The one thing we Indians can’t live without is spice, but sometimes we tend to overindulge. Nevertheless, it’s not something that concerns most of us because we know all too well that spices can be extremely healthy. Yes, it may make your mouth burn and cause a great deal of perspiration, but the taste and health benefits seem to make it all worthwhile.
Unfortunately, as with everything, too much of something good can be bad. Because of the effect of spicy food on digestion, most people who eat excessively spicy food worry about the development of stomach ulcers and other digestive ailments. But are these fears really valid?
Spicy Food & Stomach Ulcers
“Despite the risks they do pose, spicy foods do not actually cause heartburn or stomach ulcers, but they can exacerbate both conditions”
When you eat something loaded with spice like chilies, it feels like your mouth is quite literally on fire, so it’s logical to assume that it would also be burning your tummy. In most cases, spicy food will do no harm because your stomach is incredibly strong and resilient.
In cases where you overeat spicy food like chili peppers there can be some real damage. Capsaicin in chili, which also offers several health benefits, facilitates the release of Substance P, which is a compound for the transmission of pain and burning sensations. Spices like mustard and horseradish have even been found to damage tissue.
Despite the risks they do pose, spicy foods do not actually cause heartburn or stomach ulcers. The conditions can develop as a result of various other causes, but they are greatly exacerbated with spicy food.
Other Risks Of Spicy Food
“Spicy foods can also cause diarrhea in some people, while prolonged excessive intake of spices dulls the taste buds, reducing your sensitivity to milder or more refined tastes”
Overeating spicy food can cause severe diarrhea and tummy pain because spice acts like a natural irritant that triggers bowel movements as it passes through the digestive tract. For people with sensitive tummies the effects can be particularly severe, with capsaicin acting as a laxative for some people.
What should be more worrying to foodies is the effect of spicy food on your taste buds. Eating excessively spicy food on a regular basis may be pleasurable right now, but it actually dulls your sensitivity to taste with time. This is probably why most of us who are in the habit of eating extra ‘tikka’ bhurji pav or chili bujjias find healthy Mediterranean and Italian foods to be so bland.
Capsaicin, which is present in all types of peppers and chilies, is also a blood thinner. This may be useful and healthy for most people, but an overdose can make it pretty dangerous for someone on blood thinning medications, as it would increase the risk of bleeding.
Try to exercise moderation and keep switching things around. If you find mild foods to be too bland, it may be a good idea to take a short break from spicy foods altogether. Sadly, when it comes to such foods there’s no telling how much is too much, as the effects vary in different people.
As Indians, we probably have a higher tolerance for spicy food, but that doesn’t mean we are entirely safe from all its ill effects. But, if it’s just stomach ulcers that you’re worried about, you can rest easy and enjoy your Phaal Curry, Kolhapuri Chicken, or whatever it is that gets you salivating!
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