Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Jersey. Jersey Wonders, “Why does our nose run after we eat spicy food?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Jersey!
Do you ever eat salsa? How about spicy chicken wings? Are you someone who puts sriracha on everything? It’s not for everyone. Still, spicy food is popular with many people!
Have you ever eaten a spicy meal? If so, you know it has a few different effects on your body. Your mouth will burn. Your salivary glands go into overdrive. You might even start to sweat! Many people also notice spicy food makes their nose run. Why is that?
The heat in spicy food usually comes from chili peppers. There are many types of chili peppers, but they all have one thing in common. They all contain something called capsaicin.
Capsaicin is an irritant. That means when you eat capsaicin, your body tries to fight it. It’s a lot like how it responds to an allergen. As soon as your body notices capsaicin, it responds. Your mucous membranes go into defense mode. That means they make plenty of extra mucus (snot) to flush out the capsaicin.
This happens all over your body. You’ll definitely notice the extra mucus in your nose when it starts to run. However, the membranes in your stomach make extra fluid, too. This is all in response to the heat that makes spicy food taste good to many people. Capsaicin really sends your insides into a frenzy!
Does this make spicy food sound dangerous? In most cases, it isn’t! Many doctors say capsaicin is actually healthy. It’s in many pain-relieving creams. There may also be a link between capsaicin and healthy weight, heart function, and artery health.
A runny nose is nothing to sneeze at. But, the burning sensation in your mouth is even harder to ignore. And unfortunately, water just doesn’t always cut it! Luckily, there are plenty of other ways to fight off the heat.
The best way to cool your taste buds? Dairy. A large glass of milk will do the trick. If there’s no milk around, try a teaspoon of sugar or honey. Other solutions include eating a slice of bread or milk chocolate.
Many people find spicy food tasty. And now you know it may have health benefits! However, always think of your own safety when downing your favorite spicy meal. Some chili peppers can harm you. That’s especially true if you’re extra sensitive to capsaicin.
Have you seen videos of the ghost pepper challenge? If so, you already know peppers can be dangerous. Eating a ghost pepper by itself can cause serious pain, so don’t be pressured into doing it!
Still, adding some spice to your next meal is okay. Interested in giving your dish a real kick? Try adding a Carolina Reaper. As of 2019, it is the world’s hottest pepper. Can you think of any ways to add one to your next meal? Just be sure to have plenty of tissues handy!
Standards: NGSS.LS1.C, NGSS.LS1.D, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2