July 6, 2020
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Is spicy food good for you?
The five basic tastes we often talk about are sweet, sour, bitter, spicy and salty, but our taste buds can only detect sweet, sour, bitter and salty. So what about “spicy”? Technically speaking, spiciness is not a taste but a pain signal stimulated by capsaicin, causing the burning sensation.
From Chinese medicine perspective, the sense of spiciness is also known as “xin”. Most food with the “xin” sensation promotes dispersion and circulation of qi, dispels cold from the body, improves blood circulation and stimulates the sweat glands. Since most of them are hot in nature, for instance, chili, ginger, scallion, onion, garlic, pepper and Chinese basil, they can dispel cold to keep the body warm when consumed in an appropriate quantity, especially by individuals with cooler bodies and those suffering from externally contracted illness and wind-cold dampness.
On the other hand, individuals with qi deficiency and the blood asthenia condition should limit the intake of spicy food, to avoid further weakening of qi and blood. The same rule applies to individuals with the qi stagnation, blood stasis, damp-heat and yin deficiency body conditions, because the spiciness in food would inhibit the liver function, disrupting the meridian system, hence aggravating the existing problems of the body. Individuals prone to stomach ache and bloating should avoid spicy food as well.
While eating spicy food can help stimulate the sweat glands, and in turn get rid of dampness in the body, individuals with the damp-heat condition are encouraged to consume more food like coix seed, Chinese yam, hyacinth bean, rice bean, or drink rice water instead, as these will further improve the health of the stomach and the spleen.
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