Fact or Myth: Eating Spicy Foods Causes Ulcers

This is a MYTH.

Spicy FoodsFor decades, medical professionals attributed ulcers to causes such as eating spicy foods, chronic stress, tobacco, alcohol and other less-than-optimal lifestyle habits. A common prescription for ulcers was to dial down the stress and eat a bland, boring diet. While symptoms may have calmed a bit, the ulcers weren’t cured.

In the early 1980s, however, it was discovered that these factors—including eating spicy foods—may exacerbate the symptoms of ulcers, but don’t actually cause ulcers. The real cause of peptic ulcer disease (PUD) may surprise you!

Pesky Bacteria

There’s a particularly pesky bacterium that’s responsible for infecting nearly three million people worldwide…and it’s responsible for two-thirds of all peptic ulcers. Helicobacter pylori lodges in your stomach and duodenum and secretes an enzyme that defends against stomach acid. It settles into your mucosal lining, and not even your immune system can defeat it. In fact, the nutrients sent to attack the bacteria actually end up feeding it! The bacteria thrive, and eventually an ulcer develops. If left untreated for decades, the bacteria may develop into stomach cancer.

Good News

If you are plagued by ulcers, don’t worry! Helicobacter pylori is treatable! Doctors typically prescribe a two-week antibiotic cocktail, followed by a proton inhibitor pump (PPI) such as Prilosec and a bismuth drug like Pepto-Bismol.

There’s a chance that your ulcer isn’t caused by bacteria at all, but by the frequent use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen. No matter the cause, it’s important to see a medical professional to treat this painful and in the most extreme cases life-threatening health condition.