Can hot peppers make me happy?

Recently I’ve been experimenting with mood-modification through temperature extremes (like hot and cold bathing). The heat of a sauna, for instance, supposedly triggers a rush of pleasurable hormones — and so, apparently, does the heat of a chili pepper.

When your body senses pain somewhere like the tongue that message…is sent from the tongue to the brain through a network of neurons via neurotransmitters (chemical messages). One such message produced by capsaicinoids is substance P, which transmits pain signals. The brain responds by releasing another type of neurotransmitter known as endorphins, blocking the nerve’s ability to transmit pain signals. Additionally, the neurotransmitter dopamine, responsible for a sense of reward and pleasure, is also released. — Leidamarie Tirado-Lee

Our body’s response to hot peppers is that our brain actually thinks something hot — literally hot, over 140 degrees — is touching us, so it activates our “hot-thing protocol,” which includes sweating, flushing, and even vomiting.

“Enjoying the pain and the pleasure at the same time is like surfing a wave, and you just don’t want it to break.”

Read more from Edith Zimmerman

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