When I was about 8 or 10 years of age, my mother used to cook curries without red chilli(chili) powder or green chilli peppers since my father had stomach ulcers. Chilli pepper – green, red, cayene or many other varieties, is an ubiquitous ingredient of Indian, Mexican and Mediterranean cuisines! The curries looked very bland to others but we were used to it. As my father got cured, he started eating chilli peppers again and mother’s curries changed too. But I did not graduate fully and I am not fond of this spice. Recently, I realized what happens when I eat chilli peppers.
I noticed that when I put chilli peppers in the mouth (as part of curry! Never I dare to eat it alone), it pricks the tongue at points it comes in contact. As long as some portions of the tongue are spared, I could manage it. If its in excess, my mouth is on fire. You need water or sugar to cool off. If my mouth is burning, what do you think might be happening in the food pipe and stomach? I can sense it in the mouth, but not many of us are sensitive enough to know what is happening in the stomach and intestines until food gets to the end of intestines – My A*** is on fire! Paper will not work, Need water. Menthol water would have been better!
Many people like the pricking of chilli and enjoy it. I am sure they had to go through “the fire at the end of the line” initially before the body got used to it. What I noticed is, chilli pepper (with food of course!) when ingested, inhibits saliva generation which is crucial for digestion of the food. It’s like, touching a hot surface. When you come in contact with fire, you retract based on how hot the surface – hotter the surface, faster the retraction. It’s same case with food with chilli pepper – the hotter it is, the faster you try to swallow the food (touch and go). This is not like watching a movie, where most of the action happens inside the theater and not at the counter. It is like playing a match- though you have to perform in the field, practice and warmup is very important. Chewing is important for digestion!
Over time, getting used to chilli pepper, we lose the habit of chewing food and just enjoy the taste and swallow. This may be affecting the overall digestion process of which mouth is an important portion. Hope you have seen cows sitting leisurely chewing the food! Our food is cooked but it still needs some chewing.
Black Pepper vs Chilli Pepper
When I added black pepper to my food, it actually generated more saliva (similar to lime or lemon) and I chewed longer and enjoyed food more. Black pepper creates heat but does not prick the tongue as chilli. My daughter has difficulty eating food with chilli but no issues with black pepper. Children resist chilli in food but we force them to eat until they get used to it and cannot go without! Now don’t say chilli helps with constipation – You cannot use fire to dry a wet cloth, it will burn after some time!
I am writing it here and dare not tell you in person. I do not want to risk chilli powder thrown at me! You can replace it with Paprika or black pepper. Try it out and see.
You could argue that people are using chilli for centuries. Our lifestyle has become more sedentary. May be it does not matter when one’s job is physically very intensive. Culture is good as a template for us to evolve and grow, but not as an excuse for our compulsions.