So you heard that eating spicy food may cause stomach ulcers. Is it true?
Bet you didn’t know a local 2006 study published in the journal Food Science and Nutrition actually found that capsaicin, an active compound found in chilli, offers protection against some stomach ulcers. How? It stimulates neurons in the stomach and signals for protection against injury-causing agents.
Citing similar studies done in Singapore and Malaysia, Dr Gwee Kok Ann, medical director and consultant gastroenterologist at Stomach Liver & Bowel Clinic, adds that gastric diseases like ulcers and cancers have been found to occur more often among Singaporean Chinese than Malays or Indians who tend to eat more chilli. One study in particular noted that gastric ulcers are three times more common in the Chinese than Malays or Indians.
As for the myth about irregular meals causing gastric ulcers, Dr Gwee says that it has never been proven.
In fact, stomach ulcers are mainly the result of infections due to the Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria – found in more than half of the world’s population and usually asymptomatic – as well as the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin. In the US, 80 per cent of stomach ulcers are caused by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So will eating your favourite laksa put you at risk of stomach ulcers?
Eating spicy food isn’t going to give you stomach ulcers.
See a doctor if you experience tummy upsets after eating spicy meals as you might have a food intolerance.
If you suffer from recurring abdominal discomfort, Dr Gwee suggests getting a gastroscopy to check for H. pylori. This is particularly important if you are over 35, take NSAIDs, have a family history of gastric cancer or have symptoms such as weight loss, blood in your stools, anaemia and loss of appetite or vomiting after meals.