A few bites into your favorite spicy dish, and you're hit with a familiar sensation. Your mouth turns hot and prickly, your face flushes and, yep, you start to sweat.
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It's normal to experience some perspiration while eating peppery fare, Marisa Garshick, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Cornell-New York Presbyterian Medical Center, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
Still, you might be wondering how the phenomenon works and whether there's anything you can do to stop sweating while you eat spicy food. Here's what you should know, plus when the sweat situation may warrant a call to the doctor.
So, Why Does Spicy Food Make You Sweat?
More often than not, sweating while eating a spicy meal is simply due to certain compounds in your food. But in rare cases, it could be a sign of an underlying medical issue.
Fiery Food Warms You Up
Many spicy meals are made with chili peppers, which contain the compound capsaicin. It's capsaicin that gives hot peppers their tongue-tingling punch and makes you feel warm, flushed and a little sweaty.
"Capsaicin binds to receptors in the nervous system, and then sends signals to the brain that are interpreted as heat. That triggers the body to try to cool off by sweating," Dr. Garshick explains.
You're most likely to notice your neck and head sweating when noshing on spicy food, but if you're really warm, you might notice some extra armpit sweat too.
Sometimes, There's an Underlying Medical Cause
Certain health conditions can cause gustatory sweating — the medical term for sweating that's triggered by eating. People with diabetes who have developed complications like neuropathy (damage or dysfunction of one or more nerves) may be prone to gustatory sweating, particularly while eating cheese, according to a May 2017 article in Practical Diabetes.
Gustatory sweating can also be caused by Frey's syndrome, a rare neurologic disorder. People with Frey's syndrome tend to sweat on just one side of the cheek, temple or behind the ear while eating, or sometimes even while just thinking about food, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The condition is usually caused by trauma to the salivary gland below the ear, which may occur after facial surgery or injury.
How to Stop Sweating When Eating Spicy Foods
The simplest and most effective way to solve mealtime perspiration problems is by avoiding fiery fare, Dr. Garshick says. If you can't stand the idea of cooling down your food, your next best option is managing the sweat.
"Consider using an antiperspirant such as Certain Dri Prescription Strength ($5.67, Amazon) that works to block the sweat glands and may help to reduce or minimize sweating in certain locations, specifically the underarms, palms and soles of your feet," she says. (Antiperspirant won't stop the sweat from beading up on your face, though.)
Getting a little sweaty from a piquant or peppery meal generally isn't cause for concern. But it's worth bringing up with your doctor if the perspiration seems excessive or different from your norm, or is making you uncomfortable, Dr. Garshick says.
You should also let your doctor know if you suspect that the sweating is tied to a medical condition like diabetes or Frey's syndrome. In those cases, managing the health problem should help get the sweating under control.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.