Why is spicy food hot?

Hot peppers trick your brain into thinking your mouth is on fire. But there's no real heat in a pepper. So, what's going on?

Why is spicy food hot?

Hot peppers trick your brain into thinking your mouth is on fire. But there's no real heat in a pepper. So, what's going on?

13 October 2017 Friday 15:00
Why is spicy food hot?

What happens to your brain & body when you eat spicy food.

Hot peppers trick your brain into thinking your mouth is on fire. But there's no real heat in a pepper. So, what's going on?

It's all about a chemical compound in peppers called capsaicin. Capsaicin binds to pain receptors on our nerves called TRPV1.

Normally, it reacts to heat by sending warning signals to the brain. Capsaicin causes TRPV1 to send those same signals. So, you react as if there's something hot in your mouth.

Your body tries to cool itself off. So, you start to sweat and your face turns red. At the same time, your eyes tear up and nose runs. This is your body's way of removing the "threat".

After swallowing, the capsaicin binds to more receptors on its way down.

In severe cases, you may develop blisters in the throat, vomit, and even go into anaphylactic shock.

So, why do so many people enjoy spicy food?

In response to the pain, your brain releases endorphins and dopamine. Combined, these chemicals create euphoria similar to "runner's high".

Ultimately, your response to spicy food depends on your tolerance. So, if you're the type who cries over a jalapeño, don't sweat too much.

You can build up a tolerance over time with practice.

Updated: 13.10.2017 15:19
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