Avoiding capsaicin — a pungent ingredient in chillies and pepper — can help to reduce stomach bloating, research suggests.
Capsaicin can aggravate the lining of the stomach and the intestines.
It also stimulates certain receptors (TRPV1) which are responsible for pain and burning sensations.
The number of TRPV1 receptors — known as capsaicin receptors –tends to be higher in people with sensitive stomachs or digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
They are more likely to experience pain due to having more nerve fibres expressing the TRPV1 receptors, a study has found.
A clear example is eating spicy meals including curry, chili, zesty chicken wings, as these cause a burning sensation like ingesting a fireball.
One option to reduce sensitivity to capsaicin is eating a lot of chillies over a long period of time.
This can possibly desensitize the TRPV1 receptors and reduce gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal discomfort or pain, burping, gas, nausea and bloating.
Pharmaceutical companies are focusing on TRPV1 desensitisation by creating pain killers that target these receptors.
A simple way to combat these sensations is by drinking a glass of milk.
This can help to reduce the burning sensation in the mouth after eating spicy foods, since a protein in milk can neutralise the effect of capsaicin.
Professor Praveen Anand, study co-author, said:
“Up to 50 pharmaceutical and biotech companies world-wide are developing drugs that block the chilli pepper receptor TRPV1, and our published studies on this receptor in a number of chronic pain and hypersensitivity conditions provide hope for millions of suffering patients.”
About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.
The study was published in the journal of Gut (Akbar et al., 2008).