Sweating while eating can mean more than just that the temperature is too high in your dining room.
“Gustatory sweating,” as it’s medically referred to, is a symptom of a condition doctors call Frey syndrome.
The condition causes sweating even when you eat something cold, like ice cream.
Other times, sweating while eating is due to another medical condition you may have.
Keep reading to find out more about why you may sweat while you eat, plus what you and your doctor can do about it.
Some people report sweating while they’re actually eating. However, thinking or talking about food can also cause sweating while eating.
A doctor will consider factors like your symptoms and medical history when determining a potential underlying cause.
Sometimes a doctor can’t identify the underlying cause of excessive sweating. Doctors call this idiopathic hyperhidrosis. Although doctors don’t know the cause, they can still treat it.
Head and neck surgery
One of the most common known causes of excessive sweating is a history of head and neck surgery, especially surgery to remove a parotid gland in the head.
People who’ve had head and neck surgery can experience trauma to close-knit tissues, especially in these regions.
It’s thought that parotid gland surgery can accidentally damage the nearby nerves, which mixes up certain nerve signals, such as those for sweating. This is Frey syndrome.
Usually, whether you know it or not, you salivate and typically produce extra saliva when you eat. This is your body’s way of aiding in the digestive process.
If nerves to your parotid glands are damaged, you may start sweating instead of salivating due to your body’s “mixed signals.”
A person with Frey syndrome may experience mild to severe sweating on the head. It’s usually mild.
Some foods and drinks are known to cause sweating while eating. These include hot and spicy foods.
Some people also find they sweat more when they drink alcohol. This is because alcohol naturally dilates, or widens, peripheral blood vessels, which causes the body to release heat.
However, if you have problems with sweating while eating due to Frey syndrome or another underlying medical condition, you may find a variety of foods or even just thinking about food causes sweating.
Some people find a particular food type affects them, such as:
To help determine the potential underlying cause, your doctor will consider where you have your symptoms.
For example, Frey syndrome usually causes facial flushing and sweating on only one side of the face when eating.
This is because head and neck surgery, especially to remove a parotid gland, is usually for only one side. As a result, this is the side that has potential nerve damage that can lead to sweating.
Sweating when eating due to an underlying medical condition like diabetes mellitus usually causes sweating on both sides of the face and other body areas. This includes the:
If you’ve had surgery to your head and neck, you may develop Frey syndrome within the first year after surgery.
According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, an estimated 30 to 50 percent of people who’ve had parotid gland removal experience Frey syndrome.
But sometimes, sweating while eating is a side effect of a medical condition other than Frey syndrome. Examples of other conditions that doctors know can cause sweating while eating include:
- cluster headaches
- diabetes mellitus
- facial herpes zoster (shingles)
- Parkinson’s disease
Each of these conditions can affect how nerves transmit messages to each other. The messages may become “mixed up,” resulting in sweating instead of salivating, or sweating in addition to salivating.
One way you can start to help prevent sweating while eating is to keep a journal. For about a week, record:
- when you sweat
- where on the body you sweat
- what you were eating when you started sweating
Review this information at the end of the week to determine whether there are any food patterns that cause you to sweat more.
You can try to eliminate these foods to see if refraining from eating thems reduce your sweating. If you find you’re having to severely restrict your diet, you may need to see your doctor.
Keeping some items on hand to reduce sweat and moisture on your face can help, too. Examples include tissues or blotting papers.
If you’ve tried at-home steps and still have concerns, talk to your doctor.
Several prescription approaches are available. Examples include prescription-strength antiperspirants applied to the face or other sweating areas, or taking medications called anticholinergics to reduce sweating.
Doctors may also use Botox in an off-label fashion. A doctor will inject Botox into key areas to keep sweating at bay. This may work anywhere from 9 to 12 months before you’d need another injection.
Doctors don’t usually recommend surgery as the first treatment to correct Frey syndrome. Surgery doesn’t always work, and it could make the condition worse instead of better.
Sweating while eating can occur under a number of circumstances. Sometimes it’s an isolated incident. Other times it’s due to an underlying condition.
You can try at-home measures and see your doctor for treatment ideas. The most important thing to remember is that there are interventions that can help you.
You shouldn’t have to change your regular activities due to fears over sweating while eating.