which increases the chance of silent reflux episodes.
Sore throat after eating pizza
Pizza is another food that often triggers reflux symptoms. It contains a lot of fat and salt, might also contain sugar, all of these make silent reflux episodes more likely.
On top of that, depending on the toppings, pizza might also trigger allergic reactions. E.g. cheese is a very common topping, and it is one of the most common foods that can cause allergy.
How to relieve a sore throat after meals?
If a food allergy causes an itchy, scratchy throat, the only thing you can do is to avoid the food you are allergic to.
However, if silent reflux is the cause, you can do a lot to relieve the symptom or completely prevent them.
The following dietary and lifestyle changes should make it easier to digest food, therefore reducing the chance of silent reflux symptoms:
- eat less, more frequently
- chew your food well
- avoid greasy and sugary foods
- avoid tomatoes, onions, and citrus fruits
- small sips of water or honey might help to relieve your symptoms
- a short walk or light exercise after eating might help digestion
- do not go to bed within 2-3 hours after eating
If you have a sore throat after eating, it is important to diagnose the medical condition causing this symptom. Chances are it is either food allergy or silent reflux.
Sometimes food allergies can have very severe symptoms, it is important to go for an allergy test if you think you have a food allergy.
There are a wide variety of foods that can trigger either food allergy or silent reflux. It is not easy to diagnose the exact cause, therefore we recommend talking to a doctor if you are experiencing a sore throat after eating.
Frequently asked questions
Soda is very high in sugar, which means it can trigger silent reflux symptoms.
If it is carbonated, the chances of LPR symptoms are even higher.
Deep-fried foods contain a lot of oil and/or fat, they are hard to digest. Therefore they might trigger silent reflux symptoms, like a sore throat.
Coffee and caffeine is another common trigger of silent reflux. Especially when sugar and cow milk is added.
An allergic reaction might also be a possible reason, as some people can be allergic to caffeine.
The reason can be either allergy or silent reflux.
From cherries to bananas, people can be allergic to all kinds of fruits.
Other fruits, like citrus fruits, are common trigger foods of silent reflux.