7 Side Effects of Hot Chili Peppers

Capsaicin, the main flavor-giving compound in hot chili peppers is a source of both wonderful health benefits and unpleasant side effects. Despite its beneficial action on cardiovascular health, arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, capsaicin has other less desirable health effects for gastritis, acid reflux, hemorrhoids and most digestive disorders. Paprika, the beloved spice mix, is made of both sweet peppers and hot chili peppers like cayenne and it too can trigger digestive discomfort in the form of heartburn, stomach pain, nausea or vomiting.

Hot peppers of all types, sizes and colors are eaten for their health effects, but for some people, the side effects outweigh the benefits. They are one of those foods not everyone responds the same to. As a result, eating hot chili peppers can be exclusively good for some people, whilst bad for others. While the side effects don’t cancel the benefits, if eating hot chili peppers seems to be making you feel worse, then they might not be the best choice for you. Fortunately, there are plenty of other wonderful alternatives out there.

Hot peppers side effects

  • What are hot peppers bad for and why?

Generally, hot peppers should not be consumed by anyone suffering from inflammatory conditions of mucous membranes, notably gastrointestinal disorders like acid reflux or peptic ulcer. But the side effects of hot peppers are not limited to the digestive system. The biologically active elements in the peppers can affect the mouth, eyes, skin and several other systems and organs, depending on existing health conditions or sensitivities. Here are the top 7 side effects of hot chili peppers:

  • Bad for hemorrhoids.

As a general rule, all spicy, hot foods are bad for hemorrhoids. This means that someone with piles should avoid eating hot peppers, too much ginger, too much pepper and even too much turmeric (read about the 5 reasons why turmeric is bad for you and the 7 reasons not to eat ginger). While otherwise healthy, pungent foods like hot peppers tend to badly irritate sensitive or already damaged tissues like hemorrhoids and generate inflammation and pain.

Hot chili peppers contain a powerful natural element called capsaicin as well as several other compounds related to it, all of which give spiciness to the peppers. These same compounds make them healthy for many people and good for medical conditions like arthritis or high blood pressure. At the same time, they are bad for hemorrhoids because the already inflamed blood vessels are irritated by capsaicin, resulting in more inflammation, pain and even bleeding. Discover more foods to avoid eating for hemorrhoids.

Hot peppers benefits and side effects

  • Irritate the stomach and worsen gastritis.

Capsaicin and other pungent elements in hot peppers irritate mucous membranes they come into direct contact with, especially the stomach lining. Eating hot peppers in large amounts can worsen gastritis and cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea with strong burning sensations. The peppers are also bad for those with stomach ulcer.

  • Cause heartburn and worsen acid reflux.

Regular consumption of spicy foods such as hot peppers can cause gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Because of their irritant quality, hot peppers lead to heartburn and acid reflux. They irritate the stomach lining, causing the gastric juices to rise up into the esophagus, hence the burning sensation in the chest. The more hot peppers you eat, the more severe the heartburn and the acid reflux. Some people also experience headaches and feelings of irritation as a result of the discomfort.

  • Indigestion.

The irritant characteristics of capsaicin and other pungent elements in hot chili peppers can work up the stomach and cause severe indigestion. Stomach pain, a burning sensation in the chest, bad taste in the mouth and nausea may be present. Rapid heartbeat, dizziness and sweating are also common if the indigestion is severe.

  • Strong skin irritant.

Despite their wonderful health effects for the cardiovascular system and analgesic properties, hot chili peppers are actually skin irritants and can cause skin injury with sufficient exposure. The compounds that give the peppers their pungency are known irritant substances and can cause a rash, itching and a strong burning sensation with stinging pain. It’s advisable to avoid rubbing your eyes or other sensitive areas and wear gloves when you handle extremely hot peppers.

  1. Cayenne pepper cellulite treatments:

They are quite popular remedies for cellulite these days. Capsaicin, the main biologically active ingredient in hot peppers is added to creams intended for topical use and said to help burn excess fat deposits and improve skin appearance by reducing cellulite. But the burning sensation you feel is not the cream burning excess fat, it’s capsaicin irritating your skin. It’s the same burning feeling you get in the mouth, in the chest or in the stomach after eating hot peppers. Cellulite reduction with the help of cayenne or other hot peppers creams or treatments is a myth and is not effective.

  • Nose, mouth and lungs irritant.

The peppers are also a strong nose and mouth irritant. Eating the hot peppers or breathing in a hot pepper powder can cause severe discomfort, redness, sneezing and a strong burning feeling, in more serious cases a skin reaction similar to a burn or even asthma (capsaicin is also a lung irritant).

  • Allergy and asthma.

Hot chili peppers allergy can range from mild to severe. Mild reactions include redness, itchiness and burning sensation, runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, conjunctivitis and others. Severe allergic reactions to hot chili peppers are breathing difficulty causing the airways to close up, severe swelling of the throat, eyes, mouth or entire face and ultimately, anaphylaxis. Because of their pungency and the fact that they irritate the lungs, hot peppersĀ can trigger asthma when inhaled.

Some people are allergic to the compounds that make the peppers hot, like capsaicin. Other may be allergic to all pepper or to multiple nightshade family members like peppers, tomatoes and eggplants.Ā Simple mouth and nose reactions of sensitivity to hot peppers can build up over time to become more serious and lead to the development of an allergic-reaction proper. It is advised to avoid the peppers and anything containing them (they are used as color additives in many products, including vitamin supplements).

This post was updated on Friday / September 25th, 2020 at 11:07 PM

7 thoughts on “7 Side Effects of Hot Chili Peppers”

    • Hello, Helen. There are multiple options, depending on what nutrients in particular you are looking to get. Here are some examples:
      – Vitamin A: liver, eggs, dairy and orange fruits and vegetables, especially carrots, papaya, sweet potatoes, pumpkin etc.
      – Vitamin E: cereals, vegetable oils, oily nuts and seeds.
      – Vitamin C: acerola cherry, strawberries, guava, fresh parsley, citrus fruits.
      (Because vitamin C is extremely heat-sensitive, foods must be eaten raw)
      – B vitamins in general are found in generous amounts in meat, eggs, milk, dairy, beans and other legumes.
      – Vitamin B12, which so many people are deficient in, is found in meat, fish and seafood, eggs.

      – Calcium: raw milk, dairy, especially cheese and yogurt, spinach, canned sardines (with bones).
      – Magnesium: cereals, especially whole grains, nuts and seeds in general, spinach.
      – Phosphorus: fish, mussels, oysters, clams and other seafood, milk and meat.
      (The rule is, protein-rich foods will also have good if not excellent amounts of phosphorus)
      – Vitamin D is best got from sun exposure because intake from food is never enough and will result in a deficiency.
      Foods with good amounts of vitamin D include mushrooms, milk and dairy, duck eggs and goose eggs, fish and seafood.
      See articles on benefits of duck eggs and benefits of goose eggs.

      – Iron: meat, especially red meat, but also poultry, eggs and smaller amounts in legumes and nuts.
      – Potassium: potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, beans, lentils and other legumes, spinach, parsley, nuts and seeds, milk, bananas, coconut water, chocolate.
      – Zinc: pumpkin seeds, eggs, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, whole grains, almonds and nuts and seeds in general.
      – Iodine: fish, shellfish, crustaceans, seaweed, eggs.
      – Other dietary minerals (copper, manganese, molybdenum, selenium) are mostly found in nuts and seeds. Brazil nuts are richest in selenium, for example. Also, free range eggs are typically also good sources of selenium.
      – Vitamin K (should be consumed in limited amounts because it encourage blood clots): all leafy green vegetables such as kale, chard, beet greens, dandelion greens and so on.

      Hope this helps. If you have other questions, feel free to ask. Wishing you lots of health.

  1. I swallowed a pickled jalapeƱo and broke out in hives from my hips to my neck. After a course of Prednisone, the hives cleared. Weeks later, I dipped a chip in some salsa and immediately after I ate it my mouth and throat began to swell. Long story short. I’m only sensitive to raw jalapeƱos, however cooked jalapeƱos, and all other peppers don’t elicit an allergic response.

    • Hi, Tommy. I am not a doctor, but it is possible that the reason why you seem to be sensitive/allergic to raw jalapeno peppers but not cooked ones may be because of a pollen allergy. The raw and pickled jalapenos may have had pollen particles on them which have triggered your allergic reaction. When you’ve cooked the jalapenos, you’ve inactivated the pollen particles, hence the lack of allergic reaction. I have a friend that has had the same experience, but with strawberries (he can eat strawberry jam, but not fresh strawberries).

      But this is just one possible explanation. It’s also not unlikely for you to be allergic to other compounds in jalapeno peppers, such as capsaicin. If this is true, then it would mean you’d be allergic to other hot peppers such as cayenne or chili peppers. If the source of your allergy is yet another compound specific to both hot and sweet peppers (bell peppers), this would mean you shouldn’t eat any peppers at all. But the only way to know for sure is to see an allergy doctor and have them run some tests.

      Seeing that what you’ve experienced appears to be a genuine allergic reaction, I’d advise against eating jalapeno peppers or other peppers, raw, pickled or cooked or in any other form or combination for the time being. The risk you’re facing is anaphylactic shock which is life-threatening. My advice is to see an allergist and have allergy tests to know for sure what peppers you are allergic to and what compounds in them (capsaicin, pollen or something else). If you are allergic to more than just jalapenos, the your allergist may recommend testing for allergy to other nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes or eggplant.

      Hope this helps, Tommy. Wishing you lots of health and looking forward to hearing back from you with updates!

  2. In general, capsaicin supplements do not cause any alarming side effects, but you may still experience uncomfortable indicators similar to eating chili peppers. According to other sources, possible complications include stomach irritation, sweating, flushing and a runny nose. When taken in large amounts, it may cause liver or kidney damage.

    • Hi, Daniel. It depends on what you mean by taking chili and whether or not you have an existing medical condition or food sensitivity that may be negatively impacted by the spice. If by taking chili you mean eating a few hot chili peppers from time to time, then you should be okay, provided you are overall healthy. If you’re feeling sluggish, eating a couple of spicy chili peppers might perk you up a little. But I’d avoid eating large amounts or taking chili supplements right before a long run, especially if you have any of the following conditions: gastritis, acid reflux disease (GERD), ulcer, hemorrhoids, asthma, or experience bronchospasms or laryngospasms regularly.

      If you are allergic, do not eat or use the spice in any form or preparation! If you have gastritis, a peptic ulcer, acid reflux disease or hemorrhoids, limit intake to avoid making these conditions worse (exacerbation of symptoms is directly proportional with intake). If you have been diagnosed with asthma, avoid inhaling chili pepper powder – this can cause irritation to your airways and trigger laryngospasms or bronchospasms and, ultimately, an asthma attack. Also avoid eating too many chili peppers if you have digestive conditions such as gastritis or GERD on top of asthma because chilies can trigger acid reflux which, in turn, can exacerbate asthma and cause an episode.

      If by taking chili you mean taking chili pepper supplements, then be weary of dosage. Chili supplements are definitely not good for gastritis, GERD, ulcers, hemorrhoids, asthma etc. The reason they are particularly bad is because they likely contain capsaicin in higher amounts than would be available from normal food intake (capsaicin is a compound occurring naturally in all hot peppers and the main biologically active element in hot peppers, responsible for both the benefits and the side effects of hot chili and other peppers).

      If you, say, have had an indigestion the day before or have experienced acid reflux or a gastritis or a hemorrhoids flare up, taking chili supplements can exacerbate these conditions and cause a buildup of side effects that could negatively, but temporarily affect your performance. For example, hemorrhoids cause discomfort and pain, itching and bleeding which may not be very compatible with running a marathon. GERD causes acidic stomach juices to rise up into the esophagus and even the mouth and can leave you out of breath or with a bad heartburn, basically not feeling 100% up to a physical challenge such as a long distance run. In case of an intolerance or sensitivity to chilies, eating either the whole or ground peppers or taking chili supplements can cause bloating, stomach cramps, abdominal pain, loose stools etc.

      Under normal circumstances and in normal food amounts, eating chili peppers is safe and even a source of benefits thanks to the dense nutrition of the culinary spice. But some people are either more sensitive or intolerant of spicy foods in general, while others have conditions that are negatively impacted by consumption of varying amounts of chili peppers. Chili supplements are more likely to cause side effects for both people who normally eat chilies without any issue and for those who can’t eat them without experiencing side effects – and again, the range and severity of the side effects is directly proportional with intake.

      If you don’t have any of the conditions mentioned above, you can always have a few chilies and go for a run to test your reactions to them. Just make sure you have water with you in case you need to wash down stomach juices. But only you can tell if you can have chilies before a run, how much you can eat and how the spice impacts your performance. Because only you can experience the beneficial and adverse reactions first-hand. Hope this helps and wishing you lots of health, Daniel!

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