Why Do Some Spicy Foods Cause Diarrhea?

By Megan Smith

What is Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is a common name for bowel movements, or stool, that is loose or watery. Diarrhea can range in consistency from slightly loose to entirely liquid. Diarrhea is not usually a serious condition and occurs in most people at least once or twice per year. The usual bout of diarrhea lasts from one to three days and occurs with symptoms of stomach pain, stomach cramping, sweating and nausea. Diarrhea can be serious when it is accompanied by other symptoms, including fever, bloody stool, chest pains or difficulty breathing. Dietary components can sometimes cause diarrhea, especially if you are allergic to something in the food, the food has gone bad, or the food is particularly spicy. If you are experiencing diarrhea due to diet, it will usually occur within several hours after eating, when the food is going through the large intestine.

Why Do Spicy Foods Cause Diarrhea?

Spicy foods cause diarrhea in many people. Bland food does not irritate the intestines because the pH is usually basic. Acidic foods tend to irritate the intestines more than basic foods do. If you dip your finger in a bowl of hot sauce, eventually your finger will begin to become irritated and then burn. This is the same thing that happens to your intestines when you ingest spicy foods. As the intestine becomes irritated, the body will send water to the intestines that has been retained in the body. This water will mix with the stool in order to dilute the irritants, (in this case, the spicy foods) and create watery stool. Some people are able to eat spicy food without much problems, while other people may have diarrhea every time they eat spicy foods. This depends on the sensitivity of their intestines and what else they ingest while they are eating the spicy foods.

Preventing Diarrhea When Eating Spicy Foods

If you are about to eat something spicy but do not want diarrhea, take a medication like Tums or Imodium A-D before eating. You can purchase these remedies at your local drugstore. While eating spicy foods, you can neutralize the spiciness by eating food with a basic pH like yogurt, sour cream or cream cheese. Rice and bread also work to neutralize the pH of spicy, acidic foods. Avoid eating greasy, spicy foods, as greasy foods can also cause your stool to become loose and cause diarrhea. Drink plenty of water to neutralize the spiciness before it enters your intestines. Limit your intake of spicy foods to about once a week, especially if you are prone to getting diarrhea after eating these spicy foods. Some people have an allergic reaction to certain hot peppers and spices, which is why they experience diarrhea with some spicy foods and not others. If you can pinpoint this spice, avoid eating it.

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