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Diet for Chronic Cough

By Sarah Terry ; Updated August 14, 2017

Many different health conditions can cause a chronic cough, but the symptom is most commonly due to asthma, chronic bronchitis and certain other respiratory diseases. Your diet and overall nutrition can influence these types of conditions, as well as your symptoms – such as chronic coughing. Consult your doctor and a registered dietitian before you modify your diet to help treat chronic cough.


A chronic cough is one that lasts for two months or longer, says. If you have a chronic cough, it may be caused by an underlying medical condition such as asthma, respiratory infection, acid reflux or postnasal drip due to sinusitis, allergies or a common cold. In some cases, a chronic cough can indicate a serious condition such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, chronic bronchitis, bronchiectasis or even lung cancer.


If you have a chronic cough due to COPD or chronic bronchitis, adding plenty of antioxidant-rich foods to your diet can help. Ensure that your diet includes plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables that provide essential minerals such as potassium, zinc, selenium and magnesium, as well as vitamins A, C and E, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. People with COPD and related conditions tend to have deficiencies of these nutrients, which act to support proper lung function. You can also enrich your diet with essential fatty acids, like those found in fish, which provide anti-inflammatory actions in your body that can ease your chronic cough, says the University of Michigan Health System.


Avoiding simple sugars in your diet can help to prevent immune-system suppression, and avoiding any food allergens can help reduce chronic cough due to conditions such as chronic bronchitis, says the University of Michigan Health System. For example, cow’s milk is a common food allergen that could worsen chronic cough in some people. Additionally, limiting your intake of carbohydrates could potentially improve your lung function and ease your chronic cough if you have COPD, notes the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. This is because carbohydrates generate carbon dioxide in your body, which is difficult to expel when you have COPD.

Key Nutrients

Certain nutrients are so important to treating chronic cough that you might need to take a supplement. To ease your chronic cough, you could try taking supplements of magnesium, L-carnitine and N-acetylcysteine, or NAC, says the University of Maryland Medical Center. Thymus extracts and supplements of vitamins A, C and E might also help in treating chronic cough, particularly if it’s caused by chronic bronchitis, notes the University of Michigan Health System. For chronic cough due to COPD, you can try taking supplements of coenzyme Q10, creatine or fish oil, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Don’t take any supplements without first consulting your physician, however.


Don’t make any significant changes to your diet to treat chronic cough before first talking with your healthcare provider and a registered dietitian. Also, nutritional supplements can cause side effects and drug interactions, so you should take them for chronic cough only under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional, warns the University of Maryland Medical Center. Explore all your treatment options with your healthcare provider before you decide to alter your diet to treat chronic cough.

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