We all know spicy food makes your tongue tingle and burn — but it also does a whole lot more.
In this article, we will answer this question: what are the effects of spicy food on our body and brain?
Read on to find out!
Spicy food and your brain
Spicy food has surprising effects on your brain. It causes the painful feeling of burning in your mouth — but did you know that it also triggers pleasure in your brain? Here’s what happens when you eat something spicy:
Capsaicin binds to pain receptors
Capsaicin, the compound that gives chili peppers their heat, has been shown to help relieve pain by temporarily desensitizing nerve endings. This effect is thought to be due to capsaicin’s ability to bind to a protein known as TRPV1, which is found on the surface of nerve cells.
When capsaicin binds to TRPV1, it causes the protein to change shape, triggering a series of events that ultimately leads to the release of pain-relieving molecules. In addition, capsaicin is also thought to affect the brain in a way that reduces the perception of pain. While more research is needed to confirm these effects, the evidence so far suggests that capsaicin may be an effective natural pain reliever.
Note: Some types of spicy food don’t contain significant amounts of capsaicin, like cinnamon and wasabi. Other chemical compounds, like allyl isothiocyanate, cinnamaldehyde, and eugenol have different effects on the brain and body than capsaicin.
Your brain releases endorphins and dopamine
Spicy food has long been enjoyed for its ability to add excitement and flavor to meals. When you eat spicy food, your body releases endorphins and dopamine, two chemicals that are known to boost mood and increase feelings of pleasure.
Some research suggests that the release of these chemicals may be even more intense than that experienced during sex or exercise. So next time you’re feeling down, reach for the spice rack and add a little heat to your meal. You just might find that it does more than flavor your food – it can actually improve your mood as well.
Spicy food and your body
In addition to making your mouth feel painful, spicy food can also have physiological effects.
You get a runny nose
Spicy food can cause a runny nose, right? It’s a common belief that eating spicy food can lead to a runny nose. But is there any truth to this claim? Let’s take a closer look at the science behind it. When you eat spicy food, your body responds by releasing histamine. Histamine is a chemical that helps to regulate the immune system. In small amounts, histamine is harmless.
However, when large amounts are released, it can cause inflammation and other unpleasant symptoms. One of these symptoms is a runny nose. So, if you’re prone to sinus infections or hay fever, you may want to avoid spicy food. However, if you don’t have any allergies, there’s no need to steer clear of chili peppers and other spices. In fact, some research suggests that eating spicy food can help to clear congestion and improve respiratory function. So go ahead and enjoy that hot sauce – just be prepared for a possible runny nose!
You start to sweat
Spicy food can cause sweating because of the impact it has on your body. When you eat spicy food, your body temperature rises and your blood vessels open up. This increase in blood flow causes you to sweat as your body tries to regulate its temperature. In addition, spicy food can stimulate the release of stress hormones, which can also lead to sweating.
While some people enjoy the feeling of sweating after eating spicy food, others find it to be uncomfortable. If you find that spicy food causes you to sweat excessively, you may want to limit your intake or avoid it altogether. However, moderate amounts of spicy food can be beneficial for your health, so don’t be afraid to spice up your life!
The effects of spicy food on the brain and body are still being explored, but it is clear that this type of cuisine can have a big impact on your brain and body. From pain to pleasure, to sweat and snot, adding some spice to your life can make you feel amazing and terrible all at once.
- Smith, M. (2018, April 13). Can What You Eat Make You Sweat? WebMD; WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/sweat-how-food-affects#:~:text=The%20most%20common%20reason%20people,to%20cool%20it%20back%20down.
- Tapsell, L. C., Hemphill, I., Cobiac, L., Sullivan, D. R., Fenech, M., Patch, C. S., Roodenrys, S., Keogh, J. B., Clifton, P. M., Williams, P. G., Fazio, V. A., & Inge, K. E. (2006). Health benefits of herbs and spices: the past, the present, the future. Medical Journal of Australia, 185(S4). https://doi.org/10.5694/j.1326-5377.2006.tb00548.x