Is Spicy Food Bad For Digestion?

Digging into a spicy meal isn't necessarily bad for digestion, but nutritionists say it can pose problems and trigger symptoms among people who have digestive issues like acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Put simply: Spicy foods don’t usually cause a digestive problem, but they may aggravate these problems.

Because every person’s gut health is unique to them, spicy foods can cause one person to have an upset stomach and leave other people feeling totally fine. If you already have reflux or IBS, then typically, spicy foods can cause you to feel more uncomfortable and kick-start your usual symptoms; for example, frequent trips to the bathroom.

Nutritionists raise an important point, telling us that sometimes it's not the spice that causes the digestive issues, but the other foods you've eaten in that same meal. Eating hot wings may cause digestive distress due to the fried wings, not the hot sauce. If you eat a double cheeseburger with French fries and hot sauce, the digestive symptoms may be due to the overall fatty content of the meal, not the spicy part.

Can Spicy Food Be Healthy?

Many spicy foods are loaded with nutrients and offer plenty of nutritional benefits. Chilli peppers, for example are a great source of vitamin E, along with vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin K, iron, and fibre. Meanwhile, spices like chilli, turmeric, cayenne, and black pepper are believed to have anti-inflammatory properties.

If you enjoy the taste of spicy food and it doesn't bother your stomach, nutritionists say there's no reason to shy away from it. Know that the heat, or some light tingle or sweat on your nose, is not the same as digestive issues and is a common experience with spicy foods. It is really all about personal preference here on whether spicy foods belong in your diet or not.

Many chilli peppers also contain a compound called capsaicin that is said to reduce inflammation and pain, among other health benefits. Capsaicin has also been shown to help lower the risk of heart disease by helping to regulate blood pressure and lowering your LDL (or bad) cholesterol.

Of course, you'll want to be mindful of your food choices and not assume you're getting nutritional benefits simply because your food contains spices. Eating hot wings won’t promote weight loss in spite of the capsaicin.

In short, if you don't have any existing digestive issues, spice is most likely a perfectly acceptable component to your diet—if you like the way it tastes and if you don't experience any stomach issues after consuming it, of course. But if you have a digestive condition like colitis, Crohn's disease, IBS, or acid reflux, you may find that spicy food makes your symptoms flare. In that case, nutritionists agree it's best to avoid spicy food. If you personally find spicy foods to give you indigestion because you are burping, nauseas, gassy, constipated, or have diarrhea after eating spicy foods, then you should listen to your body and avoid eating them.

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