Why Sweat With Chili


| 6 Comments

I thought about writing this post when I started to think about why we sweat when we eat spicy foods. What reflex or what reaction causes our bodies to have to sweat almost like we just ran a mile outside. In order to find the answer to this question I wanted to look at a few articles that could explain this very strange phenomenon.

I decided to start with the article "Why is it that eating spicy, "hot" food causes the same physical reactions as does physical heat (burning and sweating, for instance)?". The article decided to 

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 ask Barry Green of John B. Pierce Laboratory, who replied that, "The answer hinges on the fact that spicy foods excite the receptors in the skin that normally respond to heat. Those receptors are pain fibers, technically known as polymodal nociceptors. He goes on to say that the "central nervous system can be confused or fooled when these pain fibers are stimulated by a chemical". So essentially what is happening is that the chili peppers or the spicy food that is being eaten is releasing chemicals that are tricking the central nervous system. I was very curious then to find out what kind of chemical can fool these pain fibers.

To answer this I decided to look at the article "Why Do People Sweat When They Eat Spicy Foods?" by Jacques Courseault. The article states that the spicy foods like the chili peppers have a chemical in them known as capsaicin. This chemical causes the body to be tricked into respond as if it were in a hot environment (Courseault). So the body is essentially responding as if it were in a hot environment because your central nervous system is tricked into thinking that it is because of the chemical capsaicin.

           Still curious to know about this plant I decided to dig deeper and find out about this chemical.

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 Capsaicin is located in large quantities around the seeds but is actually produced in the seeds of the peppers. Capsaicin is thought to be made by plants to try to prevent fungi and herbivores from eating the plant. Pure capsaicin is also colorless, odorless, and crystalline to waxy compound (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capsaicin).

           So the plants are releasing things to stop herbivores, or omnivores like humans from eating their seeds by producing capsaicin. Humans however, like the taste of the spicy plants, or foods that have capsaicin in them. When we eat them our nerves get hit by the chemical reaction caused by the plants that signals our brains to act like we are getting heat-related pain. The brain then reacts to that heat related pain by sweating.



6 Comments

Very interesting. I eat a lot of spicy foods and I come from a hispanic background. All of this makes complete sense and I dont know why its something I never researched before even outside of this class. The one question I have is, if you are one of these people that enjoys this food regardless of the sweating/heat, is there anything that can be added to the food that will counter act with the spicy foods and prevent you from sweating?

This blog brings up an interesting topic that I hadn't given a lot of thought to. I love spicy food so it's cool to learn what makes it so hot. One thing you didn't touch upon in this blog (but maybe another?) are the health benefits of eating spicy foods. I did some research of my own because I've heard of this before. I thought it would be interesting to share this link from Self.com that discusses the benefits in more depth. The benefits of eating spicy foods range from weight loss to heart health! It even helps lower cholesterol! Next meal I eat I'm definitely going for some spicy foods!

When I was researching information for my blog about nightmares and night terrors, one source had mentioned that if you eat spicy food before you go to bed, you're more likely to have a bad dream. The spicy food raises body temperature which, in turn, gives a person a poorer sleep quality.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1399758?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

I chose to comment on this article because I just ate jalapenos on my salad for dinner this evening! I always wondered the same thing- your response was very thorough and well-written.

Likewise, I wondered what made my eyes water sometimes when I eat something really spicy or when someone cuts an onion. I was able to find an short video clip on Discovery News that explained this pretty well. You can view the video below.

Basically, the idea is that, whenever you cut something that's spicy, the molecules that actually make it spicy on your tongue can be released into the air and land on areas of your body (such as your eyes!) that are not used to that sensation. They talk about how one of the most common chemicals found in peppers that make them spicy is capsaicin, like you mentioned in your post!

In addition to this, I feel like hot peppers always make me hiccup. I tried to find a good source that would explain this, but unfortunately I couldn't find anything I'd considerable credible. If anyone finds this out, comment about it because I'm curious!

Oh, here's the video I was talking about!

http://news.discovery.com/videos/why-tell-me-why-spicy-food.html

I grew up in a Jamaican household so spicy food was always a part of life. While the majority of my family loves spicy food and have built quite a tolerance for many of the not so appealing side effects of eating spicy foods, there are a few members of my family who cannot handle spice at all. So I'm wondering if there is any reason behind why some people enjoy spicy foods more than others Also is there a way to really build up tolerance to the effects such as the burning sensation and sweating while still enjoying all the positive effects spicy foods have on the body?

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