The cause of coughing while eating is called dysphagia, states Today's Dietitian. This condition either refers to esophageal dysphagia, when it feels like food gets caught in the back of the throat or the chest, or oropharyngeal dysphagia, when the throat muscles are weakened, states Mayo Clinic.
One underlying cause of esophageal dysphagia is achalasia, a condition in which the esophageal sphincter doesn't relax properly and doesn't allow food to properly enter the stomach, notes Mayo Clinic. Esophageal tumors that block the passage of food also cause dysphagia, and people with gastroesophageal reflux disease often develop these tumors due to scarring from the disease. Sometimes a foreign object, such as a piece of food, gets lodged into the wall of the esophagus. Radiation therapy patients can also get scarring and inflammation in the esophagus, which causes coughing while eating.
Patients with oropharyngeal dysphagia often have neurological disorders that cause the condition, such as multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Parkinson's disease, states Mayo Clinic. People who suffered a brain injury, stroke or spinal cord injury also develop dysphagia.
Small sacs that grow in the esophagus known as diverticula can also lead dysphagia, states WebMD. People who take medications that dry out their throats often do not produce enough saliva to properly swallow their food, causing coughing while eating.