04\ Damage Limitation
Forging a career out of eating absurdly spicy foods is a vocation of, one assumes, limited appeal. But for Chilli Dave – competitive eater and co-founder of the Clifton Chilli Club – it’s all in a day’s work. These are his tips for pain management
Shake it off
“High-fibre foods such as bananas can assist with the transit of the chillies through the digestive system,” he says, “while the fat in peanut butter will dissolve harmful particles. Add both to half a pint of milk and a scoop of protein to strong-arm the pain.”
“Firing off a few choice expletives in the throes of a heatwave can help psychologically dowse the flames. Research from the University of California apparently shows that expressing pain verbally can reduce its intensity. Which I think is fucking great.”
Mind over matter
“I find that if you’re totally at one with your mind, body and soul, then, occasionally, you’re able to convince yourself that the pain is just an illusion and that, eventually, all things must pass. Admittedly, this is a little easier said than done…”
Every time you ingest the holy chilli, you set off fireworks in the body. Some you know all too well; others may come as a pleasant surprise. Here, we anatomically assess the effects of capsaicin on your constitution, from liver disease to heart health
Just a spoonful of hot sauce can be easily enough to clear up sinus congestion. In fact, a University of Cincinnati study found that nasal sprays containing capsaicin were most effective for clearing up inflammation. It should go without saying that this is best taken orally.
Anyone who claims to have developed a ‘ taste’ for incendiary chillies is lying. “It’s not the tastebuds that are activated but the pain-sensing nerves lining the mouth,” explains Dr Farrimond. “The rush of feelgood endorphins is what keeps you coming back for more.” Remember: the hotter the chilli, the greater the eventual payoff.
If you’re carrying a little extra baggage, don’t sweat about missing the odd cardio session: “The capsaicin in chillies turns up the body’s internal thermostat and can cause your body to burn an extra 50 calories a day,” says Dr Farrimond. Just don’t make a habit of swapping your evening run for a plate of jalfrezi.
A study by Purdue University found that adding chilli powder to meals resulted in a decreased appetite for salty, fatty and sweet foods later in the day – presumably not just because your mouth is so numb you’ve lost your sense of taste. Either way, it will help to swerve the call of the biscuit tin come 3pm.
Here’s some great news if you have a penchant for pubs and late-night Turkish establishments: capsaicin not only helps to repair liver damage but can halt the progression of liver fibrosis, the European Association for the Study of the Liver reports. Which makes a hearty breakfast of eggs and Tabasco more advisable than an early-hours kebab.
It’s not just you who fears the burn – it seems that the Big C can’t handle the heat either. Capsaicin causes the activation of cell receptors lining the intestine, which, in turn, acts to suppress the development of colorectal tumours, according to the Uni of California. Best remember that one the next time you’re debating your sauce selection at Nando’s.