How can you build up tolerance to spicy food?

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How can you build up tolerance to spicy food?
© Provided by Metro Are you ready to turn the heat up? (Picture: Getty)

A cheeky Nando’s has become something of a national pastime, and it’s also a great litmus test.

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You can tell a lot about someone based on the heat level they opt for – do they keep it mild, a sensible middle-ground? Do they boldly opt for Extra Hot, a darer and a dreamer? Or do they own their shortcomings and order lemon and herb?

If your Spice Girls nickname would be Plain Spice but you’re desperate to engage with more flavourful food when cooking curries, recreating the Nando’s peri peri at home or eating out, is there a way to train yourself to tolerate spice better?

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Here’s what we know, and the health benefits which might prove it’s worth trying…

What are the benefits of eating spicy food?

Apart from being an explosion of flavours, turning up the heat can boost the benefits to your health.

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How can you build up tolerance to spicy food?
© Provided by Metro Turmeric is a spice with many known health benefits (Picture: Getty)

Widely reported potential health benefits include:

  • Longer life – a large 2015 study by Harvard and China National Centre for Disease Control and Prevention found that people who ate spicy food six or seven days a week — even just once a day — lowered mortality rates by 14%
  • Increased metabolism – Healthline reports that cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, peppers, and chilies can raise your metabolic resting rate and slow down your appetite. One study also found that turmeric suppressed fat tissue growth in mice.
  • Combating inflammation – curcumin, a compound in turmeric, may reduce inflammation in the body. In alternative medicine, like Ayurvedic, the suggested anti-inflammatory properties of ginger and garlic have long been used in healing ailments like arthritis, autoimmune disorders and even common colds.
  • Killing bacteria – A paper from the National Library of Medicine reports that cumin and turmeric have been shown to have powerful antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, killing harmful bacteria in the body

That’s not all, though. Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, creator of, told Women’s Health that other benefits of spicy food could involve spicing things up in the bedroom. According to Taub-Dix, consuming spicy foods increases testosterone, the hormone tied to libido.

How can you build up tolerance to spicy food?
© Provided by Metro Pick some pepper for your mission to build tolerance (Picture: Getty)

How to build a tolerance to spicy foods

When it comes to spicy food, the science behind it explains how to build a tolerance towards it.

Capsaicin, the active component in hot peppers and spicy food, stimulates your pain receptors, making you think the food is hot.

So, if you want to perceive it that way, it’s simply a case of mind over matter. The benefit of pushing through the brain’s perception of spicy food is that capsaicin also releases dopamine and endorphins, hormones that make you feel good.

How can you build up tolerance to spicy food?
© Provided by Metro Once you get into the swing of things, whole new flavours will open up! (Picture: Getty)

If you’re someone who always wants to try an exciting, exotic new dish and want to chase that high but you struggle making it past Doritos chilli heatwave crisps, there are some first-hand anecdotes from Redditors who managed to build up their spice tolerance.

User Frostdaboss wrote: ‘The only way to build tolerance is to eat spicy foods on a regular basis while increasing the heat level over time. Keep pushing your boundary little by little. You want to be sweating. You can start by adding sliced fresh jalapenos to your meals or getting a sauce like El Yucateco (which is inexpensive and hotter than the standard fare like Tabasco and Cholula) and putting that on everything.’

Self-confessed spicy fan Effiepooh also adds some of their own practical tips. They write: ‘I’ve been eating super hot food for many years. You need to build up slowly. My trick for eating really, really hot food is to not drink anything after. Not a drop! Take the pain until it subsides. You’ll be able to move past your pain thresholds this way.’

Supporting the idea that you can rewire your brain to enjoy the sensation of capsaicin, user Interstellr_overdrive writes: ‘Spiciness is a MENTAL game friend. Mind over chilli. Just stay mindful the heat you’re experiencing isn’t actual damage to your body, just the brain interpreting it as pain. With this in mind start on regular red chilies for a week in your dishes. Then move up to birds eyes for 2 weeks. Then head on over to habaneros after that.’

Milk or water: what helps with a burning mouth?

How can you build up tolerance to spicy food?
© Provided by Metro Milk – it does a body, and a burning tongue, good (Picture: Getty)

So, you’ve decided to take on your journey into all things hot and spicy.

But, as the saying goes, only fools rush in. If you’re overly ambitious and find yourself suffering, what can help put out the flames?

The answer is… milk!

Drinking milk will help after eating spicy food because the casein protein found in milk will bind to the capsaicin and prevent it from binding to your tongue’s pain receptors.

Drinking water, alas, will do nothing to help. Since capsaicin is an oil-based compound, it won’t be dissolved by water.

Now you’re adequately prepared, you might be ready to make the next hot sauce festival

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Share your views in the comments below.

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