Everyone you meet when you're sick has an opinion on which foods to have for cough and sore throat. Yes, some foods can help with cough and sore throat, but is spicy food among them? Here's what you need to know about eating spicy food for a sinus infection.
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You can eat spicy food to help clear your sinuses, as long as it doesn’t cause further irritation. Do consult your doctor for the appropriate treatment.
Spicy Food for Sinus Infection
Harvard Medical School explains that your sinuses are cavities located in the bones around your face. These cavities are lined with a thin membrane that produces mucus, the thick, yellowish fluid that filters out bacteria and other particles from the air you breathe.
This mucus is usually swept along by hair cells and drained into your nasal cavity. However, this drainage system can sometimes get swollen and blocked because of inflammation caused by allergies or an infection, like a cold, cough or sore throat.
The blockage doesn't stop your sinuses from producing mucus, and so the extra fluid starts filling up your sinus cavities. Harvard Medical School notes that blocked sinuses can cause symptoms like headaches, facial pressure or pain and a blocked nose.
So, what's the connection between spicy food and sinus infections? UCLA Health explains that eating spicy food can help clear your sinuses because capsaicin, the pungent, active compound in chili peppers, can help thin out the mucus and stimulate your sinuses, resulting in better air circulation and drainage.
In fact, a July 2016 study published in the journal Molecules notes that capsaicin is a hot topic in the scientific community because, apart from helping clear your airways, it may also be beneficial in the treatment of other conditions like diabetes, obesity, heart problems, cancer and gastric and urological conditions. An August 2015 study published in the BMJ also linked consumption of capsaicin via spicy food to a lower risk of death.
While capsaicin is found in chili peppers like bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, cayenne peppers and other chilis belonging to the Capsicum family, UCLA Health notes that other spicy food to clear sinuses as well.
If you've ever chopped onions, you've experienced their ability to make you cry. Onions also contain a chemical compound known as quercetin, which works like an antihistamine to reduce inflammation and congestion. Garlic contains allicin, ajoene and S-Ally cysteine, which are compounds that reduce inflammation and help thin out mucus.
Ginger also has anti-inflammatory properties that can help your sinuses, although UCLA health notes that while it is safe to consume in food, you should consult your doctor before taking ginger supplements, since they may interfere with some drugs. The same goes for garlic as well.
Read more: Does Drinking Milk Cause Sinus Problems?
Side Effects of Spicy Food
It's important to note that eating spicy food could also aggravate your condition. The U.S. National Library of Medicine says that spicy food could be a trigger for sneezing. Cedars-Sinai states that spicy food could be a trigger for nonallergic sinusitis attacks, and the Mayo Clinic lists spicy food as a trigger for nonallergic rhinitis, a condition similar to hay fever that is characterized by sneezing, congestion and a runny nose.
Eating spicy food while you have a cold, flu, sore throat or allergies is fine as long as you aren't experiencing any negative side effects. If however, you've noticed that spicy food is aggravating your condition, you should avoid it and consult your doctor.
Your doctor will be able to advise you about the right course of treatment for your condition as well as the right foods for cough, sore throat, cold, flu and allergies. You should also inform your doctor about any supplements, natural or otherwise, that you are taking.
Read more: 5 Uncommon Ways to Fend Off Cold and Flu
- Harvard Medical School: “What to Do About Sinusitis”
- UCLA Health: “A Guide to Natural Ways to Alleviate Allergy and Sinusitis Symptoms”
- Molecules: “Capsaicin: Current Understanding of Its Mechanisms and Therapy of Pain and Other Pre-Clinical and Clinical Uses”
- The BMJ: “Consumption of Spicy Foods and Total and Cause Specific Mortality: Population Based Cohort Study”
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: “Sneezing”
- Cedars-Sinai: “Nonallergic Sinusitis”
- Mayo Clinic: “Nonallergic Rhinitis”
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.