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Oesophageal Patients Association
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Breathing difficulties after food

Hello, I am four months post op from SCC stage 1N0 removal of oesophagus , and just this afternoon had a rather scary experience after eating . Normally i have some discomfort and breathing problems , but this time I couldn't catch my breath and was in pain . This lastest over a hour and ambulance was called . Has anyone had this ? Could it be due to scar tissue ? Does food go into the tracea ? Or maybe still over eating ? Any ideas would be grateful . Thank you .

5 Replies

Can you be more specific about "couldn't catch my breath "...........

Do you mean you couldn't fill your lungs deeply....presumably you could breath to some extent as you didn't lose consciousness.

Were there any whistling or other sounds ?

Could you cough ?

Did you experience any regurgitation of food and/or mucus ?

Did you/could you drink ?

What were you eating/how carefully did you chew ?

What effect did changing your position have / did standing up help ?

This info is necessary to pin down a likely cause as there are so many possibilities in this scenario.


Hello, it was painful to try and take a breath, I could not cough or speak or drink. I was very red and hot this went on for about 15 mins or more ( felt like hours) eventually I felt a pop which could have been an air bubble or something which although I still had difficulty breathing I could speak a little the ambulance crew had arrived and stayed with me till my breathing had almost returned to normal which took quite a while.

I had eaten Sunday lunch of salad etc. with my family about half an hour later I tried a few strawberry's and raspberry's which was the cause of the problem I can't remember not chewing but the fruit was chopped up so I could have missed one when I swallowed!

I have had lesser problems after food since I was in hospital my surgeon said he didn't want to do a stretch as it can cause problems!!

I always cough after food and even when drinking water ( still not drinking coffee) I have had a problem with grapes ( skins probably) which caused similar problems but not so bad that time I just coughed up a frothy type of fluid/mucus?

Moving didn't help or standing up.

I'm having my three month check up soon so hopefully I can find an answer to this problem.


Hi gutlesswonder ( love the name)

Thank you for your response I have phoned Dawn and she has helped me with the situation.

I don't need a stretch as I'm swallowing ok but need to have metoclopramide three times a day and not the one in the morning I was taking due to not having any sickness my GP recommended 'as and when' reproach to the medication.

Thank you for your help.


There are quite a few issues here and I think it would be helpful for you to talk them through with Dawn on our helpline 0121 704 9860.

If you had squamous cell carcinoma it is likely that the surgical joint is indeed quite high up towards your throat. Sometimes the joints can become sensitive and develop extra scar tissue, but it should not normally stop you breathing. There are some things like grape skins, fruit seeds and other stuff that do tend to stick, rather than passing through the system, so I think it might be best to avoid them.

The sides of the 'oesophagus' might tend to stick together. The saliva does not lubricate things in the same way, so try something like a spoonful of honey before you eat so that it helps the motility - that is food progressing through the system.

You are right right in that you do need to chew everything really well, and that you should not eat very much at a time - if food is not clearing through the valve at the bottom of your 'stomach' (the pyloric sphincter) then the undigested food may well 'back up' towards your throat. This might be relevant to the discussions about a 'stretch'.

It is naturally a cause of great anxiety when this sort of thing happens, and tension does tend to make the digestion system work less well.

I do think you should report this development to your medical team. It sounds as if it might have been a combination of a number of different things, perhaps resulting in some kind of blockage affecting the air passage to your lungs. This is not normal. It seems like there should be a number of things that could be investigated so that the cure of your cancer also gives you a proper digestion mechanism - so the medical team should be keen to try and get this right for you.


Hi Alan,

Thank you for the information I have spoken to Dawn who has greatly helped with the situation.....and put my mind at rest.

Thanks again for you and gutlesswonders reply.


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