Spicy foods can burn your skin, mouth, stomach and intestines. How much it burns you will depend upon your sensitivity to the food and how much of it you touch or consume. Certain foods are hotter than others are, such as habanera peppers or green peppers. In some instances, spicy foods can affect or aggravate a medical condition, which only intensifies your symptoms.
Sometimes, foods are spicy just because of their active ingredient, such as capsicum, found in cayenne and other hot peppers. Sometimes, the food is so hot in nature, such as a habanera pepper, it can burn your skin just by touching it. If you have a stomach ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome or other gastrointestinal disorders, spicy food can cause so much painful burning that you may burst into tears. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse notes that spicy foods do not cause ulcers, but can make symptoms worse if you already have an ulcer. If you have GERD, spicy foods may trigger heartburn.
If you eat spicy foods, the pain could begin as soon as your body starts to digest them, which is while you’re still chewing. Depending upon your sensitivity level, it may take a bit longer. You might not begin to have pain and burning until after you’re done eating. If you have an intestinal condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease, the burning may not begin until the spices reach your colon and enter your intestinal tract.
Prevention or Solution
If you like to eat spicy foods but they burn your stomach and intestines, limit the amount you eat or consume foods with just a hint of spice. It might not be possible for you to eat jalapenos all over your spicy nachos. You might have to skip the jalapenos and settle for the spicy cheese. Even then, you might be unable to handle spicy cheese, so you need to settle for regular cheese on your nachos. Ask your doctor about taking medications to coat your stomach, such as over-the-counter bismuth, to help prevent or lessen symptoms.
If your doctor has never diagnosed a gastrointestinal disorder, and you begin to experience frequent pain and burning sensations after eating spicy foods, tell him about it. You might have an ulcer causing the pain, which could require prompt medical attention, or there could be an unknown problem somewhere in your intestinal tract.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Cayenne; Steven D. Ehrlich; Nov. 2008
- Teens Health: Irritable Bowel Syndrome; Oct. 2010
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: What I Need to Know About Peptic Ulcers; Oct. 2010
- Teens Health: Ulcers; July 2009
- FamilyDoctor.org: Ulcers: What You Can Do to Heal Your Ulcer; FamilyDoctor.org Editorial Staff; Jan. 2011