Overview

Sneezing is your body’s natural reaction to irritation in your upper respiratory tract, especially your nose. If you regularly sneeze after eating, you might be wondering how something in your stomach can irritate your nose. Eating certain types of food or very large meals can both cause nasal irritation.

Keep reading to learn more about why you sneeze after eating and how you can prevent sneezing fits after eating in the future.

Gustatory rhinitis

When you’re allergic to something — such as pollen — your immune system creates a protective response. This leads to allergic rhinitis.

Rhinitis is the medical term for inflammation of the mucus membrane in your nose. This inflammation leads to sneezing, stuffiness, and a runny nose. Rhinitis is often broken down into allergic and nonallergic rhinitis. The different types depend on whether or not it’s caused by allergies.

Gustatory rhinitis is a type of nonallergic rhinitis that’s caused by eating certain foods, usually spicy or hot ones. Drinking alcohol can also cause a gustatory rhinitis flare-up.

Common foods that trigger gustatory rhinitis include:

  • hot soups
  • wasabi
  • hot peppers
  • curry
  • salsa
  • horseradish

While gustatory rhinitis is usually associated with hot or spicy foods, other types of food may cause symptoms for some people.

There’s no cure for gustatory rhinitis. It typically doesn’t lead to any health problems. If your sneezing becomes a problem, try keeping a food diary and noting which foods make you sneeze. Avoiding those foods can help you avoid sneezing after eating in the future.

You can also manage the symptoms of gustatory rhinitis with over-the-counter decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed).

Snatiation

Snatiation is a combination of the words “sneeze” and “satiation,” which means being full or satisfied. It refers to a relatively common but poorly understood condition that causes people to sneeze uncontrollably after a large meal.

It was first mentioned in a letter to the Journal of Medical Genetics in 1989 by two researchers. They described the case of a 32-year-old man who sneezed uncontrollably three to four times after each meal. He told researchers that his father, grandfather, three brothers, one of his two sisters, an uncle, and a cousin all had the same symptoms.

Since then, there’ve been other reported cases of snatiation. However, there’s not much research about the condition. It does seem to be associated with eating large meals that completely fill the stomach. The type of food doesn’t seem to be a factor.

Snatiation is likely genetic and doesn’t cause any health problems. If you notice that you sneeze more after large meals, try eating smaller meals or eating slowly.

Can I prevent sneezing after eating?

Gustatory rhinitis and snatiation don’t have cures. However, there are certain things you can do to keep your nose clear and free of extra mucus, which may help reduce sneezing after eating.

Try to reduce mucus in your nose by:

Depending on what’s causing you to sneeze, you can also try:

  • eating several small meals throughout the day, rather than a few big ones
  • avoiding spicy foods
  • limiting your alcohol intake

The bottom line

Some people sneeze after eating, but doctors still aren’t completely sure why. Gustatory rhinitis and snatiation seem to be common causes, but both are still poorly understood.

To get to the bottom of what’s causing you to sneeze, keep track of when and what you eat to see if you can find any patterns. Share these notes with your doctor. They can help you come up with a plan to manage your sneezing.