Getting hiccups, a runny nose, and even persistent sneezing after bariatric surgery is normal. In our recent poll of past weight loss surgery patients, 37% experience hiccups, 27% get a runny nose, and 8% sneeze after eating. These symptoms typically act up when you finish a meal, though they are generally not harmful. Whether you encounter one or all of these habits, they happen for a reason, and you should listen to what your body is telling you!
What Your Body is Telling You
A runny nose, hiccups, burps, or sneezing while eating usually means one thing – you should stop eating! You need to learn to listen to your body more and pay attention to the signals it’s giving you.
If you get hiccups or a runny nose during a meal, you should know it’s best not to take another bite of food. That’s your stomach telling you, “this is your last warning. One more bite and you may puke or even stretch your stomach pouch.”
“When I get a single hiccup. If I stop eating, then thats it. No more hiccups. But if I ignore it and take just one more bite, full-blown hiccups!” – Rachel, Gastric Sleeve Surgery
Why Does It Happen?
In September of 2022, we surveyed 447 past bariatric surgery patients to see what side effects they experienced after eating.
Hiccups normally occur when the abdominal diaphragm sends a distress signal to the brain. Common causes of hiccups:
- Eating too fast
- Carbonated drinks or alcohol
- Sudden change in temperature
- Swallowing too much air
Hiccups after bariatric surgery are more common due to a smaller stomach capacity. Frequently overeating adds stress to the digestive system. This build-up of gas in the stomach pressurizes the diaphragm, leading to sharp muscle spasms.
Runny Nose and Sneezing
In most cases, runny noses or sneezing is a side effect of allergies, infections, or cold and flu. General inflammation around the nostril will cause you to sneeze or mucus to drop out of your nose. After undergoing weight loss surgery like gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, or duodenal switch, eating too much too soon strains the vagus nerve (connecting your brain and stomach), which influences upper body nasal responses.
The vagus nerves perceive the food as an irritant and force the nose to run so it can help flush out the intruding meal. This reaction is made faster by the smaller stomach and easier to fill up.
Burping is generally a sign of excess air in your digestive system, especially in the esophagus, and belching is a way to expel this gas. Bariatric surgery patients can experience this frequently during the first 6 months of recovery. This is a result of the stomach healing from surgery, causing it to be less adaptable to any surplus of air. Excessive burping can also be a sign of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).
Remedies from Past Patients
If you want to avoid getting hiccups or a runny nose after bariatric surgery, here are some preventative measures from real past patients.
- Take small bites and chew longer than you think you should.
- Eat slowly, you will fill fuller and realize you are full enough before it’s too late.
- Eating too fast traps air in the stomach and diaphragm.
- Try putting a little less on your plate and experimenting with smaller portions and slower eating speeds – I’m a year post-op and I still eat with a teaspoon. If I use a fork, I end up shoveling the food in and eating too fast…
- I did [have the hiccups] at first until I was told it’s your “I’m full” signal. I now stop eating sooner and no longer suffer from them.
- When it comes to having a hot drink etc., if I can feel a warm rush down into my intestines, I know it’s time to stop drinking and slow down. It’s a sign of dumping- my tummy is full of liquid, and it’s just rushing through to the next stage.
- It’s amazing what our bodies are telling us if we slow down and take note of all these little things – it makes the journey so much easier.
- I was drinking carbonated drinks and quickly realized that they cause painful burping and hiccups. The carbon dioxide gas adds pressure and air to your stomach. Now I avoid all soda and carbonated drinks completely.
- Chewing gum and straws are my nemesis. They can inflate the air in your digestive system and increase the risk of belching and hiccups. Avoid chewing gum and drinking from a straw.
Life after bariatric surgery is profoundly different than what it was like before. Not only will you need to adjust habits, routines, and behaviors – your body chemistry takes some time to adapt. The moral of the story is to listen to your body for signs of burping, sneezing, or a runny nose. Stay in sync with how you feel and what your body does to respond. Remember, you have gone through major surgery, and if you don’t listen, you may not see long-term weight loss success.
If you need help with dieting after bariatric surgery, you can join our Facebook group of over 10 thousand past patients or call one of our coordinators/past patients.