Mums and Dads, when you’re out on a date, do you fancy a piping hot, fiery bowl of Mala or Tom Yum soup? Or how about when you’re lunching out while in the office? I mean, what’s life without some spice?
Don’t you just love the fiery kick and spicy sensation that each mouthful of such a delight promises? Even if it does upset your tummy, you may dismiss it as a small price to pay.
However, like all things, it’s important that you watch just how much spicy food you consume. Too much of anything is never good. Here’s what overindulging in spicy food does to our bodies.
Effect of Spicy Food on Our Bodies
It is true that spicy food has some health benefits. It is known to keep our gut and heart healthy, promote weight loss, kickstart our metabolism and even may be an effective pain reliever1.
Having said that, it can irritate our stomachs. Chilli and pepper naturally contain a chemical called ‘capsaicin’. This can irritate your skin and cause a burning sensation when in your stomach. In the short-term, one may feel discomfort in the form of stomach pain, discomfort in the throat and oesophagus, indigestion, bloating and diarrhoea.
Eating spicy food doesn’t typically cause long-term health conditions but it can intensify existing gastrointestinal problems such as:
Gastro IBS is a chronic condition that causes stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. The effect of spicy food? A study found that individuals who consumed spices such as curry, chilli powder and turmeric over 10 times a week were more likely to get IBS than those who don’t! So if you’re one of those people who’s constantly experiencing an upset tummy, or find yourself pooping several times a day, you may want to lay off spicy food for a bit.
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
This is a reflux when acidic stomach contents flow back into the oesophagus. It can cause irritation, especially with spicy food, and can even damage the oesophagus lining. In the long run, it can result in upper gastrointestinal pain and heartburn, which can then escalate into more serious health issues.
You know that horribly uncomfortable burning sensation that radiates up the chest? Yes, that’s heartburn and it occurs when one’s acid secretion increases.
Spicy food causes or exacerbates this because it has a combination of acids such as capsaicin. Too much spicy food thus causes the walls of our stomach to feel the effects of these acids and irritate the tract in which food travels down to our stomachs, resulting in heartburn. In the long term, this problem may become chronic.
And mums, if you’re expecting, do note that you are even more susceptible to experiencing heartburn so you’d really want to be wary of how much spice you consume!
Gastritis is the inflammation of the gastric mucosa or stomach lining, which is the barrier that protects the stomach lining from irritants (such as spicy food) and digestive juices. When the health of this protective barrier is compromised, you may experience an increased pain in the abdomen, experience bloating, nausea or a burning sensation after intense, spicy food is consumed.
Gastritis is extremely unpleasant and for many people, it becomes a permanent problem once it starts. So do watch what you eat, for you really want to avoid experiencing this unpleasant condition as much as you can.
Also known as sores, these ulcers develop in the lining of the stomach, lower oesophagus, or first part of the small intestine. Such sores can become more painful when irritated by the spicy food that enters the stomach. If left untreated, the sores can lead to more serious health complications such as a perforated ulcer, a bleeding ulcer or scar tissue that may cause strictures, making it difficult for food to pass through one’s digestive tract.
Mums and dads, the consumption of spicy food does not permanently damage your digestive tracts. However, it can trigger or aggravate the above-mentioned conditions or impact your gastrointestinal systems. Left untreated, this can cause more serious health concerns in the long run. As such, you might need to make lifestyle or dietary changes or seek medical attention from a gastroenterologist. It is imperative to get early diagnosis and treatment.
You can book an appointment at Gleneagles Hospital, where a multidisciplinary team provides a wide range of services in obstetrics and gynaecology. Gleneagles hospital is dedicated to making your pregnancy pleasant and smooth sailing, and consistently applies the latest updates on medical knowledge and employs modern technology to provide you with quality care.
Remember, mums and dads, you really don’t want to have to deal with a perpetually upset or painful digestive system in addition to the challenges of parenting. You must take good care of yourself to raise happy, healthy, and confident children. Make the changes you need and seek medical attention if you must!
This article was adapted from “The Pleasue and Pain of Mala Xiang Guo”, by Dr Wang Yu Tien and first published on Health Plus on 27 April 2021