Why do I have a sneezing fit shortly after eating sugary and fatty foods?
July 6, 2007 8:42 AM   Subscribe

I'm an overweight, nearly-thirty-year-old man and for the past several years (at least) I find that I have a sneezing fit (5-10 intense sneezes in fairly rapid succession) shortly after eating sugary and/or fatty foods. For example I just ate a small piece of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and whipped cream. A couple of minutes later I had one of these sneezing fits. I seem to remember the same happening after fatty foods, but am not 100% sure.

Other than the weight thing I'm healthy and take no medications. My last physical (a year ago) showed excellent cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

The Google found me this questionnaire and the last question implies that there's some reason, but I wasn't able to find anything more concrete.
posted by santry to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Could be allergies. Is this happening with all sugary and/or fatty foods, or just some? Keep a food diary for a couple of weeks and track your symptoms, then report your findings to your doctor, who can refer you to an allergist if necessary.
posted by amyms at 8:49 AM on July 6, 2007

Probably allergies or perhaps caused by GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease). I wonder if the same thing happens with something that is fatty by itself like a piece of plain meat or an egg cooked in butter or just sugary like plain juice or a class of tea with honey. I thought fatty + sugary was causing my problems, but it turns out it was other ingredients that just happened to be eaten a lot when drenched in sugar/fat.
posted by melissam at 8:57 AM on July 6, 2007

I'm a woman and not overweight, and I have been having sneezing fits after eating since I was a small child. One doctor called it post prandial rhinorrhea, and suggested antihistamines if it became troublesome. I find it's occasionally a little embarrassing to sneeze 20 or 30 times but it's not troubling enough to take drugs for. It's not any particular food or type of food that sets me off; it can be as simple as taking a sip of cold water after drinking hot coffee.
posted by acorncup at 9:04 AM on July 6, 2007

The same thing happens to me. I'm allergic to (beet) sugar and dairy. I would be very surprised if that wasn't your condition too. Think of it as a sort of Ludavico treatment. Horrorshow.
posted by bingo at 9:05 AM on July 6, 2007

I asked a GP several years ago why my nose runs after eating some (not hot in flavor) foods. He told me that I was responding to pesticides (!). I don't know how accurate this is, but it makes me feel squicked out.
posted by thebrokedown at 10:00 AM on July 6, 2007

I have an occasional sneezing fit after eating and some research several years ago led me to believe that what I have is a false allergic reaction to protein.
posted by wsg at 11:19 AM on July 6, 2007

My husband has something similar after eating dairy, more running nose than sneezing. He's never bothered with telling a doctor, we just make sure he has tissues on him all the time.
posted by buildmyworld at 2:34 PM on July 6, 2007

Get a small notepad and pen, carry it with you, and write down a timestamp each time you eat a sugary or fatty food BEFORE you bite into it. Then, if you have a sneezing fit within a couple of minutes, put an asterisk by the timestamp. You'll have a much better idea of whether this is a real issue or just faulty pattern matching.
posted by davejay at 2:38 PM on July 6, 2007

Histamine reaction.
Happens after drinking white wine and the only thing that seems to contain it is Benadryl.
posted by Carnage Asada at 3:21 PM on July 6, 2007

I have the same thing. I have sneezing fits (always two head-bangers) within 10 minutes of eating something high-glycemic. I'll probably get a mild headache soon after. I'm taking it as a warning sign for diabetes, so I avoid high-glycemic foods.
posted by mediaddict at 6:34 PM on July 6, 2007

There was a very interesting study recently showing that people with chronic sinusitis produce as much 250 times more of a particular enzyme, acidic mammalian chitinase, in their nasal secretions than do normal controls. Chitinase breaks down chitin, which is the major component of the cell walls of fungi, including mushrooms and yeasts, the cell walls of the larvae of insects and the exoskeletons of adult insects, the shells of shellfish such as lobster and even squid, the beaks of octopi, shells of molluscs like oysters, and the skins of parasitic roundworms. It is a polysaccharide, not a protein. Previous studies have linked chitinase and asthma.

The authors of the study describe this as a response to 'ghost parasites':

The theory, Lane says, is that allergies and asthma result from genes that control the body's defenses against parasites, but these genes are dormant in healthy people. However, when turned on by so-called ghost parasites, the potent inflammatory response is medically very difficult to control.

However, in modern times, chitin is found in many more places than those listed. Chitin and chitosan, a digested and solubilized byproduct of chitin, have become extremely important industrial, medical, and food technology materials:

Chitin is used in water purification, and as an additive to thicken and stabilize foods and pharmaceuticals. Chitin also acts as a binder in dyes, fabrics, and adhesives. Industrial separation membranes and ion-exchange resins can be made from chitin. Processes to size and strengthen paper employ chitin.

Chitin and chitosan are also extensively used in cosmetics, such as hair fixers and shampoos, some of which owe the set or shine they impart to hair to chitin or chitosan.

In the case of your dessert, santry, I wouldn't be surprised if the fat contents of both the frosting and the whipped cream were stabilized with chitosan. It has a strong affinity for lipids, and both products sometimes use it for that purpose.

Bingo, I am especially intrigued to hear of your reaction to beet sugar. Beets contain their own chitinase, and if the beets that go into sugar encounter yeasts, insects or larvae, or certain worms at any time during which this chitinase is active, I would be surprised if chitin or a breakdown product did not end up in the raw sugar, and since these would be saccharides themselves they might be hard to remove by crystallization. As far as diary is concerned, almost all milk in the US has vitamin D added, generally in the form of irradiated ergosterol extracted from yeast. Yeast also contains high levels of chitin, however, and since ergosterol is lipid soluble and chitin has a high affinity for lipids, that looks to me as if it could be a way for chitin to get into milk.

In short, our immune systems may indeed be haunted by ghost parasites, and those ghosts may be the chitin and chitosan in our foods and cosmetics.
posted by jamjam at 3:11 PM on July 7, 2007 [2 favorites]

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