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Why Does Spicy Food Make Your Nose Run?

If you keep hot sauce in your bag, you'll need to stock up on tissues, too.

Whether it's a few red pepper flakes on your avocado toast or a piping hot bowl of chili, spicy foods are full of flavor. And if you're someone who likes meals on the hotter side, you're in luck — spicy foods like hot peppers can help boost your metabolism and increase satiety, meaning you'll feel fuller, faster.

While some spice can burn your mouth, especially if you have a lower tolerance, there's something else you probably notice when you're enjoying your favorite hot foods: Your nose runs. Eating something spicy, especially in larger quantities, tends to clear your sinuses and leave you in desperate need to blow your nose. What gives?

It turns out, the ingredient that gives spicy food its fire-breathing sensation and metabolism-boosting benefits also triggers your nose to run like a faucet: Capsaicin.

"Capsaicin is the spice component of [chili] peppers," Erich P Voigt, MD, clinical associate professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center, says. "It can be easily ingested or even inhaled, inducing a reproducible cough, and provokes a secretory response from the human nasal mucosa," In other words, it makes your nose run.

Especially if you have cold or backed-up sinuses, eating something spicy can feel like you are breaking up your nasal congestion, giving your sinus passages some much-needed relief. There's a reason for that, too.

"Some spicy foods contain chemicals that have an effect on the nasal mucosa resulting in decongestion or rhinorrhea." Dr. Voigt says. "At times a person may feel as if they are breathing more clearly, and at other times the nose may run and become more congested. These chemicals may act on the trigeminal nerve resulting in reflex congestion and decongestion."

While some people may find sinus relief from downing a spicy dish, others could find the opposite to be true. But for the most part, loading up on hot peppers means you'll need to have some tissues (and plenty of hand sanitizer) on hand. If you're not a fan of spicy food, turmeric can also alleviate sneezing and nasal congestion, thanks to the presence of curcumin.

So capsaicin is good for not only revving up your metabolism and triggering satiety, it can also clear up a stuffy nose. Time to stock up on the hot sauce! And for more sure-fire ways to blast fat fast, don't miss these essential 55 Best Ways to Boost Your Metabolism.