Every now and again (usually when there’s a gigantic leap forward in computer technology), we’re reminded that our brains are still the most powerful computers out there. Of course, they also point out that we use so little of our brains for everyday life. And, we probably use even less now that we continually replace mundane tasks with techie gadgets whenever we can.
The supercomputers in our heads are not infallible – and they’re hardly as accurate as calculators. We make mistakes all the time. And we do it because we’re not running on a particular program and because we tend to think of our information as a complete picture of the world.
We can get tripped up by something as small as a super hot sauce. Truly. Your brain and body just don't know how to deal with capsaicin. So, it reverts to what it can understand given the neuronal pathways to and within the brain. And that’s where it gets truly interesting. Here are 3 Ways Hot Sauces Will Change the Way You Think.
Mad Dog hot sauce isn’t hot, thermally speaking
Okay, you can put a bowl of super hot sauce in the microwave and heat it until it bubbles over. (We just hope you’re smart enough to cover that bowl before placing it inside.) That would make it thermally hot. Spreading it over wings and baking the sauce on your chicken would do the same.
But, if you take a few drops of super hot sauce on the tip of a spoon, it will feel like it’s burning your mouth and throat. Except it won’t be. How does that work?
When you consume capsaicin, you’re fooling the supercomputer inside your head. Capsaicin burns because it triggers the pain receptors in your mouth and body associated with fire. Actually, the capsaicin tricks your brain into reducing its heat tolerance. It feels hotter because your brain now believes you don’t have the tolerance for room-temperature foods any longer. And, the reaction to this can make you sweat (a very common side effect of eating super hot sauces).
And, that’s not the only way capsaicin can fool your inner computer. If it were, it would be much easier to dismiss it as a once-off phenomenon.
Capsaicin is super painful, but not really
Most of your pain is mental, even when it’s very clearly physical. A cut on your hand doesn’t hurt you until your brain tells that it’s painful. A slight percentage of the population cannot feel or sense pain. That’s not because they don’t get hurt, slam their fingers, bruise their shins or stub their toes. It’s because the nerve connections to the brain don’t fire for them the same way as the rest of us experience pain.
And, if you’re like everyone that feels pain, you probably want to know how you can deal with less of it. Super hot sauce might just hold the answer, but you’ll probably want to up your consumption levels to do so.
You don’t feel pain because you cut your finger while chopping onions. You feel pain because your body dumped a wild amount of a specific protein at the site of the injury. Your body produced this protein as a beacon to alert the command center in your brain to the scene of the crime. When your brain knows where to send the body’s repair team, you feel the pain – and your body begins rebuilding itself.
Capsaicin also triggers the feeling of pain by forcing your body to dump bucketfuls of pain proteins in your mouth or wherever your body touched this stinging, burning compound.
But, your body only produces so much of the pain protein. Once you’ve dumped it, your body needs to produce more to feel pain in other areas. After an extreme amount of pain (think car accident or torture), your body won’t feel the effects of new injuries as acutely; it just doesn’t have the pain beacons it needs.
When you feel the burn of capsaicin, that’s your body dumping pain beacons in your mouth. Eat enough and you won’t notice it as much when you bang your knee on the table as you stand to run around the room in a capsaicin-induced panic. The more capsaicin you eat, the less you will feel the pain of a headache or an ulcer or, well, anything else. It’s a physiological trick you play on your brain.
Capsaicin doesn’t taste like fats, but your brain believes it is
Your body needs a mix of nutrients and vitamins to survive and remain in peak condition. You know that because you dealt with food pyramids (and other representations) before you turned ten. Even if you don’t fully follow it, you know that you’re supposed to eat more fruits and vegetables than proteins. And, you should know (no matter how you try to ignore it) that you’re not supposed to include too many fats in your diet.
There’s something interesting about the role of fats that you might not know. Often, these are the triggers that alert your brain to the state of being full. Once you consume enough fats, your brain will signal for you to stop eating. You can graze on veggies all day (and everyone probably should do more of that) and never feel full. But, eat a single taco after a week of vegetables and you’ll feel fuller instantly.
The more fat in your diet, the more you push the goal posts away from your body’s ideal satiation point. And this is important because it means you can trick your brain when you understand another element of the super hot sauce puzzle.
Capsaicin triggers the same neuronal pathways as fats and oils. You believe you’re eating buttery, fried foods when really you’ve just added a drop of Mad Dog to clear broth soup. Meals that never satisfied you previously will now feel like a feast. If you’re overweight and trying to burn some of your body’s stored fat, that’s precisely what you want.
These few examples of capsaicin’s effect on the brain should say more than “I need a new bottle of hot sauce stat!” It should confirm that everything is open to interpretation… And, the supercomputer between your ears can be manipulated by simple things. You might be fooling your brain right now and have no idea what your body truly needs. Don’t think it’s limited to capsaicin and super hot sauces. Once you start looking around, you’ll soon learn that you should probably think twice… about everything.