Hot spices like chili peppers have an abundance of healthful substances, including vitamins and antioxidants. They add rich flavor to your diet without many extra calories. People with hemorrhoids may hesitate to eat spicy foods out of fear that they will aggravate hemorrhoidal pain and itching or lead to rectal bleeding. While there is evidence that spices alone do not cause bleeding hemorrhoids, spicy foods may lead to stomach upset that intensifies hemorrhoid problems.
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the anus or rectum, which can tear due to diarrhea or constipation, resulting in bleeding into the toilet or blood on toilet paper. Besides causing pain, internal and external hemorrhoids can itch, burn, hurt, rupture, and may bleed if scratched or strained. Avoid nuts, spicy food, coffee and alcohol, if they worsen your hemorrhoid symptoms. A 2006 crossover study published in "Diseases of the Colon and Rectum," determined that red-hot chili pepper powder had no effect on formation or aggravation of hemorrhoids. Fifty patients scored five hemorrhoidal symptoms -- bleeding, swelling, pain, itching and burning -- following a lunch that included a capsule containing red-hot chili powder or a placebo. After one week, researchers reversed the treatment. The group receiving the chili-powder capsule was given the placebo and the placebo group received the chili-powder capsule. At the end of the study period, symptom scores were unchanged.
An excess of capsaicin, the fiery component of hot peppers and pepper-based sauces, can cause severe diarrhea. Sugary or spicy foods, as well as greasy fried foods, can bring on or worsen a bout of diarrhea. If it is chronic, diarrhea can cause or aggravate bleeding hemorrhoids. If your stomach is sensitive to spicy foods, they may set off an incident of gastric distress, but often it is the grease underlying the spicy sauces -- such as a fried steak topped with fried hot peppers and onions -- that causes the diarrhea.
Diets high in fatty foods, such as meats and cheese, are the most common cause of constipation, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. If the spicy foods you consume fit this definition -- for example, chicken wings with a butter-based hot sauce dipped in blue cheese dressing -- they may cause constipation, which in turn may contribute to bleeding hemorrhoids. In this case, it's not the hot peppers and spices that contribute to the hemorrhoid complications but the underlying fatty foods. Spicy foods that are low in fat and rich in fiber, such as a burrito containing black beans, rice and vegetables along with the hot sauce and chili peppers, should help avoid constipation and not contribute to bleeding hemorrhoids.
Considerations and Warnings
There are many potential causes of rectal bleeding. While hemorrhoids along with anal fissures or a small cut may be painful, they are also relatively harmless. However, rectal bleeding may also signify more serious health conditions such as an ulcer, cancer, cirrhosis or Crohn's disease. If you notice blood from the rectum more often than on rare occasions, or after eating spicy foods, see your physician to rule out any serious negative health conditions. Drinking plenty of water can also help ease the symptoms of either constipation or diarrhea that may be at the root of bleeding hemorrhoids. Drinking plenty of water whenever you consume spicy foods helps your digestion and excretion processes work properly.
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Constipation
- CNN.com: There's More to Hot Sauce Than Just Heat
- St. Louis University Cancer Center: Diarrhea
- Columbia University Health Services: Hot Sauce -- Appetizing But Anally Aggravating?
- NYU Langone Medical Center: Hemorrhoids
- Diseases of the Colon and Rectum: Red Hot Chili Pepper and Hemorrhoids