Pizza contains several ingredients that might cause sore throat. High-fat cheese, tomato, gluten are all possible triggers.
Food allergies and acid reflux are the most common culprits.
Why does pizza cause a sore throat?
Depending on the underlying condition, throat discomfort after pizza intake might manifest in several forms: itchy, scratchy, burning, or painful throat are all possible symptoms.
More often than not, there is an underlying medical problem behind the symptoms. These are the more common triggers of sore throat after eating pizza:
- acid reflux
- food allergies
- sensitivity to tomatoes
- sensitivity to spices
- other trigger foods or drinks (e.g. soda)
GERD and throat pain after eating pizza
Those who suffer from acid reflux or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease, more than two acid reflux episodes per week) often experience sore throat after pizza intake.
Pizza contains a lot of ingredients that are common acid reflux triggers:
- High-fat cheese and meat: High-fat meals have been shown to trigger acid reflux.
- Tomato: Tomato is very acidic and a common acid reflux trigger.
- Carbs: This study found that a high carbohydrate diet makes acid reflux more likely.
- Salt: Even though it is still debated, salt also might be an acid reflux trigger.
How does acid reflux trigger throat pain?
During an acid reflux episode, the highly acidic stomach content seeps up into the esophagus and usually irritates the lining of the food pipe, causing a burning sensation around the middle of the chest, called heartburn.
However, in many cases, digestive juices can travel all the way up to the throat and voice box causing throat irritation or a burning throat.
People suffering from this type of reflux disease often don’t experience chest pain at all, therefore it is often called silent reflux.
Some other typical symptoms that indicate silent reflux:
- phlegm and mucus in the throat
- lump in throat
- a sour taste in the mouth
How to relieve reflux-related sore throat?
Preventing throat pain is the best thing you can do. These tips might help:
- use low-fat cheese (e.g. from goat milk)
- a thin crust from whole grain flour helps to relieve symptoms caused by carbs
- substitute tomato sauce with white cream or olive oil
Those who are experiencing symptoms might try small sips of water or chewing gum to flush acids back into the stomach.
Food allergies and throat pain after pizza
Another possible reason for throat issues is an allergic reaction to one of the ingredients of pizza.
Most types of pizza contain several common allergens:
- milk (casein)
The toppings might also contain allergens, e.g. eggs.
Allergic reactions usually have different symptoms than reflux:
- runny nose
- coughing, sneezing
- swollen nasal passages
- throat irritation
On rare occasions, food allergy symptoms can be very severe (e.g. anaphylaxis) and may require immediate help.
How to relieve allergy-related throat pain?
The single best thing you can do is to avoid the ingredient you are allergic to.
Sometimes the body might tolerate small amounts, especially if the food is cooked, but it’s better not to risk it.
If you think you are allergic to an ingredient in pizza, stop eating it and talk to an allergist and get yourself tested.
Esophagitis is the inflammation of the esophagus. Prolonged exposure of the esophageal lining to gastric acids (untreated acid reflux) might result in esophagitis.
Sore throat, lump in the throat are possible symptoms of this condition. Other symptoms are:
- chest pain when swallowing
- nausea, vomiting
Acid reflux sufferrers should handle their condition either via medication or lifestyle changes (or both), as stomach acid can cause ulcers, scar tissue, and erosion in the esophagus.
Tomato and sore throat
Most pizzas contain a lot of tomato sauce. This can cause throat problems – e.g. itchy throat or burning throat – for two main reasons:
- Tomato is acidic, which might irritate the throat. Those who have an existing health issue in their throat (e.g. erosion caused by reflux) are more at risk.
- Tomato is a known histamine releaser, which means it can cause allergy symptoms. Swollen or itchy throat is a common example.
Pizza toppings may contain different spices. A study about the health applications of capsaicin (the compound that makes spices spicy) found:
Other folk medicinal applications include treatments of cough, sore throat, tonsillitis, gastric ulcers, backache, cholera, gout, water retention, rheumatism, cramps, diarrhoea, dyspepsia and toothache, appetite stimulation, and hair growth restoration(source)
While capsaicin is unlikely to be effective for all of the above-mentioned problems, it does show that certain spices might soothe a sore throat for some people. However, spices can also make things worse!
Is pizza the culprit?
Sometimes a sore throat can be caused by some other food or drink and has nothing to do with the pizza.
Soda is also a common trigger. Many people drink a large glass of coke while eating pizza. Sugar and sugary drinks are also common triggers of sore throat.
Can you eat pizza with a sore throat?
Even though you can eat pizza with a sore – it is unlikely to severely affect your throat – it is generally not recommended, as it might make things worse:
- The rough crust might irritate a sore throat.
- The acidic ingredients (e.g. tomato) can also cause irritation.
- Some spices might also irritate a sore throat.
How to avoid a sore throat when eating pizza?
If a food allergy is the cause, avoiding the ingredient that triggers the allergic reaction is the only way to get rid of the symptoms.
However, if acid reflux is the trigger, a pizza with healthy ingredients is less likely to cause problems.
The best pizza for acid reflux:
- has a thin crust from whole grain
- no tomato sauce, use white cream or olive oil instead
- use heartburn-friendly toppings, like carrot or spinach, avoid red meat and onions
If you are regularly experiencing sore throat after eating pizza, it is important to go to a doctor to diagnose any potential underlying medical issue.
The most common triggers are food allergy and acid reflux.
In case of food allergy, you need to avoid the ingredient that causes the allergy.
If reflux is the trigger, you can experiment with different toppings and sauces to see if there is a combination that doesn’t cause symptoms.