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Home Health Why Does My Nose Run When I Eat?

Why Does My Nose Run When I Eat?

You may be dealing with something more severe than a mere reaction to a spicy food if you are forced to reach for your hanky when you eat. This is especially true your nose runs each time you eat, regardless of the type of food.

Food intolerances or allergies to certain foods could be at the root of the problem. There are several other reasons that may cause your nose to run when you eat.

The good news is there are treatment methods available. Also, you can prevent this embarrassing situation with a simple lifestyle change. This depends on the cause of the food-related runny nose.

Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty details to see exactly why your nose runs every time you eat. We will also explore what you can do about it.

Food-Related Runny Nose: What Is It All About?

A runny nose – the thin, clear nasal discharge – is known as Rhinorrhea in medical terms. Rhinorrhea or runny nose happens when there is an inflammation of the nasal tissues. This condition is called rhinitis, and it can be allergic or non-allergic.

Some of the symptoms of rhinitis are:

  • Runny nose
  • Itchy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Excess mucus in the back of the throat
  • Congestion

Food allergies can cause a food-related runny nose, which is called allergic rhinitis. On the other hand, if rhinorrhea is not unconnected to food allergies, it is called gustatory rhinitis.

How do you know if the cause of your runny nose is allergic rhinitis, gustatory rhinitis, or some other cause? Here are the different types of rhinitis and symptoms to help you figure out exactly what the problem is.

Causes of Runny Nose (Types of Rhinitis)

Rhinitis can be a result of eating certain types of foods or an allergic reaction. In some cases, people may experience this problem because of seasonal allergies. It might also be due to a combination of causes.

The following are the different types of rhinitis and their possible causes.

Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis is a widely spread condition that affects many people. This type of runny nose can be caused by environmental triggers. Examples are dust, pollen, mold, and other allergens in the air.

Typically, a runny nose due to environmental factors often occurs in season. In this case, the individual may experience an increased occurrence of a runny nose. This happens after eating in certain months.

It is also possible to experience a runny nose as a result of an allergic reaction to household allergies. This can be a reaction to dander from household pets like cats and dogs. Nasal congestion and runny nose are the immune system’s response to inhaling some irritants.

If your nose runs during or after eating, it could be caused by a food allergy. However, a runny nose is usually only one out of the several symptoms of food allergies. You are likely to experience more nasal congestion as well as other symptoms if you experience food allergies.

Alongside a runny nose, the other common symptoms associated with food allergies include:

  • Coughing
  • Dizziness
  • Hives
  • Rashes
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling
  • Wheezing

Here is something that can help you narrow down what’s causing your nose to run when you eat. Food allergy is not likely the cause of your runny nose if that is the only symptom you have.

Non-allergic Rhinitis

You are likely experiencing non-allergic rhinitis when an irritant enters your nose. Examples are cigarette smoke or certain foods, causes you to have a runny nose. In other words, non-allergic rhinitis is the general term for a runny nose not caused by an immune system response.

Non-allergic rhinitis is usually a diagnosis of exclusion. That means the possibility of experiencing a runny nose due to an allergy is ruled out.

Some of the common triggers for non-allergic rhinitis include:

  • Inhaling smoke (especially cigarette smoke)
  • Low humidity
  • Whether changes (especially during extreme temperatures)
  • Irritating smells
  • Certain foods

Gustatory Rhinitis

If you find yourself sniffing after eating spicy food, it is due to gustatory rhinitis. This is the most common type of non-allergic rhinitis, which can be experienced by just about anyone.

The trigger for gustatory rhinitis is usually spicy foods. Studies show that spicy foods stimulate the trigeminal sensory nerve, causing the nose to run. Almost anyone can experience gustatory rhinitis. It is most common among older adults.

Sniffing is the most common symptom of gustatory rhinitis. It can also expand to include watery eyes and sneezing in some cases. Postnasal drip and having more phlegm in your throat than usual can also be symptoms of gustatory rhinitis. However, there is no itching involved.

The symptoms will usually go away themselves after a few minutes after eating the spicy food. Some of the common spicy foods that can cause runny nose are:

  • Chili powder
  • Curry
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Hot peppers
  • Hot sauce
  • Natural spices
  • Salsa

Vasomotor Rhinitis

Vasomotor rhinitis is another non-allergic rhinitis that is usually the culprit when most other causes have been ruled out.

Vasomotor rhinitis has to do with the widening and shrinking of blood vessels. This results in symptoms, such as coughing, throat clearing, and postnasal drip.

In many cases commonplace irritants that don’t bother most people can trigger vasomotor rhinitis in some individuals. These triggers include:

  • Air pollution
  • Smells of paint
  • Scents or perfumes
  • Cooking odors
  • Dust
  • Temperature changes (especially cold weather)
  • Emotional stress

Mixed Rhinitis

It is possible to experience both non-allergic and allergic rhinitis – this is known as mixed rhinitis.

As you may have figured out, mixed rhinitis can continue all year round. It can even grow worse during certain times of the year. This is common when pollens and other airborne substances can increase allergic reactions.

This means a person with mixed rhinitis can experience a runny nose, regardless of what they eat and no matter the time of year. In addition to constant runny nose, other symptoms of mixed rhinitis can include sneezing, watery or bloodshot eyes, itchiness around the nose and eyes, and chronic nasal congestion.

Who is at Risk of Rhinitis?

Involuntarily sniffing after eating a particularly spicy meal can help you clear your sinus. Some people are at greater risk of experiencing a runny nose, regardless of what they eat.

Persons with a family history of allergic diseases, such as eczema, hay fever, and asthma, have a higher chance of experiencing allergic rhinitis.

On the other hand, individuals who are often exposed to secondhand smoke, dust, and other environmental irritants are at a higher risk of experiencing non-allergic rhinitis.

Also, the chances of experiencing vasomotor rhinitis are higher for people with a broken nose. Also, those that experienced nasal trauma in the past.

Lifestyle Changes Can Prevent Runny Nose

If your nose runs when you eat, it is a good idea to consider a few lifestyle changes. Try and do this first before attempting to treat the symptoms using any OTC medication.

Prevention is always better and usually cheaper than cure. For this reason, you should consider making a few lifestyle changes that can prevent a runny nose. This is advisable especially if the problem is caused by non-allergic rhinitis.

  1. Avoid certain types of foods: Spicy foods, such as hot sauce, hot peppers, chili powder, and ginger, can trigger gustatory rhinitis. Avoid them completely if you can. Also, you can tone down the spice you add to your foods.
  2. Single out personal triggers and avoid them. For some people, a food-related runny nose is not about eating spicy foods. Instead, it is more about sensitivity to certain foods.

If this is you, starting a food diary can help you single out the cause of your symptoms. Logging what you eat and the symptoms that show up afterward can help you isolate your personal triggers.

Sometimes, it may not be possible to find a clear pattern using a food diary. Consider eliminating the common culprits for food sensitivities if that’s the case. Introduce them again, but do so one at a time to help you identify the most likely cause of the problem.

Common food sensitivities include:

  • Dairy products (butter, yogurt, milk, cheese, ice cream)
  • Peanuts
  • Eggs
  • Shellfish (clams, shrimp, oysters, crabs)
  • Gluten (barley, rye, wheat)
  • Corn
  • Soy
  • Coffee
  • Lamb, pork, beef
  1. Use fragrance-free products. Products with fragrances can also trigger nasal irritation for many people. Consider switching to fragrance-free soaps, moisturizers, hair products, and detergents.
  2. Avoid occupational triggers: Sample triggers are:
  • Wearing a mask while working,
  • Working in construction sites, and
  • Working where you are exposed to painting can cause nasal irritation.
  1. Avoid smokes: Consider quitting if you smoke. Smoking can be a tough habit to give up but it is worth giving it a shot. Bear in mind that doing so can improve your health.

Even if you don’t smoke, you can still suffer from the negative effects of passive smoking if you are exposed to it. Passive smoking refers to inhaling the smoke breathed out by smokers. It is also linked with smoke from the burning end of a cigarette.

If you don’t smoke, it can be helpful to stay away from where people smoke. As a result, avoid bars, recreational areas, and restaurants.

Treatment Options

A runny nose won’t kill you but it can be very uncomfortable, embarrassing, and can negatively affect the quality of your life. For this reason, it is crucial to find ways to manage or treat the condition.

But there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for rhinitis. You need to trace the root cause to find out the most effective treatment. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as oral decongestants and nasal sprays can be effective for different causes of a runny nose. However, it is usually best to consult a doctor first to determine possible side effects and drug interactions.

Here are some suggested treatment options for the different causes of a runny nose:

For Food-Related Causes

If you suspect that you have a food allergy and part of the symptoms is a runny nose, it is best to avoid the specific trigger food. Also, allergy medications can provide relief and treat the condition.

For Allergic Rhinitis-Related Causes

There are several OTC medications that can treat a runny nose. This is true of the ones caused by environmental and household allergies. These include probiotics and antihistamines. Honey is also good medicine for treating allergies.

For Gustatory Rhinitis-Related Causes

Avoiding or limiting spicy foods can help relieve the symptoms of gustatory rhinitis. Also, it may help to add milk, fat, or other dairy foods to your meals, especially if you plan to eat something spicy.

For mixed rhinitis-related causes

You can use medications that target nasal congestion and inflammation. They are great for treating a runny nose caused by mixed rhinitis. These medications include:

  • Capsaicin nasal spray
  • Oral decongestants
  • Nasal decongestants
  • Topical anticholinergic agents
  • Anticholinergic nasal sprays

Keep in mind that some oral decongestants may result in unpleasant side effects. As a result, be sure to speak to your doctor before using one.

It is also important to understand that treating symptoms can make it tricky to figure out the exact cause of your runny nose. The condition can be embarrassing and even uncomfortable. So, it is usually a good idea to endure the suffering for a while longer to enable you to identify your triggers.


A runny nose when you eat can be a result of an allergy. Also, it could be unconnected to allergies in some cases. Rhinorrhea or rhinitis is usually not a serious or life-threatening condition. The symptoms can affect your quality of life in negative and severe cases.

Also, figuring out the best treatment for a food-related runny nose depends on the cause. You might get immediate relief by using a decongestant. Long-term relief can take a while. You might even need to seek help from your healthcare provider.

In any case, it is always a good idea to talk with your doctor before using OTC medications. This is necessary if you are taking prescription medications. You want to avoid possible drug interactions.



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