Why does spicy food make you cry?

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Spicy food: you either love it or hate it. Guess which side we’re on. But even the biggest spice lords and ladies can’t deny that their eyes sometimes start to water after a bite of a fiery sauce. What exactly is happening in your body that causes this reaction? Let’s take a closer look at the science behind it.

The science behind the tears

When you eat something spicy, a substance called capsaicin is released. This substance binds to the receptors in your mouth that normally respond to heat. Your brain interprets this as a burning sensation, even though there is no real damage. This is the moment when your body takes action. Your body thinks it is in danger and activates its defense mechanisms. One of the first reactions is to produce tears. This happens because your body is trying to flush out the capsaicin, just as it would with an irritant in your eyes. So the tears are a way to protect yourself.

Why do we keep doing it?

Despite the tears and burning sensation, many people continue to enjoy spicy food. This is because capsaicin also releases endorphins, the so-called ‘happiness hormones’. These give you a feeling of euphoria and can even be addictive. Besides, who doesn’t want to look a little badass by braving that extra hot sauce? So the next time your eyes start to water, you know your body is just doing its job. And maybe, just maybe, you secretly enjoy it a little.

In case you’re wondering: what about all that sniffling when I have a bit too much hot sauce? Well, this is why spicy food gives you a runny nose.

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