food got stuck

Have you ever had a problem when food got stuck in your swallowing tube? If it blocked your breathing, that would be a life-threatening emergency. But food stuck in the esophagus is uncomfortable and can be difficult to dislodge. Surprisingly, Coca-Cola is a medically approved home remedy in this situation.

Coca-Cola Helped When Food Got Stuck:

Q. During a meal at home, I tried to swallow a piece of stew meat that was a little too large. Unfortunately, this piece of food got stuck. It lodged in my esophagus about half-way down and would not budge. It didn’t impair my breathing, so I wasn’t choking, but it definitely was a problem.

My son went online and found a suggestion that could be a life saver: Take a drink of ice-cold Coca Cola to move the obstruction. I did so and the meat moved instantly with no more problems. I thought you might like to know about this.

Is There Support for the Coca-Cola Approach?

A. Your story intrigued us. We went searching the medical literature for confirmation and were surprised to discover that this remedy has been utilized by health care practitioners for decades (Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, March 1993).

Norwegian gastroenterologists studied 100 patients who came to them when food got stuck in their food tubes (Gastroenterology Research and Practice, online Nov. 18, 2013).

They concluded:

“The treatment of choice of impacted food in the esophagus is endoscopic removal. In cases where this is difficult, we recommend treatment with Coca-Cola and Creon for 2-3 days before complications occur.”

Creon is a combination of pancreatic enzymes that can help digest food. If food blocks the airway, though, it is a medical emergency. In such a case, call 911 immediately and try the Heimlich maneuver.

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  1. Ruth

    Took my brother-in-law to the ER for choking several times, and this was the best remedy they tried once. They would give him a nitro pill and a little bit of coke, and the food would go on down. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get them to do it several times, and he wound up having the food removed.

  2. Marie

    I agree with the comment that includes “other aerated beverages”. I use lemon-lime soda, such as Sprite or 7-Up, to dislodge rice, which seems to get stuck in my esophagus. I’m not sure why only rice does that. It must have something to do with its tendency to clump together. Regardless, lemon-lime soda dislodges it every time. Now I always order lemon-lime soda when i eat in an Asian restaurant. (I won’t drink any kind of cola.)

  3. Patty

    I’ve had a hiatal hernia for years and swallowing problems for a long while as well. I’m not sure if the two are related. Despite another person’s comment on drinking ice cold Coke for swallowing problems, that would make mine much worse. I have discovered on my own that (for me) the “throat closing” when trying to swallow, is akin to a muscle cramp in the esophagus. I don’t know if multiple muscles contact to move food rhythmically down, but it’s like one part of the muscle, or an individual one, contracts and won’t easily release. This “cramp” can happen for me while eating anything hard, even chewed into very tiny bits. I’ve had it happen with a teaspoon or fewer rice grains, a small bite of very well-chewed carrot, and more. The one thing guaranteed to make it happen is to drink anything cold while eating. Spicy foods or very acid foods (spaghetti sauce) can cause it to happen as well. It has been extremely painful at times and has resulted in irregular heart beats in the past while I’ve waited for it to relax.

    I have found preventatives and solutions that work for me. First, I never drink anything cold while eating – ever. I make sure I chew my food well and don’t try to eat super fast, even if I’m rushing to meet a deadline. I nearly always have to drink (water) before swallowing even a small well-chewed bite of certain foods. If the cramp does happen, I’ve found a quick way to release it, and will do it even in restaurants to avoid the pain. I met a stranger one day who taught me this. I am partially disabled and elderly and am able to perform this move.

    If the esophagus cramp strikes, I hold my arms up on either side of my head, and fold them at the elbows until I can grip the forearm of the opposing arm. Your upper arms should be against your ears/side of head. Sit up straight. Take a deep breath and let half of it out, then continue to hold it while you concentrate on gently pushing with your lungs on that area where the cramp is. Before I need another breath, the cramp will release, and the food will move down. Put your arms down, but do not immediately begin eating again. Wait a minute or so, then have a drink of something warm, even luke warm, and resume eating slowly.

    This is a general daily solution for the overall problem that might not have solved the stuck unchewed chunk of meat. I am happy to hear about the solution given. Though I have not used Coke for that yet, I have drunk it to get things moving when I’ve realized I was very close to a bowel blockage and laxatives would not budge a particular area, somewhere near where upper and lower bowel meet. I have used Caffeine- Free Diet Coke and it works every bit as well as any sugary version.

  4. Aileen

    I read somewhere that wearing socks to bed helps with night sweats. It has worked for me.

  5. Paul
    Chapel Hill

    It took a dental exam, a sleep study, and diagnosis of sleep apnea to resolve my issues with getting stuck half way down (usually the first bite of apple or of a good steak) .

  6. Betsy

    Coke saved the day when my husband had, would you believe, a piece of banana stuck in his throat. Luckily, he could breathe, but could barely talk. I told him to drink several sips of coke and try and keep it down. He’d had trouble keeping water down as it stopped at a certain point and came up again. He took a few sips of coke and let it “cook” in the clog, and about 10 minutes later the clog was gone and he was as good as new.

  7. Rebecca

    I have acid reflux (GERD). Whenever I eat something that gets hung up in my esophagus, I end up with a lot of mucus and heaving trying to get rid of the lodged food. I heard that sipping hot water is the safest way to correct the problem. Especially when eating anything greasy, like fried foods, if dining out I ask the waiter for a cup of hot water. Sipping hot water works every time for me, soothes the esophagus and is very soothing to my stomach. I highly recommend this method both at home and away from home – drink slowly or sip hot water.

  8. Penelope

    The other remedy for food or pills stuck in your throat or minor choking or coughing is apple sauce! We were taught it Peneloa veteran waitress. I keep the individual serving containers because I don’t a bottle quickly enough, but it’s always good to have it on hand for emergencies.

  9. Mary

    Good to know Coca-Cola is good for something!

  10. Carolyn
    Tempe AZ

    Edgar Cayce said that everyone should drink 4 ounces of coke occasionally for benefit/tonic to the kidneys. Of course coke melts the bones so one should limit coke consumption. I think the coke releases the minerals from the kidneys. ???

  11. Carol

    I, too, have a “lazy esophagus” and I drink Real Sugar Pepsi to help things along. I chew my food thoroughly but sometimes that doesn’t help. The cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup seems to make the Pepsi “richer”. I’m not sure why it is so but, it seems to work a little better for me.

  12. juli
    WA State

    Amazing! I have to wonder what he had already tried. If it worked that fast it makes me wonder if any liquid would have helped?

    If not, I guess we’ll just add that to one more thing Cola works on. Go online and look – there are so many ways people use it – including clearing pipes and dissolving things.

  13. Mary Jane

    I think that Coca-Cola contains ingredients that damage the body, but were useful in this case. Years ago, I saw an experiment where a piece of meat was placed in Coca-Cola, and the liquid did terrible things to the meat. A friend of mine got rid of kidney stones by drinking excessive amounts of Pepsi-Cola. Perhaps we should use both of these only as medical remedies rather than refreshment. In fact, I believe that Coke was initially used that way.

  14. Northeasterner

    My Italian granny always gave us a piece of white bread to hold up to our noses & breathe in which moved the stuck food. I don’t know why it worked, but I still do that.

  15. deb

    I do know that Coca Cola makes me feel better when I feel sick to my stomach or am just feeling off.It has a bite to it from the acid in the drink and the bubbles that would explain why it could also clear food from your esophagus too.I think a little Coca Cola now and then can’t hurt.

  16. Larry
    North Carolina

    Well, there’s probably a difference between using Coca-Cola (carbonic acid from the carbonation) and Creon to break down carbon-based substances over a day or two and relying on the carbonation and chilling effect of a cold drink to instantly dislodge an object (“and the meat moved instantly”).

    Do you think there are medical references that discuss the “instant” efficacy of cold Coca-Cola?

  17. Edward

    I had food stuck in my esophagus and after a few hours of the food not moving, I went to emergency. They gave me the hospital gown to change into. While I was untying my shoes, the food came loose and I was able to swallow. Gravity was my friend.

  18. peggy
    greensboro, nc

    i am 88 and have minor choking spells almost daily… even though i eat carefully. i have been told that as one ages, the throat muscles shrink. is there any truth to that??? i love the coca cola suggestion. peggy t.


    This is a stupid medical approach because there is much simpler way to remove food stuck in the throat ! ! !

    First get a tissue !

    Simply lay down on your belly for a minute or more and the food will almost pop out of your throat ! ! ! !

  20. Kirk
    St. Paul

    I would definitely make sure the Coca Cola is ice cold. I have a restriction from chronic reflux and have had episodes of taking a gulp of Coke that wasn’t room temperature, but wasn’t very cold either, and the eruption of the carbonation, just after swallowing, in your esophagus and/or stomach can be quite painful. I’ve had it happen on multiple occasions, and it isn’t pleasant. In my case, if I eat rice too fast it can feel like it is stuck in my esophagus, but I have found drinking any liquid frees it up. It also helps to stand up.
    Another warning – I would make sure to use regular Coca Cola, NOT diet Coca Cola. I’m sure many have seen the explosive reaction when a Mentos mint is dropped into a 2 liter bottle of Diet Coke, as demonstrated on the show “Mythbusters” years ago. The geyser of diet coke from the bottle can reach 10 to 15 feet high. I’m sure most people would not be trying to dislodge a Mentos mint, but who knows what other foods might possibly cause an unexpected semi-explosive reaction.
    For years Cola Syrup was stocked in pharmacies as a remedy for nausea, but it’s not the carbonated liquid.

    • Kerry

      My chronic reflux went away when I eliminated simple carbs from my diet. Rather amazing, and no med person seems to know about this.

  21. Kim

    It unclogs sink traps so seems plausible that it might act as a meat dissolver. A bazillion years ago I worked at a veterinarian’s office. On Saturdays after apps., which was 1/2 day, and all dog baths were done, we were instructed to pour a liter bottle of coke in the drain of the bath tub, and let it sit to do it’s work till Monday morning when things were in full swing again. The bathtub sink always stayed open and trouble free. I guess this sugary crap has a place in this world as a drain cleaner.

    To the eating big chunks of meat: quick reminder–there are these white things in your mouth called teeth. Get acquainted with them! They are used to mash food into a liquid paste BEFORE food is swallowed, thus allowing the digestive enzymes & acids to break it down further. Anatomy alert: there are NO TEETH inside the digestive tract to chew the food. So slow down, and chew your food in your mouth into as much of a liquid as possible. Do your stomach a favor. No wonder people have malabsorption and food putrefaction in the gut!

  22. Margie
    Ft. Myers, Florida

    I am an 11-yr surviver of esophageal cancer with total esophagectomy. My symptoms began with hard food being a bit hard to pass through and got stuck. My last and final epsode was bacon that would not budge. I immediatedly got an endoscopy and eventual surgery after a few days in hospital for work up. I would NEVER EVER recommend coke to dislodge stuck food!!!! First of all the acid of coke would burn and maybe not work, and there you are burning with carbonated bubbles going up your esophagus. This is not a clogged toilet. It would be very painful if not destructive to your tissues. To this day I cannot even drink carbonated drinks, as they burn and create gas that will not move up or down my digestive system and is VERY uncomfortable.

  23. Ellen Diane

    Would diet coke do the same thing- & what is it in Coca Cola that works? Wouldn’t any carbonated soda work?

  24. Beth
    St. Paul, MN

    I have asthma and sinus problems which means mucus in my throat that at times is difficult to clear. I had been given Coca Cola as a child to loosen that mucus so I could cough it up. Fifty years later I still use it when my asthma flares, and I need to loosen the mucus in my throat. I had incidentally noted that it improves swallowing as well.

  25. Siva
    Durban, South Africa

    Good day.
    I need some advice. I have a nasty black patch on my left leg, around the “Shin” area that itches 24/7. It’s the size of a tennis ball. When scratched, it flakes like a snake shedding it’s skin, and often results in bleeding to a point where I have to bandage my leg all the time.
    It’s been there for a long time now, around 2 years.

    Sugar level good, cholesterol good, BP has been irregular but controlled.

    Any suggestions???

    • Patricia R Ruggiero

      As you seem to know your blood sugar level, etc., then evidently you are seeing your doctor for periodic check-ups. I can’t understand why you haven’t brought this black patch to your doctor’s attention. I suggest you do a Google search on “itchy moles.” After reading about them, especially those with crusting and bleeding, you might want to make an appointment with your doctor.

      All the best to you.

      • Bev

        Have you had this biopsied for skin cancer?

    • Dianne
      Raleigh, NC

      Get to a dermatologist! Quite possibly skin cancer.

    • PattyP

      Siva, please see a doctor as soon as possible. When any physical problem does not resolve quickly, it is best to seek medical help sooner rather than later. Black skin can mean dead flesh/muscle below. It can be a result of a spider bite or other cause. A blood infection can result. You need to see a doctor as soon as you can.

    • Terry Graedon

      Please see your doctor about this as soon as you can. Two years is a long time to be waiting for it to heal.

  26. gloria

    We used Coke or Pepsi to unblock a feeding tube in a patient.

    • Carlie

      SIVA! Please see a physician or certified nurse immediately. It could be a melanoma!

  27. MVD

    Is it the carbonation? The coldness? The caffeine? I too have swallowing issues. Ginger ale or iced tea facilitated bringing the food item back up, but I can’t do that in a restaurant or someone else’s home without excusing myself to the bathroom. Endoscopies reveal “inflammation” but no blockages. I cannot tolerate the medication I was given as it made all my joints swell. Suggestions are welcome.

  28. DS

    Thank you for this. The reference from England says “or other aerated beverage” so I wonder if beer or club soda would help. In any case, I think I will buy a bottle of Coke to keep on hand.

  29. LIZZY

    I take meds for a large hiatal hernia and esophagus problems. I do not drink sodas as a regular drink. But I had read on a forum about one person who said he just drinks a can of soda, and he burps a few times, and the gas, or sometimes the food that hasn’t moved yet, is relieved. So I tried that. I do not even have to drink a whole can, just sip a few sips slowly until the burping starts, and relief is on the way. Not sure why this works, but I keep it in my home all the time. I think it is the bubbly action of the soda that works. I still take some meds due to large hiatal hernia, but if I eat something heavy and have a problem, soda takes care of it.

  30. Jane
    St. Louis, MO

    I haven’t read anything about painful night sweats in elderly women. My GYN doctor tried me on Premarin which didn’t help. He said he’s positive it’s not a hormonal thing. I got two other opinions which agreed with the first doctor. So I suffer about 4 or 5 nights weekly. I went online, and one thing I learned was to wear only 100% cotton underwear, which I do anyhow. In fact, any fabric that touches my body is always 100% cotton. However I found that my bedding had some polyester in it and spent several hundred dollars for all new bedding including blankets. Is this a subject you would care to talk about? My family doctor says he has no idea what causes this, and during his 55 years of practice, I am only the 2nd person who brought this up.

    • Christine
      Waterville, Ohio

      Following a total hysterectomy, night sweats/mood swings/ hot flashes/etc. began immediately. A friend told me about Dr. John Lee and the wonders of progesterone cream. I tried it and have not had any of those concerns ever again. I still use it faithfully, 16 years later. Please check out what Dr. Lee had to say. Best of luck on the road to health!

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