Sneezing is a reflex that is usually hard to suppress! If irritants — such as bacteria, viruses, dust, pollen, animal hairs, or pollutants, accumulate in the nose lining, the brain sends out a nerve signal to eliminate them. This triggers a deep breath, which gets held in the lungs, the chest muscles tighten and pressure builds in the chest cavity. The tongue pushes against the roof of the mouth, forcing the air in the lungs to come out fast through the nose — Achoo, a big sneeze ensues!

The neural regions involved in the sneeze reflex are located in the brainstem and the sneeze reflex involves contraction of a number of different muscles throughout the body, even the eyelids which suddenly close.

Things that can cause us to sneeze include-

  • Irritating foreign particles in the nose
  • Allergies to many environmental substances
  • Viral infection causing a cold or flu
  • Sudden exposure to bright light and this is known as “photic sneeze reflex”. The reflex to sneeze upon exposure to bright light is inherited (via an autosomal dominant gene) and is not uncommon affecting 18-35% of the human population.
  • Fullness of the stomach immediately after eating a large meal. This is inherited via an autosomal dominant gene. If you are at a dinner party your host may think you are allergic to their meal!
  • The initial phases of sexual arousal. It is thought this is due to crossed wires in the autonomic nervous system, which regulates arousing the genital organs during arousal. The nose, like the genitals, contains erectile tissue.

Very allergic people are known as “atopic individuals” and find their excessive sneezing anti-social and annoying, especially if it is associated with a lot of fluid coming from the nose and an itchy throat. These symptoms may precede an attack of asthma. Atopic people release excess amounts of histamine from certain types of cells known as mast cells and the histamine causes the sneezing and mucus congestion. This may be associated with red itchy swollen eyes caused by the high histamine levels.

Anti-histamine drugs can prevent the release of the histamine and the sneezing and other allergy symptoms.

Natural supplements to reduce excess allergies and sneezing include vitamin C, selenium and NAC (N-Acetyl-Cysteine). Garlic and horseradish capsules can reduce excess mucus in the nose and sinuses. Improving your liver function with a good liver formula can reduce excess allergies which are a sign of a dysfunctional immune system.