I just ate carnitas with some nice and spicy salsa verde. If the dish is spicy enough my nose will run and I will even suffer from some brief chest congestion. Clears up in about 5 min and I'm back to normal. Is this an inflammatory response? Should I stay away?
That's a totally normal reaction to spicy food! If it's not happening, one has built up a tolerance. The active component in hot peppers is called capsaicin, and it stimulates mucosal membranes, but it isn't causing congestion, it's actually clearing it. It gets things moving, so to speak. You can use this to your advantage when you're sick!
Capsaicin is actually ANTI-inflammatory. It's even sold as a supplement for joint pain. It's said that it can help prevent ulcers too, and i recently saw a study about an actual nasal spray!
Spicy food is healthy! and YUMMY! Eat it! :)
IMHO it's a very direct localized and transient type of inflammation based on capsaicin. Whether or not the long term effects of it are positive or negative is pretty debated. Some people don't get that reaction and Gary Nabhan has theorized it's due to genes and that people who have a long ethnic history of eating these foods react differently. I'm planning to do a month without spicy which will be horrible since I put hot sauce on everything and I love it to death, but I've noticed it makes my gums bleed.