Why do I Sneeze After Eating?

Imagine eating out at a swanky restaurant with your dream date and then sneezing uncontrollably. How embarrassing! Is this even a medical condition? Or is it a cruel trick your body is playing with you? You can rest assured that this is a common condition experienced by many people. Sneezing is the body’s way of removing the irritant or allergen and thus keeping the nasal passages clear. If you can find out what that irritant is in your particular case, it is very possible to get rid of the sneezing completely.

Possible Causes of Sneezing After Eating

1. Gustatory Rhinitis

Gustatory rhinitis is characterized by nasal congestion, sneezing and a runny nose after meals. Certain foods like spicy foods, alcohol or even cold foods can trigger the reaction in the nervous system that results in the symptoms due to swollen nasal membranes. However, if your symptoms include skin abnormalities, abdominal pains or shortness of breath, see your doctor immediately.

2. Snatiation

Snatiation is the condition in which people have excessive sneezing after consuming a large meal. This condition is thought to have a genetic component. People with this hereditary trait may sneeze uncontrollably when their brains register that their bellies are full. There are between 3-15 consecutive, uncontrolled sneezes directly after the stomach is distended and happens regardless of what type of food is ingested.

3. Mild Food Allergies

Some people with specific food allergies have symptoms of sneezing after eating these foods. Some foods that commonly cause allergies are peanuts, wheat, seafood, eggs and milk.

4. Airborne Causes

It is very possible that you are actually allergic to pollen or dust. Your allergy could also be triggered by either very hot or cold weather. Perhaps someone you eat with regularly wear a perfume that causes the sneezing. It is also possible that you’re allergic to your pet and often eat in the presence of that pet.

How to Deal with Sneezing After a Meal

1. Change Your Eating Habits

If you suspect your excessive bouts of sneezing are triggered by the feeling of fullness in your tummy, eat frequent, smaller meals rather than three large meals. This will prevent your stomach from becoming overtly distended and your nervous system will not be stimulated to sneeze uncontrollably.

2. Keep a Food Diary

If you suspect you have food allergies that trigger the sneezing after eating, you should keep a food diary to record exactly what food types initiate the problem. It may not only be the type of food but also the method of preparation that can trigger your body’s reaction. After some time, you may start to observe patterns between your episodes of sneezing and the food types, ingredients or methods of food preparation. Once a particular food has been identified as the culprit, avoid that allergen. You may have to make careful observations to discount all the possibilities and to pinpoint your exact trigger.  

3. Take Medications

The medications you can take to manage your allergic reaction are antihistamines. These can be in the form of tablets, syrup or nasal sprays. Nasal decongestants help clear the stuffy feeling in your nose and sinuses. Be sure not to overuse nasal decongestants because excessive use can result in rebound congestion. Do not use them for longer than five days continuously because the spray will then be the cause of the nasal congestion. Take medications as a last resort. If you’re depending on them too much, consult your medical practitioner to eliminate any other potentially serious conditions like nasal polyps.

4. Relieve Allergy Symptoms

If the sneezing after eating is caused by allergy, here are several steps you can take at home to minimize the allergy symptoms:

  • There are many commercially available saline nasal sprays that are safe to help soothe the irritated nasal membranes and to flush out the irritants from your nasal cavity.
  • An alternative to the saline spray is the nasal lavage. Irrigate your nose using devices like a neti pot, bulb syringe or squeeze bottle. A daily nasal lavage has been found to be most effective against allergy symptoms. These devices are used in conjunction with sterile and distilled water to flush out irritants. Most pharmacies sell these nasal irrigation devices. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully for both the use and the cleaning of these devices.
  • Gently clear your nasal passages by blowing your nose regularly.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to keep your body well hydrated and to prevent your mucous membranes from drying out and getting irritated.
  • Steam from a humidifier or hot shower can help to loosen the mucus in your nose and clear the sinus congestion.
  • You may also find that cleaning your dining area or asking your dining companion to change their perfume can be effective in relieving your symptoms. 
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