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I started eating Asian food rather frequently about 3 years ago.
I like hot and spicy dishes. I have no problem eating for example a Vietnamese Pho with lots of chilis in it. Also, I love to prepare my own food (of any origin) using lots of different types of oil.

However, if I only get to eat one drop of chili oil, my body starts to take it seriously.
It started when I first made chili oil myself and put a good amount of it in my meal. A few hours afterwards, my heart started beating fast and strong and that did not stop until about 60 hours later! It felt like it was pounding during an adrenalin rush, maybe not as strong but without end. I could hardly sleep. No relaxation technique helped.
Also, my stomach didn't do too good, but it was not bad. The problem was my heart and the unrest it caused me.

This was as bad as it ever got. Since then I got the occasional unintentional load of chili oil in restaurants. The symptoms are the same, but weaker and shorter (12-20 hours maybe). I assume in those cases it is just not as much chili oil as it was at the first time.

Maybe a quick explanation of how chili oil is made. It is really simple. You put several sliced red chilis (with seeds) into olive oil and let it steep for a few weeks. That's all. Afterwards you use the oil directly from the container it was made in.

What can cause this? What is different with the oil compared to the single ingredients?

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Capsaicin (the molecule responsible for spicyness) is a very lipophylic substance, meaning that it dissolves very easily and in great amounts in oil. It's not very soluble in water, however.

When you eat chilli peppers capsaicin is released to your saliva, which is basically water. And being such, the amount released is limited. However, if you leave chilli peppers in oil, capsaicin is massively released to the oil. The amount of capsaicin that your body will have the chance to take in (aka bioavailability) is much greater for chilli oil than for fresh peppers.

I do not claim that capsaicin is responsible for your symptoms, and if it becomes a problem you should see a doctor, but I hope this helps you understand better the difference between these two condiments.

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