The hot truth about peppers: Myths and facts you need to know for a healthy diet

Cayenne pepper and chili powder have long been used to treat toothaches, sore throats and colds.

These health benefits of eating peppers stem from one ingredient, capsaicin. Spicy foods contain this compound responsible for the hot or numbing sensation you experience.

Myths and facts about peppers 

Myth: Hot pepper seeds have most of the pepper’s heat. 

Facts: The pith, which is the white matter that seeds are attached to, actually holds the heat. On the other side, capsaicin from the pith may also cover the outside of the seed when the plant grows.

Myth: Eating peppers can cause hemorrhoids.

Facts: Research found that hot chili peppers have no effects on hemorrhoid patients [1]. Therefore, people with or without hemorrhoids should not avoid spicy foods entirely.

Myth: Eating hot peppers can cause death.

Facts: Well, this one is only partially true; however, the likelihood that the situation may happen is slim to none. 

It was reported in 1980 that if a 150-pound person consumed 3 pounds of extreme chilies in one sitting, like the Bhut Jolokia, in powder form, they would die. The analogy assumes food allergies to hot peppers are considered not a factor for an individual consuming the pepper powder [2]. 

The hot truth about peppers: Myths and facts you need to know for a healthy diet

Myth: Capsaicin kills off your taste buds.

Facts: There are numerous myths about hot peppers, and a few of them are a bit more outlandish, like this one. Eating chili peppers may make your mouth numb; however, they can not kill your taste buds. In fact, your taste buds are regularly replacing themselves approximately every two weeks.

The surface of the tongue is filled with taste buds, and they have gustatory cells, among other things. On the surface of gustatory cells, you can find taste receptors.

You may cause physical damage to the surface of your tongu. Even eating extremely spicy chili peppers might cause damage; however, the damage can be repaired quickly. The average turnover of repairing gustatory cells is around 8 to 12 days [3]. 

Hot peppers are generally rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. Their main component, which is capsaicin, can help prevent heart disease, lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure. 

Capsaicin can stimulate the body into releasing endorphins, which is a natural pain reliever that induces happiness and is well-adjusted. Research studies also indicate capsaicin in meals reduces the amount of insulin released by the body after every meal.

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Myth: Eating spicy foods can induce labor. 

This myth is the second most common myth about spicy foods, and there is no actual evidence indicating that eating spicy foods can cause the onset of labor in late pregnancy. 

However, for a lot of women who do give it a go, there are several theories as to why they believe this myth. Capsaicin is found to induce contractions in the uterine wall and the gastrointestinal tract, which is often mistaken for the onset of labor [4]. 

Myth: Spicy foods can make irritable bowel syndrome worse. 

This one is a common myth but is not 100 percent true in all people with irritable bowel syndrome. The medical condition varies from one person to another. Capsaicin can help accelerate the food transit time through the gut; hence, eating a huge amount of spicy food can cause bloating and diarrhea [5]. 

The body can increase tolerance to spicy food if eating them become habitual. For individuals who regularly eat spicy food and don’t experience any gastric distress, there is no reason to stop eating spicy food to help manage IBS symptoms [6].

Numerous individuals with IBS are found sensitive to foods high in disaccharides, fermentable oligosaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (FODMAPs). Some of the foods highest in FODMAPs, like onion and garlic, are something often added in cuisines that use a lot of chili pepper [7]. 

Myth: Eating spicy foods can lead to ulcers. 

Chilies don’t normally cause ulcers, but H. pylori do and prolonged exposure to non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. Eating chilies can make stomach ulcers that already exist experience a little worse [8]. 

Myth: Spicy foods like hot pepper can be addictive.

You cannot just become physically dependent on eating spicy foods; however, because capsaicin is a pain stimulus, you may get a positive reaction from ingesting it. 

When your body encounters pain, it tends to produce chemicals in order to lower the effect of the pain. Hence, it is possible that when you eat spicy chili, your body floods with endorphins that make you feel good and want to eat more spicy food. 

Research suggests that it is more related to your personality type. If you have the sort of personality that urges you to seek particular types of sensation, you may enjoy the sensation of eating chili peppers. However, as with numerous things related to eating spicy food, more research is needed to confirm the said association [9]. 

When eating spices, a person may feel differently based on the type of nerves or receptors it activates. For instance, wasabi activates a unique pain receptor called TRPA1, which explains why the sensation can be felt slightly differently. Another example is Szechuan pepper which might stimulate mechanoreceptors on nerve fibers that cause the tingling sensation.

Furthermore, capsaicin has been found to have a potential pain-relieving compound that could be utilized in treating pain triggered by medical conditions like arthritis

Overall, eating chilies is far away from being magic, and it can’t definitely destroy your ability to taste, nor can chilis bring a baby into the world suddenly. If you enjoy eating chilies, it is generally safe to eat, but you must consult your doctor if you have medical conditions related to the gut. 

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Other interesting facts about peppers 

1. There are a thousand types of peppers. 

Chili pepper is considered a very broad term. This plant is actually capable of mutating quickly; therefore, there are a ton of varieties of peppers all over the world. 

In fact, there are over 140 different kinds of peppers growing in Mexico alone. The environment can impact the pepper’s look and taste, involving soil, temperature and weather as major factors in how the pepper will be. 

2. Some pepper and parts are hotter than others. 

When you eat a chili pepper, you might observe that the second bite is hotter than the first. Some individuals believe that is because the seeds are the spiciest part compared with the rest; however, it is actually the flesh near them that sets the tongue on fire.

Also, the part of the pepper closest to its stem is typically the hotter part as it has the most concentration of capsaicin. The components of the pepper may irritate the skin and cause the mouth to experience that unique burning pain.

The hot truth about peppers: Myths and facts you need to know for a healthy diet

3. Peppers have been domesticated for a long time. 

Peppers are found to be one of the few first plants to have been domesticated. The seeds of chili pepper have been found in Peru and Mexico for over 6000 years ago. The residue of the peppers is also found on different ancient cooking tools.

4. The common types of peppers come from the same species. 

The majority of peppers that are widely available come from one species. Despite the thousands of pepper species, there are only five domestic peppers, such as C. annuum, C. baccatum, C. chinense, C. frutescens and C. pubescens. 

Also, capsicum annuum is considered the most common among the group. It includes a vast of cultivars, both mild and hot, like bell peppers and jalapeños. 

5. Bell peppers can turn purple. 

The common colors of bell peppers are red, green, orange and yellow bell peppers, but the mild, sweet pepper can also turn purple! When bell pepper is harvested in its early stages of maturation, which is before even developing any yellow, orange or red spots, bell peppers can be a good shade of aubergine, with striking white or lime green skin.

6. Only mammals are generally sensitive to peppers 

Capsaicin may burn and irritate the flesh of mammals, but birds can’t and are completely immune to the effects of peppers. Consequently, birds are known to be largely responsible for helping spread wild peppers by eating and excreting the seeds.

7. Bell peppers in different colors are the same plant. 

Bell peppers have different looks and colors, but all of them are actually the same fruit in varying levels of maturity. First, the peppers start off green, then turn yellow and finally red. However, sometimes bell peppers become orange or yellow as their fully mature color. 

Moreover, green peppers have a more bitter taste compared with their counterparts, and they lack similar chemicals and vitamins that the more mature fruits develop–all thanks to the supply of chemicals, including vitamin C and beta-carotene. Meanwhile, orange and red bell peppers offer a much sweeter taste. 

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The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.