Why Does Your Head Itch When You Eat Spicy Food?

Spicy foods can be pretty intense, and generate several physical reactions to the phytochemical in most spices. From headaches to sneezing, and sweating to tearing up the eyes, there is no telling to what extent spices affect you.

Your head does not precisely itch when you eat spicy food. Instead, your entire head region, including your ears, eyes, nose, and scalp feels sensitive after consuming spicy foods. The sensitivity you feel in your head region is what your brain interprets sometimes as an itch. 

Although headaches are the most frequent head reaction to spicy food consumption, some people still interpret the fuzzy feeling they experience when consuming spicy foods as an itchy head. So, in this article, we are going to discover why some people feel their heads itch when they eat spicy foods. Keep reading to learn more! 

Does Your Head Actually Feel Itchy When You Eat Spicy Food?

Your entire head region experiences the feeling that you generally interpret as itchy. When you eat spicy food, your eyes, nose, mouth, tongue, and sometimes throat experience intense heat sensations. 

Sometimes, you may experience full-blown headaches when you eat spicy foods. 

The reason is that your mouth possesses receptors that are sensitive to specific phytochemicals contained in most spices. 

Capsaicin and piperine found in Chili and Black pepper are the most common phytochemicals to which your head responds. Capsaicin for instance is significant for binding specifically to the heat regulating receptors TRPV1 on your mouth, sending a wave of warmth around your body. 

Your brain thinks that your body is on fire and reacts by making you sweat. The increased body temperature and sweating dilate your blood vessels, causing more blood to reach other body parts and organs including the brain. 

As a result, the sweat pores in your scalp begin to gradually open up, causing you to sweat more in your head, which you generally interpret as an itching head. Essentially, your sweaty head or scalp also leads directly to itching, while in other cases, you may experience headaches, sneezing, and other physical responses including headaches. 

In other words, the itchy feeling you get in your head is essentially a sensation of discomfort from consuming spicy foods.   

What Parts of Your Head Region Are Affected by Spicy Foods?

The most affected parts of your head region that are affected by spicy foods are your eyes, ears, nose, and throat (tongue and mouth). Here is how these components of your head react to capsaicin, piperine, or other spice phytochemicals. 

Your Eyes

The most significant eye response to spicy food consumption is tearing. For example, most people produce heavy tears when they eat spicy foods. The reason is that the capsaicin lightly irritates your sensitive eyes while interacting with the pain receptors in your mouth to cause tearing. 

When capsaicin makes direct contact with your eyes, it could result in swelling, redness, and excruciating pain. As a result, it is advisable to properly wash your hands after handling the pepper. Alternatively, you should use hand gloves, especially when harvesting pepper plants. 

Your Ears

Believe it or not, eating spicy food affects your ears as much as your eyes. Most spicy foods generate lots of heat within your body, significant enough to open your blood vessels. As a result, more blood flows through your head region, which you will usually feel in your ears. 

The feeling generated in your ears due to the increased blood flow to your head region is what you interpret as an itchy feeling. In severe situations, some people experience temporary deafness from eating extremely spicy foods. 

Your Nose

A runny nose is the conventional nasal response to eating spicy foods. Interestingly, the same capsaicin that causes your eyes to water also inflames your nasal mucosal membranes. In addition, the mucus produced from your nose due to eating spicy foods is usually very thin. 

As a result, you could sneeze and sniff multiple times, leading to the feeling of an itchy scalp and in severe cases, headaches.  

Your Throat

How long does a spicy tongue last

Attempting to describe spicy food’s effect on your throat, as part of your head region also includes your mouth and tongue. The interaction between capsaicin and the heat receptors of your mouth tricks your brain into thinking that your body is on fire. 

Therefore, every attempt your body makes to counteract the feeling sends waves of warmth through your body, causing you to feel an itchy feeling in your head region. Exposure to spicy foods sometimes creates a husky voice due to the inflammation of your throat linings. 

Other effects of spicy food on the throat include but are not limited to sneezing, wheezing, and coughing.   

Here is a table to summarize the effect of spicy foods on the component of your head region, causing you to perceive an itchy head.

Head Region ComponentReaction To Spice
EyesWatery/teary eyes
EarsIncreased auditory blood supply/temporary deafness
NoseRunny nose/thin mucus/sneezing
Mouth/tongue/ThroatBurning mouth/tongue/ coughing
Head Region Component

Itchy Head? How Spicy Foods Affect the Brain

The itchy feeling you get due to spicy food consumption is largely due to your brain’s response or reaction to the spice phytochemicals. For instance, your brain interprets the reaction between capsaicin and your mouth receptors as your body burning. As a result, it quickly activates a cascade of physical reactions to counteract the imminent danger it perceives. 

In addition, studies reveal that the quick reaction your brain produces in response to spicy foods initiates a neurological change. Essentially, spicy foods activate the intense firing of neurons in your brain, explaining why some people appear to gain some increased mental alertness after consuming spicy foods. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Eating Spicy Foods Alone Cause Itching?

Spicy foods due to their high spice content can cause mild to severe irritation to your skin and other sensitive organs. Some people exhibit hypersensitivity to most spices, primarily due to a cross-reaction to pollen. Also, some itching from spicy foods is due to food allergies and not only the capsaicin or phytochemical in the spices.

Does Eating Spicy Food Affect Your Brain in Any Way?

Spicy foods contain the phytochemical that makes up the individual spices used as ingredients for the food. Essentially, the reaction between the phytochemical and your receptors sends a message to your brain that it interprets as toxic, hot, or dangerous. As a result, spicy foods establish profound connections between the brain and other organs leading to quick responses.

What Happens if You Eat Too Much Spicy Food?

Eating too much spicy food can not only elicit several neurological responses but can aggravate already existing ulcers. People with peptic, duodenal ulcers should minimize their spicy food consumption. In addition, you should avoid spicy foods if you are hypersensitive or can’t tolerate most spices. 

Final Thoughts

Adding spice to your dishes introduces an extra kick to your palette. However, the spiciness of your food can generate some uncomfortable feelings, like the itchy head you feel. Whether your reaction and symptoms to spicy foods are severe or not, it is best to eat spicy foods moderately. Also, discuss with your healthcare provider to find out if you have any spice allergies. 

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Bill Kalkumnerd

I am Bill, I am the Owner of HappySpicyHour, a website devoted to spicy food lovers like me. Ramen and Som-tum (Papaya Salad) are two of my favorite spicy dishes. Spicy food is more than a passion for me - it's my life! For more information about this site Click

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