You may notice that every time you eat something with hot sauce on it, you inevitably have to poop soon after. So how can something as simple as a few drops of sauce move through your system so fast that you have to go to the bathroom within an hour?
Read on to learn the connection between spicy foods and your bowels!
How spicy foods cause diarrhea
Spicy foods are popular around the world for their unique (re: painful!) flavor, but they can also cause some unpleasant side effects, including diarrhea. The active ingredient in most chili peppers, capsaicin, is a potent irritant that can cause inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.
This can lead to abdominal pain, cramping, and diarrhea. In addition, capsaicin can stimulate the release of excess water and electrolytes from the intestine, leading to further dehydration.
How capsaicin affects the stomach and colon
Capsaicin is the active ingredient in chili peppers that gives them their characteristic pungent flavor — it’s the ingredient that makes it spicy! Much of the capsaicin in chili pepper is found in the membrane and seeds of the chili pepper.
When we eat foods containing capsaicin, this compound binds with pain receptors in the gastrointestinal tract. This causes a burning sensation in the stomach and intestines. In large amounts, capsaicin can cause gastric ulcers and intestinal damage — and in small amounts, it can make us urgently have to poo!
However, capsaicin may also have some beneficial effects on the gastrointestinal tract. For example, capsaicin has been shown to stimulate digestive juices and help relieve constipation. Capsaicin is also being studied as a possible treatment for gastric cancer. While more research is needed, there is some evidence that capsaicin may help to kill cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed.
Can spicy food cause hemorrhoids?
Luckily, eating spicy foods has not been shown to cause or worsen hemorrhoids. In one study, 50 people with hemorrhoids took either a capsule of chili powder or a placebo and were asked to rate symptoms of bleeding, swelling, pain, itching, and burning. Luckily for spicy food lovers, those who had consumed the chili powder did not report significantly worsened symptoms as compared to the people who took the placebo.
6 tips for preventing burning-feeling poop after eating spicy foods
Another unfortunate side effect of eating spicy foods is that not only will you poop more, but pooping can cause a burning feeling in your butthole.
Here’s how to combat the burning feeling when you go to the bathroom after eating too much spicy food:
1. Limit spicy foods if you know your stomach is sensitive
If you know your stomach is sensitive to spicy foods, it’s best to limit how much you eat. You can still enjoy the flavor of spices without overdoing it and ending up with burning-feeling poop. Here are a few tips for preventing the burning feeling:
- Start with a small amount of spice and increase gradually. This will give your stomach time to adjust.
- Choose milder spices like sage, oregano, and thyme rather than hot spices like cayenne pepper and chili powder.
- Add spice near the end of cooking so it has less time to mellow out.
- Eat other cooling foods along with spicier dishes, such as yogurt, cucumber, or mint.
- Drink plenty of fluids while you’re eating spicy food to help keep everything moving through your digestive system smoothly.
With a little bit of planning, you can enjoy spicy foods without discomfort later on. Just remember to go easy on the hot stuff if you know your stomach isn’t up for it.
2. Consume dairy alongside the spicy food
Consume dairy alongside your spicy meal, like milk or sour cream. Dairy can help to coat the digestive tract and prevent the capsaicin in chili peppers from causing irritation. Hence you can avoid burning sensations while pooping.
3. Eat something carb-heavy
Eat something carb-heavy before you eat the spicy food can also help ease digestive discomfort. This helps to absorb some of the spice and prevent it from getting to your intestines.
4. Drink lots of water
Drinking plenty of water during and after you eat something spicy will help flush the spice out of your system before it can cause any problems.
5. Eat something with probiotics (like yogurt or a probiotic supplement)
Finally, eat yogurt or take a probiotic supplement. This will help to replenish the good bacteria in your gut that can be killed off by spicy food.
6. Use a bidet or wet wipes to ease the discomfort
If you’ve eaten too much spicy food and find yourself repeatedly running to the bathroom, you’ll likely find wiping with toilet paper to be incredibly uncomfortable. Using a bidet or wet wipes can cool you down and prevent the chafing caused by constantly rubbing toilet paper on your anus.
Can eating spicy foods help you poop if you’re constipated?
The majority of this article has focused on the negative poop-repercussions of eating spicy food — but what if you’re constipated? Neither spicy food nor hot sauce is recommended by doctors if you are severely constipated. If you know that you tend to poop more when you eat spicy food, you may try it at your own discretion, but if you are severely constipated it’s recommended that you visit your doctor to identify the cause. Common treatments for constipation include dietary and lifestyle changes and the use of approved laxatives.
So, the capsaicin in hot sauce is usually what’s to blame for its ability to make us poop. Capsaicin binds to pain receptors in the gut, which signals the intestine muscles to contract and push food through faster. This might be a good thing if you’re mildly constipated, but not so much if you have a sensitive tummy, or if you don’t have immediate access to a toilet. If spicy foods give you the runs, try easing your way into them by adding a little at a time until your stomach gets used to it.
And remember, always drink plenty of water when eating hot sauce or any other spicy food – dehydration is never fun.
- Altomare, D. F., Rinaldi, M., La Torre, F., Scardigno, D., Roveran, A., Canuti, S., Morea, G., & Spazzafumo, L. (2006). Red hot chili pepper and hemorrhoids: the explosion of a myth: results of a prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial. Diseases of the colon and rectum, 49(7), 1018–1023. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16708161/
- Aniwan S, Gonlachanvit S. Effects of Chili Treatment on Gastrointestinal and Rectal Sensation in Diarrhea-predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Randomized, Double-blinded, Crossover Study. Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility [Internet]. 2014 Jul 31 [cited 2022 May 22];20(3):400–6. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4102147/
- Esmaillzadeh A. Consumption of spicy foods and the prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome. World Journal of Gastroenterology [Internet]. 2013 [cited 2022 May 22];19(38):6465. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3801318/
- Portalatin, M., & Winstead, N. (2012). Medical management of constipation. Clinics in colon and rectal surgery, 25(1), 12–19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3348737/