Too much spice, not too nice

Now, as much as we love spicy food, doctors warn against this dangerous trend. “Indian cuisines already use a lot of spices, compared to other countries
Image used for representational purpose.
Image used for representational purpose.

If you’re someone that stays up to date about the latest trends and challenges going viral on the Internet, you have probably came across the spice challenge, and have given it a shot yourself! In India, the spicy Korean ramen challenge has been going viral for long now. It is pretty self-explanatory — a person tries a really spicy delicacy, it could be noodles, chips or even a raw, spicy chilli! Once they get through, they nominate another person to try the same and the chain goes on.

Now, as much as we love spicy food, doctors warn against this dangerous trend. “Indian cuisines already use a lot of spices, compared to other countries. It can be hard to beat the temptation to try this trend, but like the saying goes: too much of anything is bad. You’re suddenly putting your body through a lot more than it can take. Even a bite can be bad enough to trigger reactions — from ulcers in your mouth to burns in your oesophagus and stomach — things could escalate before you know it. It’s even worse for those who have co-morbidities they never knew they had,” says Dr G Sushma, chief clinical dietitian at Care Hospital in Banjara Hills Road No. 10.

Explaining the various ways spicy food can harm your body, the doctor says, “Extreme levels of spice could burn up the first layer/lining of your oesophagus and in some cases, intestines too. Diarrhoea, acidity and burning in the stomach are some of the most common issues.”

When asked how much is too much, Dr Haritha Shyam, chief dietician at Apollo Hospitals, says, “It differs from person to person. It depends on the food they ate growing up. For example, South Indians have a higher tolerance when compared to those in the North. Spice tolerance is also built over a period of time, depending on the kinds of foods you’re exposed to. The problem arises when your body is exposed to something so high, suddenly. The golden rule is to stop when your body says no. If you feel like your body is rejecting something, listen to it.”

But, foodies love to gorge on biryani or something as simple as pani puri. So, how often can one indulge in these? Dr Haritha says, “Occasional indulgence is fine -- keep it to once in two months. Such foods feel yummy on the tongue, but cause discomfort once consumed. Regular intake of these foods could lead to severe gastrointestinal problems.”

The doctors say that most spices have healing properties and recommend different ways one can consume them. “Spices, in moderation and when cooked well, have wonderful benefits. Add cardamom, cinnamon and clove to the oil directly when cooking. They’re rich in antioxidants and help in weight loss. They’re also high in fibre. Turmeric has anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibacterial properties. Ginger, too, has multiple medicinal properties. You can consume it in the form of ginger tea. Garlic has a component called allicin that works wonders for cardiac patients. However, too much chilli powder, or even green chillies, are bad for your intestines,” says Dr Sushma.

Mentioning how it’s different for everybody, Dr Haritha says, “Something as simple as a cucumber can cause acidity and stomach ache in some people. What’s food for one could be poison for another. So the trick is to figure your system out and eat accordingly.”

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