Know Your Spicy Foods
Spicy foods haven’t exactly enjoyed the reputation of being ‘healthy’ foods. People generally have the impression that these can lead to digestive problems and thereby have a large impact on the health of the gastrointestinal tract due to ulcers, vomiting, and diarrhoea. They believe so since stomach pain and cramping often arise after consuming a spicy meal. A common remedy for this is a bland diet and the avoidance of most spices. Recent studies have, however, shed light on the various beneficial properties of those spices that are good for digestive health. Studies reveal that spicy foods may cause problems for those with existing digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, acid reflux, or irritable bowel disease, among others. Yashoda Hospital & Research Centre, Nehru Nagar, Ghaziabad, provides you with a list of foods that will cater to your health, bringing to your attention, the brighter side of spicy foods that have often been overlooked by many.
What are spicy foods?
Any good cook will tell you that spices add much-needed flavour, colour and heat to dishes without the need for added salt, sugar, or saturated fats. Turmeric, ginger, chilli peppers, and cloves are just a few of them; different cultures around the world have their own indigenous varieties. These spices have a host of health benefits and are packed with nutrients. Take chilli peppers, for example, which are a treasured source of vitamins C, A, E, B6, K, iron, and fibre. Other spices like chilli, turmeric, and black pepper are used for their anti-inflammatory properties. Some of the other benefits of spicy foods are:
- Boost in metabolism
- Promotion of healthy heart
- Prevention of cancer
- Helps with digestion
- Increases immunity
- Mood booster
What makes foods spicy?
Eating spicy food may cause a burning sensation in the mouth due to the presence of an active ingredient called capsaicin, which binds to the pain receptors, TRPV1 (Transient Receptor Potential Vanilloid 1), on the nerve endings on the tongue. This combination results in a chemical response that sends signals to the brain indicating the presence of spicy stimuli, and additionally, it also binds with heat receptors to make the person feel ‘hot’. The capsaicin continues to work as the food is swallowed and interacts with the pain receptors in the esophageal (food pipe) membrane that cause the burning sensation in the chest. In more severe instances, the lungs might also be affected, resulting in hiccups. There’s no reason to worry, though, as these effects are normal and last for only a short time.
What are the benefits of spicy foods?
Researchers recently studied chilli peppers and turmeric, two widely used spices around the world, specifically capsaicin in the chilli pepper and curcumin in the turmeric. We bring to you the essential benefits of both, as follows:
Benefits of Capsaicin:
- Inhibits injury-causing agents from infecting the stomach
- Checks acid production in the stomach
- Aids to fight diarrhoea caused by bacterial infections
- Boosts digestion by enhancing the secretion of digestive fluids
- Stimulates the production of saliva for better digestion
- Inhibits enzyme production to improve digestion
- Lowers inflammation in the digestive system
- Heals gastric ulcers by boosting the blood flow to the gastric mucosa and increase in mucus and alkali secretions
- Helps fight infections caused by the bacteria Helicobacter Pylori
Benefits of Curcumin:
- Keeps a constant check on gut inflammation to improve digestion.
- Fights acid reflux, treats flatulence and reduces recurring symptoms of indigestion (functional dyspepsia).
- Functions as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent to ensure healthy digestion.
- Relieves pain and discomfort by inhibiting certain pain receptors to avoid various irritable bowel syndromes and fights diseases like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.
- Helps keep blood sugar levels steady and lowers cholesterol.
Who is more vulnerable?
People who suffer from bowel disorders may be more sensitive to spicy foods and may experience more symptoms in the gastrointestinal tract. Upon entering the stomach, capsaicin speeds up the digestion process by stimulating the production of gastric juices. This may upset the pH levels of the stomach and cause stomach pain and/or cramping. Further along the digestive process, capsaicin enters the intestine and stimulates certain reactions that quicken the digestion of food. However, the overstimulation of nerves can also result in excess saturation of water in the colon, which can lead to diarrhoea due to over-contraction of the colon.
Whom to consult?
Moderation is the key. The benefits far outweigh any potential side effects when spicy foods are ingested in this manner. Many people’s discomfort may not be due to the spice itself but to other factors such as the presence of caffeine, fatty acids, alcohol, fried foods, and acidic citrus. Our trusted doctors and experts at Yashoda Hospital & Research Centre are here to help you examine the ways in which your health responds to spicy foods, drawing out the best dietary adaptations and precautionary ways to treat the side effects of excess intake of spicy foods in your diet. Yashoda’s Centre for Digestive and Liver Disease urges you to reach out to us so that we may help you by providing the best care to cater to any digestive ailments triggered by the intake of spicy foods.
For any query on spicy foods and their effects, please feel free to reach out to us on our official website, www.yashodahealthcare.com or book an appointment with our Gastroenterology & Hepatology specialists, Dr. Manish Kumar Gupta and Dr. Sushrut Singh, by calling us on 9810922042.