We all experience that on every day basis. You clean your teeth with mint-flavored paste, then wash your mouth with some water and then you feel the cold. Be that toothpaste, or a mint-flavored chewing gum or candy – the effect will always be the same.
Why does the mint flavor make everything feel cold?
This is neither magic nor your soul freezing. The explanation is far easier.
Menthol activates protein receptors which are sensitive to cold stimulus.
The proteins can be found in our neural cell. They are responsible for transmitting ions through the cell membrane and they sense the cold. Once they are activated, they inform our brains about temperature drops.
Why is it mint?
It is not the actual temperature drop that stimulates the protein, but also menthol, which is an organic agent used in food industry to manufacture mint-flavored products. The flow of sodium and calcium ions gives our brains a false warning about the cold. This is menthol that is behind the fraud!
A false signal received by brain immediately activates the receptor protein and this is why you feel the cold
Our brain is really susceptible to suggestions. That is why mint-flavored products, even the ones you apply on your skin, give you shivers. In case of ointments, the rationale behind is reducing the inflammation. The feeling of cold works like a painkiller then.
The same things happens in case of spicy foods
Here the key players are capsaicinoids, compounds which cheat our receptors and send a pain warning to our brain. That is why eating a chilly pepper makes your eyes water or gives you a runny nose.
Next time you feel cold or hot, remember that this is just your poor body panicking because of a drastic temperature drop.