Advice On Spice: What to Consider with Spicy Food

So many of us love our spicy foods. What will you eat this week? Chilli con carne? Chorizo sausages? Perhaps a vindaloo? What we don't love though, is heartburn. And while this isn't an inevitable consequence of eating spicy foods, it's certainly possible. But why?

Why spicy foods can cause heartburn

We know that heartburn is very closely associated with spicy foods. But as to the reason why there are various possibilities:

  • Spice on its own may not necessarily be the actual cause. Many spicy foods have ingredients with high acid content.  For example, Salsa and many curries, often contain tomatoes and peppers, which are associated with heartburn even when not part of a spicy dish1
  • Spicy food can affect the levels of our stomach acid, which may increase the chances of heartburn2
  • Spicy foods may simply make any existing heartburn worse, if the lining of the oesophagus is already sensitive to stomach acid3
  • The muscle at the top of the stomach usually keeps our stomach contents in. If we have eaten something that has weakened this muscle, acid can reflux up from the stomach into the oesophagus and may cause heartburn. Several foods, such as fatty, oily or acidic dishes and spicy foods are also thought to have this weakening effect45
  • Spicy foods can often be foods with a high fat content, such as curries and chorizo. High fat foods get digested slowly, increasing the chance of higher stomach acid levels and therefore potentially heartburn.

Which spicy foods are the ones to avoid6?

If eating any type of spicy foods results in you getting heartburn, then you'll already be aware of what to avoid. However, spicy foods that include the following ingredients may be of particular concern as triggers of heartburn:

  • Onions and garlic - present in so many spicy dishes that there are too many to list, but particularly those that contain raw onions.
  • Tomatoes and peppers - can be found in curries, chilli and many other dishes
  •  Black pepper - an ingredient in many spicy and some not so spicy dishes too - but it may not take much to have an affect
  • Citrus fruits - can be found in spicy Mediterranean dishes like tagines, orange and lemon for example
  • Meat – the fattier the meat, the greater potential it could have to cause heartburn - lamb-based curries perhaps
  • Cooking oils or butters - such as ghee, which is used in many curries

Avoiding food triggers

The best way to avoid spicy foods, particularly those with known potential heartburn triggers, is to check the ingredients on the packaging first. But if you're eating out, you may need to ask restaurant staff or the chef - or even your host if you're at a friend's dinner party. And should you feel heartburn coming on whilst eating, it's advisable to stop or at least pause for a while. Prevention is surely preferable to suffering heartburn and then needing to treat it, especially if you're dining out.

But perhaps you've recently been affected by heartburn for the first time. Or maybe you suffered because you were not sure if your meal would affect you or not. Whatever the situation, if there's a next time, at least you can rely on some fast relief with Gaviscon Dual Action.

Whenever you need it, Gaviscon Dual Action gets to work quickly to create a physical barrier to acid in the form of a protective layer on top of the stomach contents. This helps to stop acid passing up the oesophagus (gullet or food pipe) where it could otherwise irritate the lining of the oesophagus and cause the hot pain of heartburn. Gaviscon soothes and cools the oesophagus and also neutralises acid for long lasting relief!

Enjoy your food. But if it's spicy - remember past experiences and be careful about what you eat.

All information presented is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. Gaviscon for Heartburn & Indigestion. Always read the label. Use only as directed. If symptoms persist see your healthcare professional.