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Does very spicy food affect the taste buds after you've eaten it?

OK, maybe I'm getting old. But as one who has always tolerated very picante food (my new favorite show is "the Heat Seekers" on Food Network) I am suddenly finding my tolerance very reduced. Not too long ago I found two cans of pav bhaji on sale in the clearance section of our local supermarket for only 50 cents each. I figured they were there because I'm probably the only person who shops there who actually knows what pav bhaji is. (and technically, the can contained bhaji, since "pav" refers to the bread served with the dish and was not included:-) Anyway, after I ate the first can I decided that perhaps they didn't sell because folks DID know that brand, and knew that it was intolerably spicy hot. So today I prepared the second can as part of a quick late-night meal for my husband by adding my own carrots, potatoes, peas etc to basically double the recipe. OK, it was STILL very picante, although within the tolerable range after the addition of all those veggies and no spices.

But here's the weird thing: my husband had just driven 450 miles from our "other house" up north and had stopped at a favorite candy store that is on the way. He often brings me English Toffee from said store; it is a treat we both like. But as I chewed on a piece this evening after dinner, I realized it really wasn't tasting good to me. It tasted dry and bland...kind of like cardboard. I don't think it was stale; the texture was right. Was it my tastebuds? Had the warnings of my college boyfriend finally come true and I blew out my tastebuds on one too many picante dishes? I guess I'll have to have another piece of the toffee tomorrow to know for sure, but was curious if any hounds had experienced that when eating sweets after a very spicy meal?....

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  1. I haven't had it happen because of a spicy meal, but I have had it happen when I was taking a new medication or getting a migraine. For years, any time I was getting a migraine, I'd think everything tasted moldy. It happened one day when I'd just made a sandwich so I took my migraine meds and tried to finish enough of the sandwich to keep from getting low blood sugar at work. Turned out, the bread was actually moldy.

    At any rate, my taste buds have definitely changed on me over time, but I think it's due to other factors.

    1 Reply
    1. re: alitria

      Me too with the meds. When I was on lipitor, nothing tasted right. It was weird. I couldn't pin it down, but the flavors of my own cooking which I knew so well, were always off. I can eat pretty spicy, but I don't do Habanero peppers or the like. So, though I've never noticed flavors changing after a spicy dish, I haven't eaten really, really spicy food in a long time.But I am guessing that fiery hot food could alter taste or perception of taste. I am curious to know if the toffee still tastes bland tomorrow.

    2. I know *I* have a hard time tasting immediately after I've had something spicy -- I'm not even going to try to guess the physiological explanation-- only that I generally *don't* eat really hot foods because it renders everything else tasteless.

      If the toffee still tastes funky tomorrow, then I'd sooner guess it's a funky piece of toffee rather than an after effect of the spice.

      1. On two occasions, I have temporarily burned out some tastebuds.

        I love Atomic fireballs and used to suck them non-stop around Halloween when they sold big bags of them. At one point, all of a sudden some things that should taste sweet, started tasting salty. Needless to say, I cut way back on my Ferrara candies.

        I love serranos, but can't tolerate habenaros. I used to eat the Infierno salsa at a local tacqeria. Once, the side of my tongue went numb for several weeks. My dentist told me to stop eating that salsa.

        1. Except for appreciating the spicy food, I don't think my taste buds are affected, but my sinus is. My nose usually drips for five minutes after the meal.

          1. Pav bhaji in a can? Oh, no. That just sounds wrong. Aside from the piquancy, was it any good?

            As to the spice thing, I have been eating spicy for many years and it has never happened to me.

            2 Replies
            1. re: luckyfatima

              The whole idea of Indian food not freshly prepared seem weird to me. You would lose all the subtleties of the spices not to mention the texture of the veg.

              1. re: luckyfatima

                It was ok. I bought it because I figured at 50 cents a can, how could I go wrong? I figured it might make an easy quick meal someday. I wasn't worried too much about the texture issue mentioned below because pav bhaji pretty much is the texture of mashed potatoes anyway....The version I made by mixing the can with my own vegetables was better...but of course my home-made version is much better than either. I was just trying to save some time.....Actually, I was amazed at how spicy the stuff was. That's about as picante a thing I've ever eaten out of a can, and that is including some canned Mexican salsas I've tried.....

                Oh, and a PS: I think it was the toffee. It tasted off to me today too, and hubby also mentioned that it seemed stale....

              2. As far I understand it and experience it Capsicum does no damage to your taste buds.
                I think when people say that food was so spicy that they couldn't taste that really is happening is that all they could focus on is the burning sensation.
                Capsaicin does not actually cause a chemical burn, or any direct tissue damage at all.
                May be a Zinc deficiency?

                6 Replies
                1. re: chefj

                  No, I'm not focusing on the burning sensation, which I enjoy...but when *I* eat very spicy food, *I* cannot taste anything else -- even the flavor of the spicy food.

                  I don't enjoy it -- it's like trying to eat a gourmet meal after dental work -- the texture's there, but the taste is just gone.

                  It's possible I'm the only person on the planet who experiences this, but somehow I doubt it.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    My reply to the OP was about the idea that they had done some damage to their taste buds which is not the case.
                    It had nothing to do with your reply and was not directed at you. You can believe what you like but hot peppers do not lastingly effect your taste buds.
                    Most studies that have found a repression of tasting ability where using a purified form of capsaicin that you would not experience in a hot pepper.

                    1. re: chefj

                      not for hours -- just long enough to kill the flavor of that meal.

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        Well we could continue but to no point.
                        I have looked at the research and unless there is some actual proof as to the effects that contradict what has already been found, my belief will remain the same.
                        And of course you are welcome to yours.

                        1. re: chefj

                          I find during the course of a spicy meal that I experience a whole different range of flavors five minutes or so after the initial spice rush. My own opinion is that this is either my sense of taste adjusting temporarily to the level of heat, or my brain altering its perception due to endorphins released after the stimulus.

                          I don't see this as a negative thing, in fact it's almost like getting two meals in one. Have never noticed any lingering aftereffects. Sadly, my digestion is no longer as tolerant of really spicy meals as it used to be and I am having to take antacids afterwards when I indulge. And my own experience with middle age mirrors what alitria posted- the sensory output from my tastebuds seems to be altering in terms of flavor balance & is dimming a bit even as my brain's perception of sensory input becomes more discriminating & sophisticated. So it's sort of a trade off, albeit a slightly confusing one.

                          I do notice that a meal heavy in garlic tends to affect my tastebuds for several hours, considerably interfering with my enjoyment of certain specific flavors, especially chocolate and some other sweets. And of course decongestants, antihistamines, antibiotics and some other meds have altered my sense of taste significantly on various occasion, but only while I was taking them. Thank heaven.

                          1. re: eclecticsynergy

                            There is also a certain amount of sensory overload that the capsicum causes and the nervous system is dealing with. I imagine that could also effect the way you perceive taste.
                            I have never heard of the garlic thing though. Interesting.