How Milk Helps To Cut The Heatburn

We've all experienced it probably. After taking a bite off of an apparently harmless piece of spicy curry, your tongue will begin to tingle, your cheeks will get red, and sweat beads will start to appear on your forehead. The five-alarm fire in your mind is then blasted by steam that comes out of your ears. Capsaicin, a chemical irritant present in all chilli pepper kinds, is to blame for the post-pepper prickle you experience in your throat, mouth, or stomach. And if you've ever tried to dilute that flaming feeling with water, you know it's not an easy flame to put out. 

Science explains why it occurs, how to relieve the burning, and what to attempt in place of water. 

Let's start with a little lesson on heat levels. The Scoville scale, which rates each chilli pepper in Scoville Heat Units, or SHUs, determines how hot they are. The amount of capsaicin in a pepper increases with its SHU, making it taste and feel hotter. 

Skim milk, whole milk, seltzer water, non-alcoholic beer, soda, and water were tested in a 2019 study to see how they fared against spicy dishes. Only whole and skim milk were shown to have any noticeable impact against the heat. 

Casein, a protein found in milk, can break down capsaicin in a manner similar to how dish soap can dissolve grease. Due to the fat content of whole milk compared to skim milk, doctors had previously anticipated that whole milk would be more effective against spicy foods, but both behaved equally. This suggests that the presence of fat has little bearing on the combat against spice. Therefore, any type of animal milk should work after adding pepper. Almond milk, oat milk, and other milk replacements that do not include casein are not worthwhile trying. 

Why water doesn’t help 

Let's bring it back, the example of the dish soap for a second. If you've ever attempted to clean a greasy pan with only water, you undoubtedly immediately realised that this method is ineffective. This is due to the fact that water cannot dissolve grease molecules; soap must be used instead. The same may be said about spicy meals. While rinsing your mouth or your eyes may offer some cooling relief, it won't accomplish much overall because capsaicin doesn't dissolve in water. Introduce casein, which can accomplish tasks that water cannot. 

Sugar might help  

Due to their high sugar content, sweet, flavoured drinks possibly mitigate the effects of hot foods. Although sugar is not as potent a solution as milk, there are reports that it lessens the burn of spicy foods.  When you have that mouth-on-fire sensation and don't have any milk on hand, try chewing on a sugar cube to ease your discomfort. 

Alcohol is ineffective too 

IPAs and hefeweizens were not tested against capsaicin in the 2019 trial since only non-alcoholic beer was used. But as it turns out, alcohol can definitely degrade capsaicin. However, because most beers include mostly water and only 5% alcohol, they are largely ineffective for treating pain brought on by peppers. In high doses, harder liquors might be beneficial, although heavy drinking is generally not recommended. It is best to continue drinking milk. 

The best course of action is to simply stay away from spicy meals entirely if you want to avoid the issues they cause.