In days gone by, if you had an upset stomach you were almost always advised to eat a bland diet.
This was mainly due to thinking that spices irritated the digestive tract & stomach.
Those assumptions were passed on by elders down the family tree, but modern-day studies have found some contradicting facts.
Spicy food is consumed all over the word in various forms & is even used in some medicines to take actual care of the stomach.
First of all let’s clarify what is a spice. Most hot spices are derived from a pepper or chilli plant, or sometimes from roots, like ginger. We incorporate these spices into our foods in various forms: raw, cooked, dried, and ground for example.
One common dish some people think of as hot, is a curry. This is typically a combination of several spices, including ginger and chilli.
There have been numerous studies on Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) & most have found that there are many other contributing factors that can cause GERD like caffeine, alcohol, or fatty creamy foods
There are many parts of the world that include spices in their diets more than a typical western diet. Places in the far east use chillies for breakfast, lunch & dinner yet reports show very little cases of GERD.
According to studies chilli, ginger, and other spices can reduce inflammation and treat gastric infections. Some spices seem to reduce inflammation, an immune reaction in which affected parts of the body become swollen. Inflammation is a part of many different types of illness, including discomfort of the digestive tract.
Contrary to long-held belief, spicy foods don’t cause ulcers. In fact, Capsaicin, the chemical that gives chillies and peppers their kick, has been shown to inhibit the bacteria H. pylori, the most common cause of ulcers. The initial irritation of capsaicin is followed by a numbing effect. That’s why can be sometimes found in ‘cream’ treatments helping relieve symptoms of things such as joint pain. In fact Resiniferatoxin, a variant of capsaicin, is used as an injected pain reliever.
Capsaicin and GERD symptoms
Capsaicin binds to receptors present in the cells of the stomach called TRPV1 receptors. This binding has many physiologic effects, including increased gastric motility and emptying. Following a spicy dish, you might have experienced increased gastric motility and emptying first hand (or diarrhoea). But that increased activity can have a plus side.
When you increase the rate at which the stomach empties during a meal, you prevent it from filling and placing excess pressure on the LES, thereby decreasing reflux.
So, the next time you have a spicy dish, don’t automatically blame the chillies. It could be something else that you have eaten, like a delicious creamy dessert.
If you do already suffer from stomach ulcers please don’t reach for a bowl of chillies to help. It could make your symptoms worse – but there is no evidence to support that chilli directly causes the ulcers to develop in the first place.
Enjoy your chillies responsibly, because behind that kick they really are full of wonderful gastric goodness.