Have you ever watch competitive eater Joey Chestnut slam countless dogs in the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest? He’s often drenched in sweat about halfway through his historic feats. And it probably happens to you, too. After gobbling down hot wings, slurping up spicy noodle soup, or chowing down on fiery curry, you may notice you get a little sweaty. Don’t worry—sweating when you eat spicy foods is perfectly normal. Fiery foods contain a chemical known as capsaicin that fools your body into thinking it’s been exposed to heat.
The false signal causes the sweat glands, the body’s natural cooling system for its core temperature, to activate in response to the perceived thermic effect. But if you find yourself sweating when you eat non-spicy foods and drinks—like bread, fruit, and milkshakes—it may be a sign of a larger problem with your body temperature. This is especially true of the luxurious food coma you fall into after a good plate of Texas BBQ or a huge charcuterie board.
What is gustatory sweating?
Gustatory sweating, sometimes called Frey’s syndrome or gustatory hyperhidrosis, is sweating on the face, head, and neck areas when you eat or drink. Sometimes, gustatory sweating can arise when you look at or even just think about food.
Scientific evidence shows that the condition may appear following surgery or injury to one of your parotid glands, the body’s biggest salivary glands. Salivary glands, located on both sides of your face, produce saliva, a fluid that helps you chew, swallow, and digest. Salivary glands may be activated while preparing to eat or simply looking forward to a meal. If you’ve ever salivated during a Whataburger commercial or looking at a big ol’ jar of pickle juice, you know the feeling.
Your parotid glands can be injured due to inflammation, infection, mumps, surgery, and other issues. Damage can cause a disruption or damage in the nerve pathways, which in turn may confuse signals and cause you to sweat excessively, even when the real thing isn’t in front of you.
While the meat sweats specifically are unnamed, it’s most often linked to the triggers of Frey’s syndrome. Essentially your body is trying to break down the massive amounts of protein you’re currently intaking, so it activates your body’s natural cooling system in the same way that capsaicin does. The hardest macronutrient to break down, protein causes a complex chain reaction in the body that results in high amounts of HCI, or hydrochloric acid, coursing through your body’s physiology, which then can cause acid reflux, indigestion, or heartburn.
What are the symptoms of gustatory sweating?
If you are affected by gustatory sweating, you may find yourself sweaty and flushed whenever you eat or think about food. Typically, sweating and flushing occurs on both sides of your face, especially around the forehead, cheeks, and lips.
While gustatory sweating may not cause any serious problems, the condition can make it annoying and embarrassing to eat out with friends, family, and colleagues.
What are the treatments for gustatory sweating?
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If you think you may have gustatory sweating, talk to your doctor. Your physician may be able to help you discover the cause of your condition and determine the most effective treatment. Possible treatments for gustatory sweating include:
• Topical creams, deodorants, and antiperspirants.
• Topical agonists.
• Botox injections.
Keep in mind, these treatments provide temporary relief. Select surgeons may be able to deliver a permanent solution through reconstructive surgery, but the process is often very complex.