Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid moves upwards into the esophageal tract, leading to a burning sensation and feeling of irritation. Cayenne pepper, with its spicy taste, can trigger acid reflux. It is included in a list of foods to avoid if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD, which is chronic acid reflux. If you have GERD or if you have regular acid reflux, avoid eating cayenne pepper as it may trigger the reaction.
Cause of Acid Reflux
When your food is being digested in your stomach, strong acids are present to help break down the food into usable nutrients. There is a sphincter, which is a flap separating your esophagus and your stomach, that keeps food in your stomach, although, in some cases, it may not fully close. When this happens, stomach acid may move from your stomach into your esophagus, leading to the burning sensation known as acid reflux. If you experience this sensation more than twice a week, you are considered to have GERD.
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Cayenne and Acid Reflux
Capsaicin, the element in cayenne that gives it its heat, has a number of associated health properties. However, it is known to irritate the stomach lining, making it more likely that you will experience acid reflux symptoms, especially if you are already susceptible to it. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, avoid eating cayenne if you have ulcers or heartburn as the capsaicin can cause severe stomach pain.
Reaction with Stomach Acid Medications
If you have regular acid reflux, or if your symptoms are especially severe, your doctor may recommend you take medication to reduce stomach acid levels. If you consume cayenne while on these drugs, you may render them ineffective as cayenne can increase stomach acid levels. Stomach acid reducers that should not be combined with cayenne include: cimetidine, esomeprazole, famotidine and omeprazole. Avoid eating cayenne if you take over-the-counter stomach acid reducers such as Tums and Rolaids.
Other Foods to Avoid
You can take several steps, in addition to avoiding cayenne and other spicy foods if you acid reflux or GERD. Reduce your consumption of acidic foods and fatty foods. Similarly, reduce your meal size as larger meals may require more stomach acid for digestion. MedlinePlus also recommends that you not eat right before you go to bed, wear looser fitting clothes and, if necessary, lose weight.
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Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.