· By Angela Petulla
How to Cool Your Mouth Down After Eating Spicy Food
We’ve all been there. You were a little too ambitious with how spicy you wanted your Thai curry and now you’re trying desperately to cool your mouth down. Or maybe you’re like me and you made a bet with your sister that you could eat that pepper, seeds and all. Either way, I’m here to tell you how to neutralize the heat after eating something too spicy. Read on for tips on what foods to eat (and avoid) when trying to tone down the burning sensation.
Why Is Food Spicy?
But first, why is food spicy? It’s important to understand the science behind the heat to be able to effectively cool down your mouth. Peppers contain a molecule called capsaicin, which creates the burning sensation in your mouth. Capsaicin binds to vanilloid receptors in your mouth, and while these receptors are meant to detect heat, they also react to capsaicin, sending similar signals to your brain that your tongue is “burning.” This anatomical accident results in the pain that is often associated with spicy food.
Best Ways to Cool Down Your Mouth After Eating Something Spicy
Whether you have a strong spice tolerance or a low one, below is a list of items you can eat or sip for instant relief from that burning feeling.
Milk and other dairy products are the most commonly mentioned “cure” after eating spicy food. This relief comes from a protein in milk and many other dairy products called casein, which helps break down the capsaicin molecule in hot peppers. Additionally, full fat milk is best when looking to neutralize the heat you are experiencing, since capsaicin is oil soluble, meaning fats can help dissolve the irritant.
However, make sure you only reach for dairy products and not plant-based milks, like almond or cashew milk, as these do not typically contain casein.
If you’ve accidentally made a meal that came out spicier than you intended, milk and other dairy products, such as yogurt and sour cream, are great additions to your dish to tone down your spicy food as well!
Oil and Peanut Butter
As mentioned above, capsaicin is oil soluble, so oils can help dissolve the molecule and reduce the burning sensation. While the idea of taking a sip of olive oil may not be too appealing, peanut butter is another great, fatty option that can provide relief. If you opt from crunchy peanut butter, you will also have the added benefit of texture. While textured foods do not scientifically reduce the heat, they can distract from how hot your mouth feels.
Carbs such as rice and bread work in two ways to neutralize the burning sensation in your mouth after eating something too spicy. Firstly, they can absorb some of the capsaicin molecules, reducing the pain you feel from the chilis. Additionally, many carbs are very textured, like crusty bread or a bowl of penne pasta, and these textures can help distract you from the burning sensation caused by spicy food.
Acidic Foods and Drinks
Adding acidity to a spicy situation may sound counter intuitive, but acidic food can actually neutralize capsaicin. Don’t worry - you don’t have to take a bit out of a lemon to find relief. You can try eating raw tomatoes, orange slices, or pineapple chunks to reduce the burning sensation.
Related: How to Make Hot Sauce Less Hot
If you have a sweet tooth, reaching for something like a sugar cube or a spoonful of honey may be the solution for you. Sugar absorbs the capsaicin molecules, neutralizing the heat. The Scoville Scale (the scale used to measure how spicy a pepper is) was actually developed by dissolving dried peppers in alcohol and seeing how much sugar water was needed so that the taste tester no longer detected heat in the solution.
What to Avoid After Eating Spicy Food
You may be wondering if there are any foods you should avoid if you want to find relief after eating spicy food. Below are two of the top items that may amplify the burning feeling and bring little to no relief.
While it can be a natural reaction to reach for a glass of water to cool down your mouth after a particularly spicy dish, it typically does not help the situation, and, even worse, it could hurt the situation. Some say that drinking water while experiencing the burning sensation from spicy food actually spreads the capsaicin around in your mouth, meaning the active ingredient in chili peppers reaches more of your vanilloid receptors, exacerbating the feeling of pain.
Many alcoholic beverages, such as beer and hard seltzers, are mostly made up of water, meaning, like water, they can be highly ineffective at neutralizing heat. Alcohol has the potential to just spread capsaicin molecules around your mouth, resulting in more contact with your vanilloid receptors and therefore more pain.
However, we understand that sometimes there is value in the act of eating something super hot, chugging a beer, and moving on with your life, and if that’s you, more power to you! If that does not resonate, check out some of our Not Too Hot Sauces, which are more on the mild side and are less likely to cause you to go to drastic measures to cool down your mouth.
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