Relieves pain: The healthy spice: This is what happens in your body when you eat chilli

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Wednesday, 29.05.2024, 08:51

Capsaicin, the hot substance in chili peppers, is more than just a taste sensation. It triggers a variety of reactions in our body – from a feeling of heat to pain relief. Nutrition expert Uwe Knop explains what exactly happens in our body when we eat chili.

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What exactly does the spicy substance called capsaicin, which is found in chilis, do in the body?

Capsaicin, the hot ingredient in chili peppers, “docks” onto receptors in our body, especially in the mouth, i.e. when we eat, that normally react to heat. This sends a signal to the brain that tells the body: “Watch out, heat, it burns, dangerous!” – so we feel a “hot stimulus”. This triggers a series of reactions, including the release of endorphins (“happy hormones”), which can provide a feeling of relief or even euphoria. The latter is known as the “chili high” – which of course is not comparable to a “real drug high”.

About the expert Uwe Knop

Uwe Knop, born in 1972, is a qualified nutritionist, author, and speaker for lectures at professional associations, companies, and medical training courses. His book ” Successfully lose weight and stay slim” was published by Springer-Verlag.

What exactly is the spicy taste – or do we actually taste nothing, but the effect is something completely different?

The spicy taste of capsaicin is not a real taste sensation like sweet or salty, but rather – see previous answer – a feeling of warmth or heat, even a strong burning sensation. It is a sensory signal that is triggered by the activation of the heat receptors in the mouth.

And why does chili, or capsaicin, also relieve pain when applied to the skin?

Capsaicin can relieve pain when applied to the skin because it blocks the release of something called “substance P.” This “neurotransmitter” transmits pain signals to the brain. When capsaicin is applied to the skin, it binds to nerve endings and initially activates pain receptors. This causes an increase in substance P, which can result in a burning or stabbing pain.

However, this initial reaction causes the nerve cells to release a large amount of substance P – which in turn leads to a temporary exhaustion of the pain receptors. This reduces the transmission of pain signals, which can lead to the desired pain relief. In other words, you are actually provoking the pain. This is why there are also capsaicin patches or ointments for pain – but only on prescription from a doctor.

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Which studies prove the health effects of chili (capsaicin)?

Numerous studies have documented the health benefits of capsaicin from chili peppers. These include its anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, metabolism-boosting and anti-cancer properties – positive effects on the cardiovascular system have also been observed.

A large study has shown a connection between high chili consumption and a low risk of cardiac death. And in a large analysis of several studies, researchers were even able to observe that regular chili consumption was associated with significantly lower cardiovascular and cancer-related mortality as well as reduced overall mortality.

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“Successfully lose weight and stay slim” by Uwe Knop

But that does not mean: “Chili protects against early death” or “Chili prolongs life”. Because there are only correlations, but no evidence of causality. All of the effects mentioned have been demonstrated in animal experiments as well as in some clinical studies on humans. observedWhether chili is responsible for this or not, one thing is clear: it certainly doesn’t do any harm if you can tolerate the spiciness.

Where does chili promote mucus production in the body and why is this positive?

Capsaicin promotes mucus production, primarily in the respiratory tract. This can help loosen mucus and relieve the symptoms of respiratory illnesses such as coughs and colds. The increased mucus production serves as a natural protective mechanism to protect the respiratory tract from irritants.

Chili is therefore a “Expectorant“ – this is the name given to substances that promote the expulsion of mucus from the respiratory tract. Incidentally, it is a myth that chili “destroys the stomach”. In fact, studies have shown that capsaicin in moderate amounts can protect the gastrointestinal tract by increasing mucus production and improving blood circulation.

Another myth is that chili heats up the body. But the exact opposite is the case. Why and how does chili cool down?

The myth that chili heats up the body is based on the sensation of warmth and heat that capsaicin produces. In reality, however, consuming capsaicin causes blood vessels to dilate and increases blood flow, which helps regulate body temperature and dissipate heat. This can provide a cooling effect, especially in hot areas or after physical exertion.

Or more simply: eating chili causes us to sweat – and sweat is known to act as a “cooling air conditioner” for our body. That is why you should eat spicy food, especially when it is hot – but regardless of the weather, the general rule is: Only eat spicy food if you enjoy it, if you feel comfortable with it and, above all, only if you can really tolerate and digest the spiciness!

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