Have you ever eaten a spicy dish, laden with hot chile peppers, and experienced an all-over warming sensation in your body? Perhaps you even felt over-heated and begin to sweat. Maybe, this happens to you any time you eat hot peppers, or only when you eat an extremely hot variety or a large amount. What causes this warming sensation? Is it different than the burning sensation in the mouth, lips, or on the skin (from chile pepper contact)?
The reason your body heats up when consuming chile peppers is owed to the same mechanisms that cause the burning sensation in your mouth. It is your body’s reaction to the capsaicin in chiles. As I explained here , your taste buds cannot actually detect and register the capsaicin in chile peppers. Instead, trigeminal cells, special pain detectors in your mouth, nose, and stomach, detect the capsaicin and react to it and detect it as “hotness,” causing them to release substance P which, in turn, causes a pain signal to be sent to the brain.
In addition to this pain signal triggered by the trigeminal cells coming into contact with capsaicin, your body also released various substances. Some of these, as explained in the previous article, are endorphins, feel-good chemicals that affect your body similar to opioids. These chemicals flood your nerve endings, killing the pain response. They also cause what is sometimes called a chile rush, something akin to a runner’s high, accompanied by a nice sensation of warmth. However, the body also releases catecholamines composed of epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Think of epinephrine as adrenaline and you’ll understand. This is part of the body’s fight or flight response and the result is a group of bodily reactions including increased respiration, heartbeat, and metabolism. These reactions can actually raise your body temperature. However, as you continue to eat chile peppers over time and your body becomes desensitized to the capsaicin, this warming sensation will lessen, if not completely disappear.