The Scientific Reason Your Nose Runs When Eating Spicy Food

We've all been there. You're in a public place, like a restaurant, boardwalk, or party, enjoying a spicy, delectable meal. The heat from the habanero, chili, or jalapeƱo kicks in and the tongue tingles with delight as you continue to consume the food. But, as you go in for bite number two, you sense a twitch in your nose. Both nostrils fill with mucus and before you can say boo, your nose starts dripping like a faucet.

Within seconds you've pulled out the tissues and begun wiping drips of liquid and mucus from the bridge of your face. Even armed with a tiny packet of Kleenex in your pocket, perhaps you still feel self-conscious. As delicious as that spicy food may taste, each new bite causes your nose to run again. Let's face it: Spicy food just makes most people's nose run (via Live Science). It's not just you. There's science behind the phenomenon.

Spicy ingredients irritate and inflame your mucous membranes

That tingling feeling of the tongue and the less-than-pleasant runny nose that accompanies a delightfully spicy treat can all be chalked up to science. According to Live Science, hot peppers are loaded with capsicum, a debilitating irritant that inflames the lining of your mucous membranes. These membranes then respond by attempting to flush out the irritant in a sea of mucus that presents as a runny nose.

However, not all spicy foods contain peppers. Condiments like wasabi and horseradish contain an oil known as allyl isothiocyanate, which is equally irritating to your nostrils. Time reports that Dr. Brett Comer of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine described the phenomenon this way: "when your mouth or throat encounters any foreign object that's noxious, the thinking is that liquid helps to move that out."

Moving it out, for most people, means a pesky, runny nose. For some people who are extremely intolerant, this reaction can also cause an upset stomach or even runny diarrhea.