Why does spicy food give you a runny nose?

It has probably happened to you; after eating spicy food you were sniffling a lot. A runny nose can be a logical consequence of (slightly too) spicy food. But how is that possible? You don’t put the food up your nose and yet it seems as if that hot sauce has broken open a dam in your nose and the snot seems unstoppable. Sorry for the imagery, because snot and food aren’t really something you want to think about at the same time. Let us explain.

Why does spicy food give you a runny nose?

It all has to do with evolution. The plants that produce peppers want to prevent their fruits from being eaten by mammals, like us, and that is why they have developed the substance capsaicin. This substance is as irritating as possible to the mucous membranes, so that the mammals do not eat the peppers of the plant again. The pepper does not actually cause tissue damage to the mucous membranes, but it activates the nerve receptors that detect heat. This tricks your nose into producing extra mucus to protect your sinuses.


Despite this false trick of the pepper plant, it has not succeeded in deterring all mammals. We humans have become fans of this spicy stuff, despite all the sniffling. If you feel like sniffling after reading this article, we recommend that you take a look at the extremely hot sauces.

Source: BBC Science Focus

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