The unexpected health benefit of spicy foods

If you’ve ever suffered muscle cramps you’ll know they are generally associated with exercise. You might have been woken in

If you’ve ever suffered muscle cramps you’ll know they are generally associated with exercise. You might have been woken in the middle of the night gripping your calf as the muscle went into spasm after your afternoon run, or your thighs give way just as your about to return serve in a tennis match, for example.

While your cramps will happen as you’re lying in bed, after you’ve stretched and even before you have had a chance to get your workout in, Nobel Prize-winning scientist Rod MacKinnon says the cause of your cramps could be from a malfunctioning nervous system.

When Dr MacKinnon’s hands and arms cramped up dangerously while he was out kayaking with his colleague Bruce Bean, a neurobiologist at Harvard Medical School, he knew hydration and electrolytes had nothing to do with the condition, but it was only when they were safely back on dry land that they could investigate further.

For whatever reason, MacKinnon and Bean turned their focus from the muscles to the nervous system to determine the cause of the cramping.

What the pair wanted to do was numb the nerves that triggered the cramp and this led them to ingesting “pungent tasting foods” so as to stimulate the receptors in the mouth and oesophagus and overload the nervous system to cause the numbing effect.

You’d know that this is commonly what happens when you eat spicy food, such as chilli.

MacKinnon made spicy drinks using vast amounts of ginger and cinnamon in his kitchen and used himself as a test subject. It was a test that lasted more than 10 years, but by the end of it MacKinnon was convinced.

According to MacKinnon there is no benefit to having a muscle cramp, which means that his and Bean’s findings about spicy food aren’t dangerous in any way to your body… Well, except for the obvious.

He says that while the concoction mightn’t be the most appealing flavour to have first thing in the morning he has found that a drink of the cinnamon, ginger and spicy pepper mix has prevented cramping.

Do you enjoy eating spicy food? What other benefits of spicy foods are you aware of?

  1. julie  

    Chillies and capsicums are very good for your metabilism also

  2. Cheryl Timms  

    I have suffered cramps since I was a young girl and I am now 71. I live on Crampeze tablets and they seem to help at the moment. I am willing to try anything that will give me a good nights sleep. My feet have started to cramp up the past 12 months and are so sore sometimes I can hardly walk around but have to, to ease the pain. Doctor thinks this may be Arthritis and have to be x-rayed. Will try these hints. Wonder what the measurements for his concoction were, anybody know.

    • Georgy girl  

      Have you tried drinking the pickling juice that gherkins are bottled in. I read this hint on the Internet and found out athletes use this method. Thought it was weird, but tried it and wow!!!, it worked for me. I have cold feet and often get cramping in legs and feet in bed.

  3. I do suffer from muscle cramps sometimes, especially whenever I engage in a long distance trip. The experience while I am sleeping at night is something else. Thanks for this information, since ginger is readily available, then I will be making use of it.

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