Spicy food causes peptic ulcers. One of society’s most pervasive myths is that spicy food causes peptic ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract.
Helicobacter pylori and painkillers causes peptic ulcers. Prior to 1982, the common belief was that bacteria could not survive in the stomach due to the high acidic levels and that peptic ulcers were caused by stress, spicy food, and certain lifestyles. In 1982, Barry Marshall and Robin Warren discovered the bacterium helicobacter pylori while observing that most patients who had stomach inflammation or ulcers also tested positive for a spiral-shaped gram-negative bacteria in their stomach.
Marshall and Warren were able to prove that this bacteria, which would be called h. pylori, was the cause of peptic ulcers and inflammation in the stomach. When the h. pylori was destroyed in the stomach, patients began to heal and showed less to no pain of ulcers. Marshall had also decided to make himself a test subject by consuming a h. pylori concoction and noting its side effects before curing himself. Even though ulcers are treatable with antibiotics, some patients have relapsed due to the bacteria growing to withstand the antibiotics.
While h. pylori causes about 80-90% of peptic ulcers, they are not the only cause of gastrintestinal disorder, which can also be caused by consuming painkillers such as NSAIDS. Peptic ulcers are also found to be less prevalent in developed countries, even though h. pylori resides in about 50% of the human population.
Marshall and Warren later won the Nobel Prize in Physiology for helping cure one of the most “widespread chronic infections”.
So, what conclusions can we draw? Eating spicy food, consuming alcohol, and stress can exacerbate the pain for someone who already has a peptic ulcer, but they do not cause the disease. It is best to avoid these things if you have an ulcer.
- Header Image: Woodleywonderworks (Flickr)
- Co-author: Shoua Kue
- Duodenal ulcer treated with Helicobacter pylori eradication: seven-year follow-up – The Lancet
- Helicobacter pylori: A Nobel pursuit? – Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology
- The 2005 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine – Nobelprize.org Press Release