What Happens To Your Body When You Eat Hot Sauce

Spicy foods are one of those things you either love or hate. There's often no in-between (but, I suppose, there could be). While there are many ingredients out there that can up the level of heat in your dish, one of the easiest ways is by adding a good shake of hot sauce, either while you're cooking or to finish off the dish before you dig in to your meal. Like many things you eat, hot sauce can have a big impact on your body and your health, both immediately after you take a bite and over the long-run. Between digestive effects, energy boosts, and increased longevity, there are a whole lot of things that can happen to your body when you eat hot sauce.

Pain receptors on your tongue go into overdrive

If you've ever taken a bite of a very spicy chili pepper — or swirled a tad too much hot sauce into your dinner — you know that your tongue can take the brunt of some major temporary pain. According to the BBC, however, that spicy food won't actually inflict any serious damage on the soft tissues in your mouth, meaning you don't have to worry about that burn when contemplating if you should eat another helping. That characteristic hot sauce burn comes from capsaicin, which is that spice-inducing molecule naturally found in chili peppers and the like. Capsaicin binds to the receptors on your tongue that detect temperature and indicate pain. That's why your mouth gets hot and feels like you're in some big-time pain whenever you take a bite too inundated with hot sauce — even though you're really just fine.

Your core temperature rises

Whenever you take a bite of something spicy, such as hot sauce, your body undergoes thermogenesis, which is the process by which your internal core temperature rises, according to Thrillist. It makes you sweat, your nose gets runny, and your face (and sometimes other parts of your body as well) gets red because the tiniest blood vessels in your body — called capillaries — dilate as blood rushes around. It's benign, don't worry. 

Your mood lifts

Soon after your tongue starts to feel the burn, your nervous system, responding to the cry for help it's getting from the rest of your body, releases endorphins, which, as every Legally Blonde watcher knows, makes you happy. According to NPR's The Salt, these endorphins, released to help you cope with the pain, do just that by making the nerves on your tongue more tolerant of the pain. Eat spicy food, feel pain, then happiness. It all makes sense.

Your heart rate will increase

If you've ever eaten a bite of hot sauce and felt like your heart was pounding a little faster than it had been before, you weren't just imagining it. According to Thrillist, because hot sauce increases the amount of blood flowing towards the stomach after you eat it, it causes your heart rate to increase as well, which revs up the circulation of blood all throughout your body. It's all in response to the heat you just ingested.

Your mouth will water

Your mouth (and nose) often gets a little mucous-y after you eat some hot sauce. While you've likely battled the runny nose during or immediately after eating hot sauce, you might not be quite as familiar with the watery mouth that can accompany that. According to Slate, what happens is that your salivary glands kick into overdrive in an effort to produce enough saliva to clear out any capsaicin still present in your mouth. Make sure to keep a napkin at the ready.

You might get heartburn

According to Everyday Health, if you're prone to heartburn, one of the things you should avoid eating is spicy foods (like hot sauce) because the ingredients in spicy dishes can encourage heartburn. Slate noted that the initial sensation (and the more likely thing you'll experience) is not actually heartburn, but rather the capsaicin binding to receptors your esophagus, which causes the burning that feels like heartburn. Sometimes, though not as often, you can get actual heartburn after eating spicy foods when the capsaicin (again) causes the muscular valve at the top of the stomach to stay open for too long, letting acid move back up into the esophagus. Either way, you might want to have some antacids on hand to help manage any esophageal burning, you know, for your own comfort.

Your stomach might cramp

Though it doesn't happen to everyone, some people tend to get stomach aches and cramping after they eat hot sauce. According to Slate, there are pain receptors that line the small intestine, which, when capsaicin hits them, can cause a neurotransmitter that causes stomach contractions (also known as cramping) to be released. If you regularly suffer from stomach cramping after eating spicy foods like hot sauce, then you may choose to avoid eating too much of it as a way to stave off any potential digestive issues such as painful cramping, or even diarrhea.

Your seasonal allergies will clear up

In an interview with HuffPost, Dr. Clifford W. Bassett, the medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York, said that the capsaicin in cayenne and chili pepper will help clear up congestion. Eat some hot sauce the next time your seasonal allergies start to flare up to see if that will help you nip them in the bud. Seasonal allergies can be a pain, but if a little hot sauce can help, that's just another reason to drizzle some Sriracha on your eggs in the morning.

Your diet will be more successful

If you're trying to drop a few pounds, you might want to up your hot sauce intake. According to Science Daily, because capsaicin raises your body temperature, it could help your metabolism rev up and you burn more fat, making your weight loss efforts more successful than if you didn't incorporate capsaicin-containing foods into your diet. It can be relatively easy to add more hot sauce to your food, so you might as well eat up.

Your blood pressure might go down

While it won't happen immediately after you eat a dish doused with hot sauce, if you consistently eat hot sauce over the years, it could help you lower your blood pressure, according to Science Daily. If you eat capsaicin-containing foods regularly, over time, the molecule will help the blood vessels in your body to relax, lowering your overall blood pressure. Somebody pass the Tabasco, please.

Prostate cancer can be suppressed

While, of course, this hot sauce health effect doesn't kick in immediately after you eat it, it could be a serious health benefit to encourage you to up your intake of spicy food if you have a prostate. According to 2010 research published in the journal Future Oncology, capsaicin may work well at suppressing the growth of prostate cancer tumors. Add a bit more hot sauce to your dinner rotation. It's for your health, after all. 

You could live longer

That's right, eating more hot sauce could help you live longer. According to research published in BMJ in 2015, when adjusted for other known risk factors, eating a lot of spicy foods (like your favorite, hot sauce) correlated with greater longevity for both men and women. Eating spicy foods most days each week led to a 14 percent relative risk reduction for the people in the study. You've heard that spicy food is good for you, but now you know that eating hot sauce can actually help you live more years overall.