Blog Nutrition Why Am I Craving Spicy Food? Decoding Your Desire for Spicy Cuisine

Why Am I Craving Spicy Food? Decoding Your Desire for Spicy Cuisine

No matter how much your friend raves about the latest food joint in town, you may not like the taste. The food seems nice, but it’s bland. Adding some spice may provide the magic you need to enhance the flavors. If this trick works for you, you belong to the spice-lover category of foodies.

The pain caused by the chemical compound capsaicin that is found in hot peppers causes the body to release endorphins upon the consumption of spicy foods (18). This can make a person feel good and satisfied. So, it isn’t absurd to crave spicy food. It’s completely natural and you’re allowed to fulfill this desire of your body. Instead of being worried about why you’re craving spicy food, you should understand the science behind it, and find ways to satisfy or modify these cravings.

Sometimes, consuming intensely spicy food can be a sign of some chemical changes in your body. In this article, we discuss the root causes behind these cravings and look at the pros and cons of this subject.

Let’s dive in!

Does Craving Spicy Food Mean Anything?

The sudden desire to eat food loaded with hot peppers and chilis can be confusing for some people. They may feel worried and think that something is wrong with their bodies. If you’re in the same boat, you should check yourself for the following reasons:

Your Body Maybe Overheated

This may seem quite illogical, but it’s true. You may want to eat spicy food when you’ve indulged in intense physical activity or when the weather is hot. Some studies suggest that capsaicin may help your body control its temperature (8). When you eat capsaicin, it may activate certain receptors in the skin, which may make you sweat to cool down.

Pregnancy May Increase the Desire for Spices

Pregnancy may bring some strange food patterns into your life. Foods that you once despised may become your favorite, and vice versa. In a study of 635 pregnant women, it was found that the most popular cravings were for sweets such as chocolate, ice cream, and desserts (14).

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Spicy foods are another common craving among women who are expecting a child. It hasn’t been confirmed why ladies want these foods, but researchers believe it is due to hormonal changes or nutrient deficiencies. Rather than worrying about the meaning of the craving, you can opt for healthy spicy food options that are cooked and handled safely to minimize the risk of foodborne illness.

You’re Going Through Depression

Capsaicin, which is found in spicy foods such as chili peppers, has been connected to helping with feelings of anxiety and sadness (20). Even a little capsaicin can help the body produce endorphins, potentially reducing depression symptoms.

Some research has shown that disruptions in endorphins can be associated with depression episodes or symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (15). There isn’t much research that proves spicy foods can lower depression symptoms, but studies on mice have found capsaicin to work like an antidepressant following amphetamine withdrawal(12).

You’re Under a Social Influence

Seeing, smelling, or watching someone else eat certain foods can make you desire them. An increased demand for food options and a desire to taste different cuisines can also pull you toward spicy foods.

Regardless of the foods we prefer, it’s common to adopt the food habits of people around us. As a result, if your friends or coworkers often eat or order spicy foods, you may develop taste buds for those flavors.

You’re Under the Weather

Hot sauces and seasonings are often recommended to those who are feeling congested. Some research has suggested that spicy food can help relieve congestion or stuffiness. A review found that nasal spray with capsaicin can cause mild irritation at first but may improve some types of nasal congestion (6).

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What Are You Deficient in When You Crave Spicy Foods?

When you want to eat spicy food, it doesn’t always mean that your body is facing a deficiency. Cravings for spicy foods are influenced by many factors. As mentioned earlier, cravings for spicy foods may be associated with a desire for the release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers. It may also be triggered by heat, pregnancy, or social cues.

Here are some factors you should be aware of if you’re craving spicy foods:

Physiological Difference in Chemosensation

Your genetic composition impacts how much spices you can eat (11). Differences in the genetic makeup influence whether you can handle heat and the level of spices your body can deal with.

Hormonal Shifts

An increase or decrease in certain hormones may heighten your temptation for spicy foods (24). Leptin and serotonin are the prominent hormones that can trigger this desire. Hormonal fluctuations during menstruation and pregnancy can also be responsible when you crave spicy food.

Gastrointestinal Irritation

Capsaicin can be irritating to the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. It can trigger or worsen symptoms of heartburn or reflux, and it may not be the best thing to eat if you have stomach cramps or diarrhea. 

The craving for spicy foods usually arises due to a person’s taste and preferences. The physiological responses of the body can cause us to yearn for the hot flavors. 

why am i craving spicy food  

Do You Crave Spicy Food When You’re Stressed?

Indulging in flaming hot flavors is one of the best ways to overcome stressful episodes. People find themselves much happier and more satisfied when eating a meal that is rich in spices. In Pursuit of Happiness by Ravi Patel, the actor visits South Korea to check out a buffet of stress-relieving tactics. One of the strategies he discovers is eating a three-course meal of spicy foods.

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The following is the science behind spicy food cravings when you feel stressed:

Distraction and Comfort

Spicy foods can have an emotionally satisfying impact on our bodies. Some people feel more energetic and happy after eating spice-rich meals. The burning sensation can provide a feeling of happiness and give them the courage to overcome all challenges. They get distracted from stressful situations and feel a temporary sense of comfort.

Endorphin Release

Flaming-hot foods can be considered a natural therapy for overcoming stressful situations.

When you eat spicy food, a chemical called capsaicin makes your mouth feel as if it is burning at first. But then, your body releases endorphins, which make you feel good. It’s like a natural way to relax—your blood pressure and heart rate go down, and you feel calmer.

Stress Hormones

A study was conducted by psychiatry professor Kim Sung-gon of Pusan National University Yangsan Hospital (17). He observed a group of spicy food lovers and found them to have a higher cortisol level in a stress test than those who were fans of milder foods.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is released when you have low blood sugar levels or are stressed. The report mentioned that people who enjoy spicy food may eat it to attempt to activate their central nervous system. This could be a way for them to deal with higher levels of stress they might be feeling.

A closer look at the link between stress and consumption of spices shows that it is quite complex. It varies from one person to another. While some people may like to eat incredibly spicy foods when they’re stressed, others may not experience this phenomenon. Instead, they could resort to other means of comforting themselves.

Read more: Keto Stuffed Jalapenos 4 Ways: Tasty, Spicy, and Surprisingly Low in Carbs

Are Spicy Foods Bad For You?

The dose of spiciness should be examined before such judgments are made. In addition, the tolerance level of an individual also helps determine if spicy food is tolerable for them. Some people may be unable to tolerate spices due to specific receptors in their nervous system. If someone has fewer TRPV1 receptors, they can handle more heat from spicy foods (4). Also, with time and by eating spicy foods often, a person can become more tolerant to the heat as their body gets used to it.

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Here are some of the potential negative aspects of eating spicy foods:

Stomach Pain

Eating food that’s too spicy may cause stomach pain or other gastrointestinal symptoms. Some signs of this are vomiting, heartburn, or gastroesophageal reflux. An article in the Journal of Emergency Medicine discussed a man who ate ghost peppers when participating in a contest (9). He started vomiting so rapidly that it ruptured his esophagus. The rupture was likely due to vomiting, not the spices, although spices did trigger the extreme vomiting.

why am i craving spicy food  

Gastrointestinal Irritation

There is no evidence that eating spicy foods causes ulcers in the mouth or stomach, but it can irritate existing ulcers (5). Similarly, if you have an upset stomach, eating spicy foods may be irritating and make your symptoms worse. 

Pregnancy Symptoms

Spicy food is safe to eat during pregnancy, but it can trigger certain symptoms such as heartburn and indigestion, which are common in pregnancy (16). If you crave spicy foods but are prone to heartburn or indigestion, talk to your doctor about ways to manage your symptoms. 

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Why Is Spicy Food Good for You?

If you’re a spicy food lover, you may be surprised to know that it offers many perks, not only flavors. Here are some potential health benefits you can get when you eat spicy foods:

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May Improve Heart Health

Spicy food may help reduce your cholesterol and blood pressure (23). These are the two risk factors behind heart problems. In a study from 2017, researchers observed that eating spicy foods was connected to lower levels of LDL, often called “bad” cholesterol (2). They also discovered that people who ate spicy foods more than five times a week had notably higher levels of HDL, known as “good” cholesterol, than those who didn’t eat spicy foods as often.

May Help with Weight Loss

The consumption of spicy food may help with weight management by increasing fat burn, suppressing appetite, and/or influencing the gut microbiome composition (22).

May Improve Longevity

The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects of capsaicin may have the potential to increase longevity. In a review from 2021, researchers analyzed four observational studies involving over half a million adults to see if eating spicy foods such as chili peppers, chili sauce, or chili oil was linked to how likely people would die. They discovered that people who regularly ate spicy foods had a 12% lower risk of dying from any cause than those who didn’t eat spicy foods regularly (3).

Read more: 21 Chili Pepper Benefits for Spicy Connoisseurs With Health and Fitness in Mind

why am i craving spicy food  


  • What happens if you eat spicy food every day?

Eating spicy food every day can have both positive and negative effects on your body. It may boost your metabolism and result in improved heart health. However, eating too many spices can irritate existing ulcers and trigger heartburn or other digestive issues. So, you should eat spices according to your tolerance and avoid them if they cause you discomfort.

  • Does spicy food burn belly fat?

The assumption that spicy food directly burns belly fat is a common misconception. Some research has suggested that certain compounds in spicy foods, such as capsaicin in chili peppers, may have a modest effect on metabolism and fat oxidation. However, the impact is not significant enough to rely solely on spicy food for weight loss or belly fat reduction.

  • Does spicy food keep you feeling full for longer?

Yes, spicy foods can keep you satiated for long hours. This may be because the foods often require you to eat them slowly and sip water with them. The slow eating pace gives your body more time to register feelings of fullness and reduces the possibility of overeating.

The Bottom Line

Generally, the perks and drawbacks of spicy food depend on the amount you consume and how frequently you eat them. To alleviate the effect of hot spices, you can sip water or milk. If you’re a spicy food fan, you should make sure you don’t go beyond your limits as this may cause harm to your health. At the same time, if you barely eat spices but want to add some heat to your meals, you should add some spices to your meals and check how much you can tolerate.


This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


  1. Acute Effects of Capsaicin on Proopioimelanocortin mRNA Levels in the Arcuate Nucleus of Sprague-Dawley Rats (2012,
  2. Association between spicy food consumption and lipid profiles in adults: a nationwide population-based study (2017,
  3. Association of Spicy Chilli Food Consumption With Cardiovascular and All-Cause Mortality: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies (2021,
  4. Can eating spicy foods harm your health? (2023,
  5. Can spicy food cause ulcers? (2023,
  6. Capsaicin for Rhinitis (2016,
  7. Eating Disorders (n.d.,
  8. Effect of capsaicin on thermoregulation: an update with new aspects (2015,
  9. Esophageal Rupture After Ghost Pepper Ingestion (n.d.,
  10. Extreme spicy food cravers displayed increased brain activity in response to pictures of foods containing chili peppers: an fMRI study (2019,
  11. Is Spicy Food Tolerance Genetic? Can you Increase It? (2024,
  12. NMDA receptors are involved in the antidepressant-like effects of capsaicin following amphetamine withdrawal in male mice (2016,
  13. Mycotoxins (2023,
  14. Nutritional and clinical associations of food cravings in pregnancy (2016,
  15. Posttraumatic and depressive symptoms in β-endorphin dynamics (2015,
  16. Spicy Food and Pregnancy (n.d.,
  17. Spicy food lovers more vulnerable to stress: study (2015,
  18. Spicy Food Probably Doesn’t Cause Long-Term Harm (2023,
  19. The harmful effects of eating too much spicy food (n.d.,
  20. The health benefits of spicy foods (n.d.,
  21. The impact of spice on human taste buds (2023,
  22. Understanding Food Preferences and Their Connection to Health Perception among Lean and Non-Lean Populations in a Rural State (2020,
  23. What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Spicy Food (2023,
  24. Why You Want to Eat All the Things Before Your Period (2023,
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