Spicy foods have a delicious and distinctive flavor, and we often exaggerate eating them or add a lot of them during cooking or perhaps eat them without knowing how severe they are. Whether on purpose or not, when it comes to spicy foods there are simple and easy ways you can do to help cool your mouth after eating spicy food.
What does spicy food do to your body?
The burning sensation you feel when you eat something hot is like the burning pain you feel when you accidentally touch a hot pot. In response to each, your brain’s temperature-sensitive pain receptors are instantly triggered. When you sense your skin or mouth in danger, your mind sends a sense of pain to the brain, hoping to calm the pain.
In the case of a hot skillet, this pain serves an important purpose – it triggers an immediate reaction to removing your hand before it burns. In the case of chili peppers that are not actually hot, so to speak, the reason is less clear. Chili peppers contain an alkaline, oil-based molecule called capsaicin, which subtle stimulates the temperature-sensitive pain receptors in your mouth even though the molecule itself does not produce heat or cause any real harm. Once capsaicin stimulates these pain receptors, your brain is tricked into believing that your mouth is in danger of burning pain aimed at encouraging you to stop eating anything spicy you eat.
The pain receptors in your mouth can adapt to trick capsaicin. If you over-stimulate these temperature-sensitive receptors by eating spicy foods too often, you will likely become more sensitive to capsaicin. This is the reason why people who frequently eat spicy foods are able to handle it better than those who do not.
For those who do not often eat spicy foods, the burning sensation is stronger than necessary, thus sending the mind signals to stop eating completely, or try to reduce the burning by reaching for something that helps cool the mouth.
What helps cool your mouth from spicy food?
Here are the do’s and don’ts to cool your mouth after eating spicy food:
Products containing milk
Many milk-based products contain a protein called casein, which can help break down capsaicin crooks. Think of casein as a cleanser that helps wash away the capsaicin particles in your mouth, similar to the way soap removes grease. The catch here is that the dairy product you choose must contain casein so that you have any chance to cool your mouth. Good examples of dairy products that contain casein include cow’s milk (not almond, coconut, or soy milk), yogurt, cheese, or sour cream.
Acidic foods or drinks
Drink something acidic. For those who need or want to avoid dairy products, no worries! You have another citrus option. Remember how we said capsaicin is an alkaline molecule? It can help to balance this acid with another acid to neutralize the activity of the molecule. This means that drinking or eating something acidic, such as lemon juice, orange juice, or a drink from tomatoes, may also help cool your mouth.
Eat more carbohydrates because they are rich in starches that can help absorb the heat from spicy foods because it can act as a physical barrier between capsaicin and your mouth. You can put some starch between this sneaky molecule and the pain receptors, try eating a piece of bread or some rice or a tortilla.