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AstroChuck's avatar

Is it possible to build up a resistance to capsaicin?

Asked by AstroChuck (37346points) July 4th, 2010 from iPhone

For those of you who don’t know, capsaicin is the stuff behind the heat in chili peppers. As I’ve gotten older I find myself adding more and more (as well as hotter and hotter) hot sauce to things. I absolutely love habaƱero chilis and hot sauce, yet the heat factor seems to be less and less intense and I find myself adding more to my food. Do you think if I lived long enough spicy food would loose its effectiveness on me? Is this possible? It’s not as if I’ve lost my ability to taste, it’s just that the hot stuff seems to have become blander than it once was.

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12 Answers

marinelife's avatar

You can definitely work up a tolerance. I went through a period where I ate five-star Thai food all the time.

I have since lost that tolerance.

I don’t think you would get to the point where you are not affected at all.

dpworkin's avatar

Loss of receptiveness to the elements of “heat” comes with age. It is not a “flavor” in the strictly technical sense, and was mysterious for a long time. It is now thought to be induced by free-follicle pain-sensing nerves in your tongue, rather than the molecular receptors you have for sweet, salty, butter, sour and umami.

AstroChuck's avatar

But do you think it’s possible to get to the state where the capsaicin has zero effect? Birds have a 100% resistance to capsaicin. I’m just wondering if one could possibly get to that state.

janbb's avatar

Laughing at the picture of “spicy food loosing its effectivenes on you.” I wouldn’t want to be in the room!

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I was really going to ask this same question just yesterday. I’ve noticed the same thing. Sometimes I feel bad when I’m cooking certain foods for other people, because something that isn’t even remotely spicy to me has other people breathing fire. So, I think you do build a tolerance. I would imagine that effect could go on indefinitely until it didn’t affect you at all. Hard to say for sure though, since I’m just guessing.

dpworkin's avatar

It would mean that your pain nerves in your tongue had become unresponsive. That would indicate a neurological problem. There are studies which show two interesting facts: “Supertasters” are people who have a much higher density of all receptors, including pain receptors, and many of them cannot tolerate spiciness at all. Also, as in any repeated nerve stimulation, the threshold changes due to exposure, which explains @marinelife‘s experience.

zenele's avatar

Yes, according to The Princess Bride.

tranquilsea's avatar

I’m one of those people who couldn’t tolerate heat in any form. I can a bit now, but not much. I always blamed it on the British food I was raised eating.

YARNLADY's avatar

Yes, I believe it is possible. Most people develop a tolerance to it over time, and surely that could extend to zero.

I had a friend who had to treat his eczema with it, and he had to keep finding stronger and stronger peppers to be effective.

Ron_C's avatar

I think you can. Up to the time that I spent 2 months in Mexico, I avoided spicy food. I now find that I crave it. The hotter the better.

SmashTheState's avatar

People experiencing psychotic episodes, particularly schizophrenics, have no reaction whatsoever to pepper spray. This suggests it’s certainly possible to develop resistance and immunity. Hell, there’s a Hindu master who underwent open-heart surgery with no anaesthetic except a meditative trance; if you can develop immunity to having your chest sliced open and your ribs cracked apart, then you can develop immunity to anything.

jlm11f's avatar

Is it possible to build a resistance to capsaicin? – Definitely. The taste buds/receptors that are affected by the capsaicin are probably downregulated over time which is why you feel lesser effect as you grow tolerant. This is why it’s possible for people to go from eating no spicy food at all to some or a lot of spicy food. Just like you can grow tolerance, long inexposure will bring back those receptors.

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