Turn Up The Heat – Spicy Foods Produce Dopamine

You read that right. If your brain, like mine, refuses to make and regulate neurotransmitters like Dopamine then let me share this fun fact with you. You can make your own.

A chemical compound called Capsaicin is found naturally in hot peppers and is what makes your spicy food so spicy. That hot feeling in your mouth is not actually a flavor, but a physical sensation. When introduced to surface cells on your tongue it creates a similar effect to actually being on fire. Your brain then says “Hey self, is that fire we’re on?” and immediately initiates your body’s pain response to help relieve the burning.

The first step in the pain response is to release endorphins. See, you’re already feeling a little better. Endorphins block your body’s ability to send pain signals and in turn dull that burning sensation. At the same time, your brain releases some dopamine to trick you into feeling pleasure and distract from the fact that you should have ordered your Indian take away medium instead of hot. If you eat large amounts of spicy foods, you can even experience a sort of “runner’s high” of excess endorphins and dopamine that create a euphoric feeling.


Personally, I have always loved spicy food and now have a reason to eat even more. Have you ever noticed a change in your mood after eating spicy foods? What are your favorite spicy foods or recipes? Let me know in the comments. – DQ

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43 thoughts on “Turn Up The Heat – Spicy Foods Produce Dopamine”

    1. N.Z. Robotewske, Lavenderandlevity, David and Meditativeowl, some people seem to believe that too much consumption of spicy food is bad for a person’s health. Many people seem to believe that just because they cannot tolerate the spicy foods that other people should not be able to tolerate it either. Where do you stand on this issue?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Interesting. Thanks for asking ragnarsbhut? Everyone has to be aware of their own sensitivities and what it is ‘too much’ right? Know your limitations. I eat chilies regularly. And where do you stand?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. N.Z. Robotewske, I know that people are different in this regard. Where do I stand? I believe that people who are really into this sort of thing should be free to regulate themselves and what they can tolerate. One thing that I find to be absurd is how some people who have very little or no tolerance for the super hot foods, sauces and so on seem to assume that other people cannot tolerate it very well. Here is an example: A fresh super hot pepper pod. Some people may be unable to tolerate the heat of that and some people may tolerate it very well. As for my blog, I will keep it updated as often as is possible. Should you have family and/or friends who would be into this sort of thing, will you please tell them about my blog?

        Liked by 1 person

  1. You had that thread earlier about alternatives to engaging in risky behavior. I’m tempted now to add “eat some crazy high Scoville hot sauce directly” to my original list. Although you definitely feel the burn, the effect is not actually causing any physical damage to you. (And spicy food is delicious. A truly spicy curry is incredible comfort food!)

    Liked by 3 people

  2. interesting! I would have never guessed. Being of Mexican decent and living in El Paso, TX which shares the border with Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, AND being about 2 hours away from the self proclaimed chile capital of the world, Hatch, New Mexico, there is plenty of spicy food to go around here. I’ve always eaten it and make some pretty good salsas and the sort. I don’t think i’ve ever felt the runner’s high, as much as the need to keep eating chips and salsa when i do. LOL. But good to know with all this information!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. A high-capsaicin pepper and high-cocoa chocolate–spicy and dark–melted smoothly into a small, elegant demitasse and sipped slowly on any day, regardless of the weather: my drug of choice.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I made a slow cooked chilli yesterday and it was pretty hot (kind of a chuck it all in and hope for the best meal) It was a really bad day for me mental health wise, but I think that afterwards I did feel a bit better and could enjoy my evening more. We have it for the next few days I think! So, this can only be a good thing… 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Probably a vindaloo is about my limit now. When I was younger I could tolerate a lot more, but as I’ve got older my taste buds must have aged with me 😂👍

        Liked by 1 person

      1. UndauntedAqua, threshold in this sense refers to how much spice you can tolerate before it is too much. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest you can go before the heat is intolerable, where would you place your tolerance at in this context?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I have a pretty high tolerance for hot sauce and other spicy items. This has been built up over the years. At times, if the heat is too much, milk can relieve some of the burn. However, if it is not an uncomfortable burn, I just wait it out.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I love spicy food. Maybe this is why. I hadn’t considered it before reading your post. I always wanted to try the Carolina Reaper sauce and rumor has it a local place carries it as a side item. Don’t know if they will sell it separately, or at least let me get a sample.

    Liked by 3 people

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