For some people, spicy food brings out the best in taste but the worst in stomach pain. Dealing with stomach pain after a spicy meal can be disruptive and uncomfortable. Finding out the reason behind the discomfort can help you ease your pain and get back to enjoying the food you love.
Many minor stomach pain issues after eating certain kinds of foods can be explained away by common indigestion. Certain foods affect people's stomachs different ways. If your pain is accompanied by an uncomfortable feeling of fullness, belching and gas, you're likely suffering from an upset stomach.
Depending on the ingredients used to make the spicy food you've eaten, the chemical capsaicin may be the culprit. Found naturally in chilies, such as habaneros, jalapenos and poblanos, capsaicin is also used in gardening and farming to keep bugs and animals away. When you eat chilies and the capsaicin within them comes in contact with the lining of your stomach, it can cause pain and temporary discomfort.
It's a common misconception that spicy food causes ulcers. In fact, ulcers aren't a result of spicy food, but you'll probably feel their effect more if you do eat spicy food, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The chemicals in spicy food irritate the sensitive ulcer, which may respond by becoming inflamed or even by bleeding.
The easiest and most obvious way to prevent stomach pain from eating spicy foods is to avoid them all together. But if you just can't put down your fork, there are other ways to manage your pain and discomfort. Eating dairy such as ice cream or cold milk can help neutralize the effects of capsaicin, according to "Chemical and Engineering News." If you experience pain in your stomach associated with indigestion, MedlinePlus suggests eating slower, avoiding stressful situations when you eat and taking an antacid before or after you eat. You can also monitor and write down the types and amounts of food you eat on a regular basis and when you eat them to determine if one food in particular is causing the pain.
When to See a Doctor
If you think you have an ulcer, talk to your doctor, who will ask you a series of questions and may prescribe certain tests to determine your condition. If your symptoms seem to be just indigestion, but they're accompanied by pain in your jaw or chest or you have trouble swallowing, talk to your doctor immediately, according to MedlinePlus.