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Can Spicy Foods Cause Stomach Ulcers?

Can Spicy Foods Cause Stomach Ulcers?

Spicy lovers: Chances are you’ve been warned that your habanero salsa and red curry are eventually going to cause a stomach ulcer. This may have left you wondering if you should lay off the spice, particularly if your favorite foods cause stomach discomfort. Is there any truth to this statement? Here’s what you need to know about spicy foods and how they affect your digestive health.

What is a Stomach Ulcer?

spicy foodLet’s first define what a stomach ulcer is. A stomach ulcer is an open sore somewhere in the digestive system that can cause everything from mild pain to serious bleeding. Ulcers can even perforate the lining of the digestive organs if not treated well, so they are a serious concern for those who have them. An estimated 4.5 million people in America alone suffer from this condition, so it is not uncommon.

What Causes Stomach Ulcers?

Stomach ulcers have been blamed on everything from too much stress to spicy or greasy foods, but what is the real culprit?

The CDC believes that as many as 80 percent of all stomach ulcers are due to a Heliobacter pylori, a bacteria sometimes found in the digestive system. Others come from chronic or over use of anti-inflammatory medications, like ibuprofen or naproxen. Stress and even smoking can make ulcers worse, but not necessarily cause them.

Can Foods Cause Stomach Ulcers?

There is no proof that foods can cause stomach ulcers, even spicy and greasy foods. But where does this myth come from?

Spicy foods don’t cause ulcers, but people who have an ulcer sometimes find that certain foods irritate it, increasing their discomfort. People who find their pain triggered when they eat a bowl of chili may jump to the conclusion that the food caused the ulcer, but the truth is that it only made it feel worse.

In past centuries, doctors even believed that the spicy component of foods like peppers or curry would actually burn the lining of the stomach, contributing to the ulcer. This has been proven untrue, but the myth still circulates.

Can spicy food be good for digestion?

Interestingly, recent research has found that capsaicin, which is what makes chili peppers hot, can actually trigger the body’s natural healing, and can heal or prevent ulcers. When you eat this nutrient, it stimulates the secretions in the stomach, which can reduce your risk of developing an ulcer.

If you have been diagnosed with an ulcer, and you find that spicy foods make your symptoms worse, you should absolutely avoid them. However, if you do not have an ulcer or don’t have a problem eating spicy foods, feel free to continue to enjoy them. They do not put your stomach or your digestive health at risk in any way, and they may actually help prevent ulcers slightly.

If heartburn, acid reflux, or gastrointestinal irritation affect your quality of life, request an appointment online with an Ogden Clinic gastroenterologist or give us a call at 801-475-3000.