It has been believed that prolonged consumption of spicy foods can eventually result in haemorrhoids, more commonly known as piles. However, experts suggest that spicy foods might exacerbate pre-existing haemorrhoids, but no evidence suggests spicy foods cause this painful rectal disease.
Talking to OnlyMyHealth’s team, Dr Reddy Jyothsna, Head of Department and Chief Clinical Nutritionist, Sakra World Hospital, Bengaluru, said, “Spicy foods may cause indigestion and occasionally loose stools or diarrhoea, which can make bowel movements challenging. This fact has majorly contributed to the myth of spicy foods as a cause of haemorrhoids.”
What Causes Haemorrhoids?
As per a study conducted at the John Hopkins Medicine, haemorrhoids are widespread in both men and women and about half of the world’s population will have haemorrhoids by the age of 50. Dr Jyothsna elucidated that haemorrhoids are enlarged and inflammatory veins in the rectum or anus, often caused due to an increase in exerted pressure. Haemorrhoids can result in symptoms like itchiness, pain, and bleeding during bowel movements.
“The main contributing factor is increased pressure in the lower rectum, which can be brought on by straining during bowel motions, persistent constipation or diarrhoea, pregnancy, obesity, or prolonged sitting. Other risk factors include a sedentary lifestyle, reduced water intake, ageing, and a lack of dietary fibre,” she added.
Impact of Spicy Foods on Haemorrhoids
One of the main factors contributing to the development of haemorrhoids is constipation, which strains the rectal veins during bowel movements. Spicy foods, particularly those high in chilli peppers, are often associated with constipation due to their potential to slow down bowel movements. However, the spiciness alone is not the sole cause; other dietary and lifestyle factors, such as inadequate fibre and fluid intake, play a more significant role in constipation.
Nevertheless, spicy foods can aggravate the symptoms of haemorrhoids, as Dr Jyothsana explained, “For some people, eating spicy food makes their haemorrhoids worse. Capsaicin (found in chilli) can irritate the delicate tissues in the rectum, increasing discomfort, burning, and itching. In addition to causing diarrhoea or loose stools, spicy meals can aggravate symptoms by straining the genital area during bowel movements. Additionally, the heat from spicy foods can escalate haemorrhoids’ pain and puffiness.”
Experts suggest that a healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet are vital in managing haemorrhoids. Some practical tips for managing haemorrhoids are:
- High-Fibre Diet: A fibre-rich diet can promote regular bowel movements, reducing the strain on the rectal veins. Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes in your meals.
- Hydration: Drinking plenty of water helps soften stools, making them easier to pass.
- Avoid Straining: Avoid straining during bowel movements, as this can worsen haemorrhoid symptoms. Use a stool softener or a fibre supplement after consulting with a healthcare professional.
- Exercise: Regular physical activity can improve bowel function and promote overall digestive health.
Spicy Foods Causing Haemorrhoids - Myth Or Fact?
Substantial scientific evidence does not support the claim that spicy foods cause haemorrhoids. Doctors maintain that developing haemorrhoids is a complex process influenced by various factors, including genetics, diet, and lifestyle. Rather than singling out spicy foods, individuals should focus on adopting healthy habits to manage haemorrhoids effectively. Individuals suffering from haemorrhoids should immediately consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and personalised recommendations.