Join

Enter Details

Comment on stories, receive email newsletters & alerts.

@
This is your permanent identity for Business Insider Australia
Your email must be valid for account activation
Minimum of 8 standard keyboard characters

Subscribe

Email newsletters but will contain a brief summary of our top stories and news alerts.

Forgotten Password

Enter Details


Back to log in

What happens to your brain and body when you eat a hot pepper

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.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.