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Spicy Foods and Heartburn: Foods You Should Avoid

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If you find that shortly after eating something spicy you start to experience the discomfort of heartburn, it’s no coincidence. While the connection between diet and heartburn has been poorly understood in the past, according to research published in Current Opinion in Gastroenterology, there’s increasing scientific evidence that suggests certain trigger foods can cause heartburn in people.

The tricky part is that everyone’s heartburn triggers are different, explains Dr. Marvin Singh, MD, an integrative gastroenterologist and voluntary assistant clinical professor at the University of California San Diego's Department of Family Medicine and Public Health. “Some people may experience heartburn from nuts and others have no problem,” Dr. Singh says. “Some people can drink a pot of coffee and be fine, and others drink half a cup and may have heartburn.”

Here, Dr. Singh shares some of the most common spicy foods to avoid if you’re prone to getting heartburn.

Why You Should Avoid Spicy Food If You Get Heartburn

Spicy foods can often be a trigger because, according to Dr. Singh, they contain a compound called capsaicin, which is known to slow down the rate of digestion and increase the risk that food in the stomach will reflux upwards. “Spicy foods can act directly as an irritant to the esophagus, which may already be inflamed, and that can also aggravate symptoms,” Dr. Singh adds.

If you’re prone to heartburn, avoid spicy foods like:

  • Salsa
  • Spicy Asian or Indian meals, like pork vindaloo, curry, and Sichuan cuisine
  • Anything marinated or with hot sauce
  • Foods that contain red chili paste
  • Foods that contain sriracha
  • Wasabi
  • Foods that contain horseradish
  • Jalapeño

“Capsaicin can activate the release of a compound called substance P, and this transmits pain and burning sensations,” says Dr. Singh. This explains why spicy foods can have such a kick to them, and along with irritating the esophagus and increasing the risk of reflux, can make it easy for heartburn to occur.

If you’ve eaten spicy food or another trigger food that causes heartburn, try TUMS Chewy Bites for fast heartburn relief you can count on.

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