Why Do I Sweat When I Eat? How to Prevent it?

girl eats dessert
Medically reviewed by Dr. Ola Tarabzuni

Key Takeaways

  • Various factors, including nerve damage, facial injuries, diabetes, head and neck surgery, and underlying health conditions, can cause gustatory sweating.
  • Frey’s syndrome is a specific type of gustatory sweating that occurs on one side of the face and can be triggered by eating even cold foods like ice cream. It can also be a symptom of diabetes mellitus.
  • Treatment options for gustatory sweating include surgical procedures, Botox injections,  identifying trigger foods through journaling, using blotting paper or sweat-absorbent tissues, and considering over-the-counter or personalized treatments for underlying conditions like hyperhidrosis or diabetes mellitus.
  • Consultation with a healthcare provider is recommended for proper diagnosis and guidance.

Overview

Gustatory sweating is common in many people who love spicy food and occurs on the neck, scalp, and upper lip when eating or even while taking or thinking about food. However, post-eating sweating can also be experienced by many people due to nerve damage in the inside area of the cheeks where saliva production occurs, also called parotid glands. This condition is called Frey’s syndrome and mostly happens on one side of the face and causes sweating even when you eat something as cold as ice cream. It can also be a symptom of diabetes mellitus called bilateral gustatory sweating, in which, as the name indicates, the sweating occurs on both sides of the face.

This blog explores the causes, treatment, and symptoms of Gustatory Sweat, so keep reading.

Why Do I Sweat While Eating?

Sweating while eating can be due to various causes and is triggered while eating food, thinking, or talking about food. You sure have experienced your mouth getting watered thinking of that dish you want to try, but sweating can be new, right? Here are a few causes that can be the culprit behind your sweat while eating:

  • Injury to the facial nerves or Parotid Gland: In this case, the saliva glands can be injured during a facelift procedure or surgery, causing Frey’s Gustatory sweating syndrome. It happens as the injury of the nerves can give mixed or wrong signals to the brain, causing sweating instead of salivating during digestive activity. 
  • Idiopathic Hyperhidrosis: Another reason behind gustatory sweating can be idiopathic hyperhidrosis which causes damage to the nerves present near parotid glands. Diabetes causes damage to these nerves, ultimately making the person sweat while they eat. It can also cause Frey’s syndrome, as, during idiopathic hyperhidrosis, the damaged nerves regenerate in an aberrant way causing damage to the nerves in the nearby region. 
  • Head and Neck Surgery: It can also cause damage to close-knit tissues and nerves, causing the gustatory sweating syndrome. 
  • Other causes include underlying health conditions, i.e., diabetes mellitus, viral infection (shingles or Bell’s palsy), and nervous disorders like tumors.
What activates hyperhidrosis? Ask an Online Doctor

Do I Have Frey’s Syndrome?

To identify whether the post-meal sweating is because of Frey’s Syndrome or something else, your healthcare provider may suggest some minor starch-iodine tests. Otherwise, you can look for signs and symptoms common in people with Frey’s syndrome, such as sweat on the scalp, neck, face, ears, or above the lips while eating any kind of food, whether hot or cold. 

The normal gustatory sweating mechanism that some people experience looks like sweating on the face, scalp, or neck while eating hot and spicy foods or drinking hot beverages, which is normal. It happens because of a rise in body temperature, the body’s normal reaction to spicy and hot foods. These foods increase the heat inside the body, keeping you warm in winter.

Now, what if we switch a mouth-watering case with sweating? The same occurs when you have Frey’s Syndrome. The nerve damage cause confusion in performing the normal function. Another indication of Frey’s syndrome is that sweating is not bilateral and only occurs on one side of the face. For more clarity, your doctor better answers whether you have Frey’s syndrome. 

Treatment For Gustatory Sweating

Once you have found the underlying cause of the gustatory sweating, it is easier to treat. Here are a few treatment options: 

  • Surgical Procedures can help fix the gustatory sweating syndrome by replacing the affected skin. However, this can be risky; consult your healthcare provider before anything. 
  • Botox or botulinum toxin type A has proved very successful against sweating associated with Frey’s syndrome. It is injected into the affected area to stop sweating, with minimal side effects. However, its effects are temporary and last for 9-12 months maximum. Also, FDA doesn’t have approved Botox for gustatory sweating yet. 
  • Other practices to prevent sweating while eating is noticing the changes and the sweating pattern for a week by journaling out what foods cause more sweating, on which part sweating occurs mainly, etc. This will give you a bigger picture of what foods trigger the sweating, and by avoiding or minimizing them, you can prevent gustatory sweating. 
  • Other options include using blotting paper for scalp sweating, sweat absorber cosmetic tools for the face, and moisturizing the sweat areas.
  • Some over-the-counter oral and topical medicines can also help treat the conditions of which gustatory sweating is a symptom, like hyperhidrosis or personalized treatment for diabetes mellitus. 
What is the most common cause of hyperhidrosis? Speak with Online Doctor

Summary

In short, gustatory sweating is not a life-threatening condition but can be uncomfortable for many people. There are ways to mitigate the symptoms once you know the underlying cause. For proper diagnosis, it is necessary to consult a doctor.

FAQs About Gustatory Sweating

Why do people with diabetes sweat when eating?

One symptom of diabetes is gustatory sweating, and which causes due to autonomic dysfunction in diabetic patients. The damage to the nervous system, including nephropathy or peripheral neuropathy, are the implication of long-standing diabetes and can cause gustatory sweating.

What are the signs of gustatory sweating?

The signs of gustatory sweating include sweating while eating or thinking about food which causes sweat on the face, forehead, upper lip, scalp, and neck.

Can heart problems cause profuse sweating?

Yes, in the case of heart diseases, i.e., when your arteries get blockages, the heart is bound to perform harder to keep the blood supply and heart beating. The force it exerts to keep the blood flowing can increase sweat production to keep the body temperature down from excessive activity and heat inside. However, some women experience night sweats during menopause as well. Therefore, it is better to avoid confusion by consulting your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

  • Marchese-Ragona R, De Filippis C, Marioni G, Staffieri A. Treatment of complications of parotid gland surgery. Acta Otorhinolaryngol Ital. 2005 Jun;25(3):174-8. PMID: 16450773; PMCID: PMC2639867.
  • International Hyperhidrosis Society. Gustatory Sweating (Frey’s Syndrome)
  • Johns Hopkins Medicine. Hyperhidrosis
  • Young A, Okuyemi OT. Frey Syndrome. [Updated 2023 Jan 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK562247/

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