General Question

Harp's avatar

Is getting used to highly spiced food a physiological or a psychological adaptation?

Asked by Harp (19152points) July 5th, 2008

In other words, does something actually change about our tongue that lets us tolerate lots of chile, or do we just get used to the pain?

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5 Answers

marinelife's avatar

I think it is physiological, and it is not just the tongue. I had to work my way up to five-start Thai food by eating it regularly. I got to a point where it did not bother me at all.

Once I stopped though, I lost my five-star chops. Now my lips peel at around 2 1/2 stars. What a wimp!

xxporkxsodaxx's avatar

Well being the owner of the 4th or 5th hottest hot sauce in the world, rated at 7.1 million scoville units, I would say it is more physiological. The pain I went under for just the tip of a toothpick was more intense than you could ever imagine. When you reach a certain level of spiciness, it hurts more than your mouth, it hurts my stomach, and if I were to leave it on my skin it would irritate that as well. The only reason why it would be psychological would be because of me knowing how bad it hurts and I would just have to work up the courage to but some more in my mouth.

marinelife's avatar

I thought this article was interesting, Harp:

“The sensations produced by menthol and capsaicin are accidents of human physiology—we obviously did not evolve receptors to react to these compounds. The chemicals fool pain receptors whose real purpose is to register critical events, like damage to the skin and the inflamation that often results. The tenderness around an injury is caused in part by the response of these same nerves to chemicals released in the skin. We humans are peculiar creatures—we’ve taken a nerve response that normally signals danger and turned it into something pleasurable.”

Seesul's avatar

A while back there was an article about this in a magazine. It may have been Science. I read it while waiting for my son to get his wisdom teeth out, so I’m a bit fuzzy on it. Basically what they said was that people’s tongues, taste buds, and receptors are different and some can tolerate much more heat than others.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

Whatever the cause, I love the endorphin rush produced by eating fiery foods.

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