Can't Take the Heat? How to Eat Spicy Foods

Sweating, flushed face, light-headed, fiery mouth? Yup, you've been eating chili peppers! Here's how to eat spicy foods without going into complete shock - and even how you might build up your tolerance for the heat!

All those symptoms that happen in your body when you eat spicy foods are caused by a chemical in chili peppers called capsaicin. It actually enters your bloodstream as you eat and convinces your body that it's hotter than it actually is, triggering all sorts of reactions meant to cool the body down.

1. Eat Slowly - The more capsaicin you've ingested, the stronger your body's reaction will be. Eating slowly keeps a steady but tolerable amount in your body.

2. Drink Something Ice-Cold - Ice numbs the nerves in your mouth to the point where they aren't activated by the spice. Your body will still feel the reactions, but the immediate fire will be quenched.

3. Eat Something Rough - Crackers, bread, and rice give the receptors in your mouth a different kind of signal to focus on, which interrupts the intensity of the heat. Eating starchy foods might also help to absorb some of the capsaicin and keep it from entering your body so quickly.

4. Build Your Tolerance Slowly - Unless you grew up in a culture with a particularly spicy cuisine, you probably don't have the tolerance to handle foods with a lot of hot spice. Learning how to handle them takes a bit of determination. By eating a lot of increasingly hotter foods, you'll build your tolerance gradually and come to appreciate the nuances in the different kinds of spice!

And remember: the effects of spicy foods on our bodies only last about 15 minutes after you stop eating. If you overdo it, just grit your teeth, drink some ice water, and know that all will be well soon.

What's your advice for eating spicy foods?

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(Image: Flickr member Star5112 licensed under Creative Commons)