Doctor explains scientific reason drinking milk can help after eating spicy food

Spicy food is not for the faint of heart and should be approached with caution. But we’ve all been there – tempted for whatever reason to try something spicier than we’re used to, then forced to deal with the consequences. In that moment of realisation, many of us reach for a glass of milk, and for good reason, according to Psychology Today.

Writing for the website, Jordan Gaines Lewis, PhD, explained how milk really does ease the pain – it is not just a trick of the mind. But not every type of milk can bring that much-needed relief, according to the expert.

To understand how milk can help, we must first understand why spicy foods can cause pain. It is all to do with capsaicin, the active component found in chilli peppers.

When capsaicin binds with receptors on the tongue, we experience the “sensation of heat or abrasion.” The doctor is clear to point out that while we might feel like the chilli pepper caused a chemical burn, this is not actually the case.

But tell this to someone suffering and they won’t feel much comfort.

Thankfully, certain compounds can help to dissolve capsaicin – and these are readily available in certain types of milk. On the other hand, water cannot help because it lacks the needed properties.

However, you can’t just use any milk, so make your pick carefully.

Dr Lewis explained: “Casein is a lipophilic (literally, “fat-loving”) protein, which means that it acts as a detergent on capsaicin, thanks to that fatty hydrocarbon tail.”

And as you have probably guessed by now, milk can contain casein – like milk from mammals.

“Plant-based milks — such as soy, rice, coconut, or almond — do not contain casein,” the expert added.

So, there you have it: the reason milk can lend a much needed hand when you’re indulging in a spicy meal.

Alcohol also dissolves capsaicin, according to Dr Lewis, but most alcoholic drinks won’t make much of a difference, due to differing concentration levels.

Stick with the milk – it is likely your best bet.