Eating chocolate or thinking about sex: strange things that make us sneeze

That there is a relationship between chocolate and sex is something that more than once we have heard or read in some medium, even of a scientific nature.

And so it seems to be: the frequency of consumption of this food is a good predictor of interest in sex, especially in women. But beware, in a negative sense: women who eat more of the former are less interested in the latter.

The explanation may be that chocolate contains phenylethylamine, a molecule that stimulates the production of serotonin and dopamine and thus generates a sensation of pleasure in our brain.

But this is not the only relationship between activities that are a priori so different. They also have sneezing in common, as there are people who sneeze when they think about sex or eating chocolate.

why do we sneeze

Sneezing is a physiological reaction that acts as a defense mechanism. It is due to irritation of the mucous membranes of the nose or throat and occurs for many different reasons. The most common reasons are cold or flu viruses, pollen, dust and pollution.

But we can also sneeze for other reasons that, although they seem rarer, are not so rare. Thus, sunlight, some foods (such as chocolate), certain medications, strong emotions and sex are also a reason for sneezing.

By the way: about 20% of the population misses one when their noses are picked for covid. And it is important to take this into account so that health personnel and family members are prepared for a good spill that could contain viruses.

The photic sneeze

Photic sneeze syndrome is a genetically based (autosomal dominant) condition that has been studied for decades. It also occurs in a fifth of the population, who sneeze when the eye is exposed to sudden bright light, such as the sun coming out of a dimly lit space.

Although the mechanism by which this reaction is triggered is not yet known in detail, the main hypotheses point to the cross-activation of nerve pathways. In other words: that the cables are crossed.

For example, and without going into detail, one of the hypotheses indicates that bright and sudden light excessively activates, through the retina, the optic nerve pathways, excess information that crosses the trigeminal pathways and generates the sensations that cause sneezing.

Those cross Roads They are also implicated in other disorders such as migraine and those derived from psychological stress. That is why it has not been a surprise to detect that people with photic sneeze syndrome suffer more from these disorders.

Sex and… ach!

A 2008 scientific review paper described what the authors noted as “a curious response in some individuals: sneezing when thinking about sex or in response to orgasm.” In it they comment on cases, already studied since the end of the 19th century, such as those of Wilhelm Fliess, a young otorhinolaryngologist friend of Freud who called this phenomenon “nasal reflex neurosis”.

Here, the causative mechanism seems to be a summation effect on the parasympathetic nervous system, a hypothesis also taken into account to explain the photic effect. Just as parasympathetic stimulation leads to venous dilation and thus tumescence of the penis and clitoris, the summation effect of nerve activation in these people can cause secretions and irritation in the nose that lead to sneezing.

chocolate and neanderthal sneeze

We have only found the relationship between chocolate, sneezing and Neanderthals published in a blog on genetics. So, for our part, we want to point out that it is not verified and has not been subjected to external review as a usual scientific procedure, but we find it interesting to include it.

Said publication indicates that between 20-30% of the population sneezes when they eat dark chocolate with a percentage of cocoa greater than 70%. These people are associated with a genetic variation that comes from Neanderthals. There are also those who have inherited from this species characters such as red hair or a greater capacity for fertilization.

The author of the blog article points out that the responsible mechanism is the stimulation of the trigeminal nerve. In this case it is assumed that some component of pure cocoa irritates the nasal mucosa.

In one of his greguerías, Ramón Gómez de la Serna says that “the sparks are sneezes of Satan”. Who knows if he already associated the sneeze with sex and gluttony.

And watch out when you sneeze, they can ask you what you’re thinking. Health!

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