How to keep your mouth from burning when you eat spicy foods

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We’ve all experienced it: Thinking that you can take the heat of a spicy dish and then realize, to your horror and to the amusement of your friends, that your mouth has become a hell of a fire which, like hiccups, seems endless but really only lasts a few minutes.

Why do spicy foods taste hot?

As almost everyone now knows, the “hot” of hot food comes from capsaicinoids, a non-nutritive chemical that our brains interpret as heat or, in excess, even pain. Critically, we don’t ‘taste’ capsaicinoids with our taste buds, the receptors on our tongue and in our mouth that light up when they sense one or more of the five basic tastes – sweet, sour, salty, bitter. and umami. Instead, the sting sounds the alarm directly in nerve endings which are pretty much everywhere on our bodies to a greater or lesser degree, not just our tongues. This is part of what is called common chemical sense.

Related: Dinner recipes for when you crave something spicy

“If you put sugar on your skin, you are not going to feel sweet, but rather than having specialized receptors or cells, the spiciness triggers common receptors in the body at the ends of sensory nerve endings.” says Danielle Reed, associate director of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia and a renowned researcher in the science of taste who is currently conducting a study to see if capsaicin sensitivity could be genetic. “So if you put a chilli on your eye – and you should do not do this – you will have a burning sensation. “

It also explains why, even long after what your nerves interpret as the heat has calmed down in your mouth, you’re likely to see that “warmth” again from one particularly spicy meal to, uh, on the other end. “The mucous membranes in particular – not to be indelicate, but they call it ‘the double-biting burn’ – have much more accessible sensory nerve fibers,” Reed says.

Our reaction to capsaicin is a clue as to why the spiciness exists. Birds, unlike us mammals, do not perceive capsaicin as heat, so a main theory is that plants evolved so that birds could still eat the fruit (chili) of the plant and propagate its seeds throughout. by deterring mammals from eating and damaging the plant itself. The way the pungency works in humans also provides a disturbing clue to the devastation COVID-19 could be having on our physiology. It is well known that one of the telltale symptoms of COVID is loss of smell and taste, but many people with the condition have also completely lost their ability to feel the heat of capsaicinoids – which means the virus can fundamentally alter our nerve endings.

So, if our nerve endings are basically telling us to avoid capsaicin, why, exactly, have humans been eating chili peppers for almost 10,000 years? “Humans are evil,” says food science author Harold McGee. “So sometimes we can take pleasure in pain – a roller coaster ride is an example of something that is frightening but safe. We can enjoy a fundamentally unpleasant sensation for itself, and bodies can respond to it by emitting chemicals that alleviate the unpleasant feeling. you can feel great afterwards. “

How do you stop burning spicy foods?

We’re just going to give you the bad news ahead of time: there is no magic potion that is going to put out that five-alarm fire raging between your tonsils.

“The fundamental problem is that by the time we feel the pain, the compounds have already entered inside of us, so the idea that you can rinse them off immediately just doesn’t work in practice,” says McGee.

Don’t you think so? Sadly, scholarly scientist Reed agrees. “I know there are many home remedies out there, but I don’t know of any scientific principle that will get you out,” she says.

Milk and other dairy products

The most commonly adopted home remedy is the consumption of dairy products because they contain proteins called caseins that bind perfectly to capsaicinoids, preventing any capsaicin that is not already hooked to a receptor from clinging, washing it down. safely now neutralized compounds in your esophagus instead. . Many foodies have suggested that whole milk is better than skim milk for this purpose.

“In practice, you can rinse the reinforcements that would prolong the sensation, [though] you’re not going to tone down what you’re already feeling, “McGee says.” Fat, including milk, will tend to pick up parasitic molecules in our mouths. “

Bread, honey and other distractions

Many other commonly heard antidotes for spicy foods are basically just distractions, including bread or honey. “It’s possible that the bread is a solid, so you chew it and generate all kinds of other tactile sensations that distract you from the pain,” McGee says. “Like what happens with bread, the sweetness is a distraction, and so your brain distributes the attention it can give to things.”

Ice cubes

For the most immediate relief from the spicy heat, McGee suggested literally cooling things down, even though the “warmth” you feel from a chili isn’t really related to temperature. “The effect of temperature is probably the fastest way to solve the problem,” he says. “Take an ice cube from your drink and suck it.”

How to make spicy foods less spicy Before Do you eat them?

It goes without saying that if you want your food to be sweet, go easy with the chili peppers. But we’ve all made mistakes, like misjudging a recipe or forgetting that when it comes to peppers, it’s the smaller, younger ones that are spicier than the bigger and older ones.

Like to stop the burn in the mouth after you ate spicy, there are many widely accepted but not scientifically proven techniques to tone down a spicy dish, such as adding honey. But the only guaranteed method is to dilute it, which means you may need to double (or more) every ingredient in your recipe except the chilies.

Another approach is to have something on hand to coat your mouth so that you can prevent the capsaicin from hitting these nerve endings. “Especially something like sour cream, which is fatty, will absorb this substance and coat your tongue to make things difficult,” McGee says.

But if you’re determined to never, ever repeat anything from a distance like this time you ate a Naga Viper on a challenge and maybe blew your mind. real vapor out of your ears there is only one rule that 100% guarantees your safety: there is nothing wrong with ordering grilled cheese.


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