Red Hot Chili Peppers isn’t just the name of a band, it could be the key to unlocking the problem of chronic pain.
According to researchers at the Institute of Physiology of the Czech Science Academy, capsaicin receptors contained in chili peppers can help quell chronic pain. Capsaicin receptors are the part of the chili pepper that makes the food spicy.
Institute spokeswoman Diana Moosová said capsaicin plays a significant role in blocking TRPV receptors, which participate in the transfer and triggering of painful stimuli. These receptors can be activated and blocked through a variety of stimuli, one of which is hot temperatures and low pH levels. Capsaicin fits that bill perfectly.
“Our experiments have proved that the TRPV1 receptors in the central projections of neurons of spinal ganglions play an important modulation role in the transfer of information provoking pain,” said Jiří Paleček, head of the functional morphology team. “By blocking these receptors’ activity, the pathologically increased sensitivity to mechanical and temperature impulses, which is a symptom of many chronic painful conditions, is considerably decreased.”
In essence, when you eat chili peppers, the compound capsaicin causes an initial excitation of nuerons inside your body. This leads to a period of enhanced sensitivity, but as Newton Third Law taught us, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The firing of these neurons is followed by a “refractory period with reduced sensitivity and, after repeated applications, persistent desensitisation,” according to a similar study.
So while peppers may cause painful flare ups in the short term, over time, they might actually help you to desensitize to chronic pain.
Related source: Oxford Medicine, Prague Post
Thomas Cohn, MD
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