Why Do You Cry When Chopping Onions

Why Do You Cry When Chopping Onions?

It can be an enjoyable activity to spend time cooking dinner for the family. But, many people dread the activity of chopping and cooking the onions. This potent ingredient is often used in some of the best recipes due to the amazing flavors that are available from the onions. But, it can be uncomfortable to pull out the cutting board due to the tear duct reaction that occurs.

Chopping and Smells from the Onions

Onions have naturally occurring sulfur that comes from the soil. Additionally, the root vegetable contains enzymes that are used to break down the sulfur. These two compounds are separated in the structure of the onion, until you start chopping. The chopping motion mixes the sulfur and enzymes together, resulting in sulfenic acid. Then, the acid evaporates and causes a gas which affects the air and your eyes.

Tears = Protection for the Eyes

Tears aren’t a bad thing. In fact, tears are usually produced to protect your eyes. The tear ducts provide basal tears throughout the day to keep the eyes lubricated. Sometimes tears are developed due to emotional triggers. The third type of tear is known as “reflexive” because it is an automatic occurrence when the eyes need to be protected.

Since the acid from the onions come in contact with the eyes, the body response with the protective element of tears. The goal is to wash the irritant out of the eyes.

Minimizing Tears While Chopping Onions

The production of tears varies depending on the potency of the onions and the sensitivity of your eyes. If you need to chop an onion for dinner tonight, try using these tips to minimize the reflexive tears:

  • Cut cold onions. Storing the onions in the fridge can help to suppress the irritants that cause the chemical reaction.
  • Speed up the food prep time. Practice cutting onions so that you are faster, helping to minimize the time that you are exposed to the gas. Or, try chopping the onion in a food processor instead of doing it by hand.
  • Sharpen your knives. A dull knife will cut and crush at the same time. Since the crushing increases the gases that are released, a sharper knife can help to reduce the gas.
  • Stand by a pot of boiling water or an active air vent to dissipate the gas.
  • Submerse the onion in water while you are cutting it.
  • Wear goggles to protect your eyes from the gas.

Be Grateful for Tears

Don’t feel frustrated if you are teary while chopping an onion. Instead, recognize the amazing system that is in place to protect your eyes from harmful circumstances. The tear production is normal, helping you maintain healthy eyes in all conditions.

If you have questions about your eyes, then you can contact us at Village Eyecare any time. We are proud to offer four convenient locations in Chicago, making it easier than ever for you to schedule an eye exam. Visit with one of our experienced optometrists to learn more about caring for your eyes.