Eating sweets might trigger a sore throat for several reasons. Reflux, food allergy, high blood sugar, dehydration, and chemicals/preservatives are the most common causes.
Can sweets cause sore throat?
The most common causes of sore throat after eating sweets are:
- bacterial infection
- food allergy
- throat irritation by stomach acid (reflux)
- irritation by chemicals and preservatives in sweets
Sweets, sore throat & bacteria
Our digestive tract is flooded with microorganisms – like bacteria. When there is excessive sugar in the blood or tissues, it encourages the growth of bacteria that can cause recurrent throat infections, irritation, and sore throat.
Too much sugar dampens the body’s immune system, which predisposes to bacterial infection causing a sore throat.
Sweets and food allergy
Sore, burning, or itchy throat right after eating sweets can be an allergic reaction.
- runny nose
- itchy skin
However, symptoms can get more severe, like shortness of breath or anaphylaxis, which requires immediate medical help.
Allergy to sugar is rare if it exists at all. Chances are some other ingredients in the sweets (e.g. milk, gluten, nuts) are causing the symptoms.
Sweets and silent reflux
A sore throat after eating carbs can be a symptom of silent reflux. During silent reflux episodes, stomach acids seep up, through the esophagus, into the throat, and the back of the mouth.
Other common symptoms are:
- phlegm after eating
- sour taste in the mouth
- throat congestion
- constant clearing of the throat
Chemicals and preservatives in sweets
A sore throat after eating highly processed foods – like chocolates, brownies, cookies, etc. – might be an adverse reaction to certain chemicals:
- artificial sweeteners (e.g. aspartame)
Many sweets contain a wide variety of ingredients that can cause throat irritation.
People with asthma are more at risk.
Can too much sugar cause a sore throat?
Yes, too much sugar can raise blood sugar levels. This can cause throat problems in two ways:
- Too much sugar compromises the immune system, making bacterial infection more likely.
- Eating too many sweets can also lead to dehydration and cause strep throat.
People suffering from diabetes are especially at risk of experiencing throat pain after sweets intake.
Dry throat after too many sweets
Too much sugar raises the glucose level in the blood or tissues. High blood glucose levels (diabetes mellitus) are associated with:
- polyuria (excessive urination)
A high level of glucose imbalances the level of solutes and solvents in the body, resulting in dehydration. This dehydration leads to dry throat and mouth.
Mucus in the throat after eating sugar
Eating candies might trigger excessive mucus production as a result of an inflammatory response caused by sugar.
Most sweets – candies, cookies, chocolates, brownies, pastries, etc. – contain high amounts of refined sugar.
The ingestion of too much refined sugar increases the risk of sinus inflammation, which might cause too much mucus production, throat pain, and other symptoms.
Scratchy throat after eating chocolate
Besides sugar, chocolate contains cocoa powder that is acidic, which further increases the risk of throat pain after eating chocolate.
Cocoa induces the excessive release of serotonin, which relaxes the esophageal muscle resulting in acidic contents flushing back from the stomach to the esophagus. This causes a scratchy or burning sensation in the throat.
Researchers found that serotonin-blockers might be an effective remedy for those who have symptoms after eating chocolate.
Chocolate also contains methylxanthine, which causes relaxation of the esophageal sphincter, allowing digestive juices to creep back up into the esophagus or even the throat and the mouth.
Another possible culprit is a food allergy. Allergy to either chocolate or its constituents can induce the immune system, which causes inflammation, resulting in an itchy throat.
Dark chocolate vs and milk chocolate
Dark chocolates are rich in cocoa and contain a high level of theobromine. Both are possible triggers of various symptoms, like heartburn or sore throat.
On the other hand, milk chocolates contain less cocoa, but more sugar, and milk gives a creamy consistency.
Depending on which ingredient you are sensitive to, you might have symptoms only after eating milk or dark chocolate, or both.
Best remedies for sore throat after eating sweets
Depending on the trigger, small sips of water, sugar-free chewing gum, or herbal teas might be great natural remedies for throat pain caused by sweets.
Sore throat after eating sweets should be treated systematically by knowing the exact cause:
- Food allergy: It is mandatory to avoid trigger foods because they may lead to moderate to severe life-threatening outcomes, e.g., anaphylaxis.
- Silent reflux: A chewing gum or small amounts of water, ginger, or chamomile tea can help to flush back digestive juices into the stomach.
- Inflammation: You might need to take medications, but natural remedies, e.g. chamomile tea, might also help.
- Dehydration: Again, some water or herbal teas can relieve the symptoms.
Sugar is a flavoring agent used for sweetening many foods. Small amounts of sugar usually cause no symptoms, but regular sugar intake in high doses affects your health system.
Food allergies, reflux, infection, and dehydration are all possible causes of a sore throat after eating sweets.
Try to avoid consuming sweets containing hidden sugar – also called added sugar -, especially if you have diabetes.
If you experience a sore throat after eating certain sweets, some water, herbal teas, or even chewing gum might be a good remedy.
Frequently asked questions
As mentioned above, sugar inhibits the proper functioning of the immune system and promotes the growth of bad bacteria. Therefore it is recommended to steer clear of sugar if you have a sore throat
Mucus production by the gland is under the control of vagal nerves. Sugar stimulates the vagus nerve endings, which might trigger phlegm production and postnasal drip (excessive mucus behind the nose and throat).
After eating too many sweets, you may feel soreness, itching, and a burning sensation in your throat. This might be a simple irritation caused by the acidic environment these foods create.
However, if you are regularly experiencing symptoms in your throat after eating sweets, you should talk to your doctor to get a proper diagnosis.
Experiencing chest pain after eating chocolate is most likely caused by acid reflux. Chocolate is a known heartburn trigger as it contains many ingredients (fat, sugar, serotonin, etc.) that might alleviate GERD symptoms.