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I know that capsaicin just triggers a receptor TRPV1 that senses heat. Therefore makes you feel pain.

But, my question is, is it just a fake sensation or there is real heat involved?

Scenario 1
Eating spicy food in winter makes you feel warm. Does that mean your temp is still the same but you just (mentally) feeling warmer?

Scenario 2
If you got peppers oils on your hands while cutting them and preparing food, your hands feel burning all day. Is it only an illusion? If we took thermal camera, would that spot look more "red" in the camera? Or it would be the same as the body?

Scenario 3
When you eat spicy food, you actually turn red. It's visible to the eyes. If we took your body temperature with an infrared thermometer, will it give higher reading than before eating? Or just normal?

Maybe it DOES heat but that's the body reaction to it? Like somehow the body is trying to get rid of excess heat through skin or something? I didn't fully think this part but that depends on if there is actually heat involved or not.


Edit (kinda answers my question)

So, I found this video
in which they used thermal imaging
and the person did get more red.
they said :

Superhot nuclear wings arrived. Almost immediately the heart rate increases, pumping more blood. Literally raising body temperature.

So, the pepper itself doesn't heat you directly.
But it raises heart rate.
Thus, increasing your temperature.

However, I also found that video.
It's in Russian, so, I don't understand what they are saying.
But, he put a pepper on his skin and chewed on one. The temperature of the spot didn't go up.

That was so interesting to watch.

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  • Capsaicin doesn't actually heat anything. it just binds to heat receptors to confuse them into thinking it is hot. That being said, it has several health benefits, so it is useful Dec 23, 2021 at 22:21
  • @DonThousand , so, none of these scenarios would result a real heat difference? Nothing even heat up as an aftermath to the capsaicin? That's wild. I can't fathom how weird and interesting that is. It's hard to convince me that I'm not actually heating after I ate these blazing hot sauces. The only thing that would make me convinced is a thermal camera lol.
    – Roo Tenshi
    Dec 23, 2021 at 22:38

1 Answer 1

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The "heat" associated with capsaicin isn't something that would show up in thermal imaging. Spicy foods will not be warmer on your plate or in your mouth than a non-spicy item exposed to the same temperatures.

However, capsaicin can induce a response from your body that increases blood flow. Food (particularly spicy food), trauma/stress, and other experiences can result in dopamine and endorphins being released, which will increase blood flow within the body. Increased blood flow will cause affected body parts to become warmer.

When you're embarrassed and turn red, this is caused by increased blood flow to the surface of your face, which has a corresponding increase in the surface temperature of the skin on your face. The same can happen when you eat spicy food. However, your body's response is separate from the "hot" sensation that your body feels when it comes in contact with capsaicin. The "hot" feeling in your mouth (or eyes should you be so unfortunate), is not due to thermal heat--just your body interpreting similarly.

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  • Side question: Does capsaicin cause any damage or is it safe to consume at high dosage for years?
    – Michael
    Dec 24, 2021 at 18:21
  • 1
    It can cause damage if too high of an amount is taken, or if you don't take precautions for such high amounts. But eating a lot of peppers should be fine.
    – Zoey
    Dec 25, 2021 at 2:15
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    The effects of feeling warmer overall is also similar an experience as when consuming a lot of alcohol. The "liquor jacket" as it's sometimes called, causes surface blood vessels to open up, making you feel warmer, despite actually lowering your overall temperature. Dec 25, 2021 at 4:56
  • So, regardless of how much you torture yourself with hot peppers, it's not possibly physically damage yourself? Can't it, at the very least, excite your stomach acids to some dangerous degree? Dec 25, 2021 at 7:37
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    Aldi: Questions around health & safety are limited to answers by official/legal agencies and their official guidelines and limitations. I'm not aware of any such guidelines for capsaicin, but any answers would be limited by that rule for this site
    – AMtwo
    Dec 25, 2021 at 15:06

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