Types of peppers people use in cooking and salads include jalapenos, serranos, cayenne, banana peppers, szechwan and habaneeros. Many dishes such as Indian soups and curries and Jamaican menus contain these peppers. Capsaicin, an ingredient in these peppers, has many therapeutic uses such as antioxidant effects that may prevent cancer, as well as serving as an anti-inflammatory that may help decrease the pain of arthritis. Hot peppers also contain vitamins such as A, C and B-6. Before starting this supplemental food, talk to your health practitioner. He will guide you because hot peppers have reported side effects.
Ingesting hot peppers of any type can cause indigestion, particularly if you do not usually have them in your diet. The burning sensation that you experience in your mouth from eating hot peppers also can occur in your stomach during digestion. This can send the hot sensation back into your esophagus as gastric reflux. Over-the-counter antacids, proton pump inhibitors such as lansoprazole and H-2-receptor blockers such as ranitidine or cimetidine may help suppress the reflux. You should take proton pump inhibitors at least an hour before eating the hot peppers because they do not act instantly as other antacids do.
While the hot peppers pass through the first stage of digestion in your stomach, they can unsettle your overall digestion. The fire sensations can disrupt your normally quiet digestion, again primarily if you do not eat hot peppers regularly. Proton pump inhibitors, H-2-receptor blockers and more traditional antacids can help suppress the stomach discomfort of digesting hot peppers.
As the hot peppers progress through your digestive tract, they can continue to retain some of the burning ingredients that makes them hot in the first place. This can cause a painful, burning sensation in your rectum as you pass stools containing any type of hot pepper waste. Although this side effect does not classify as serious, it can cause discomfort for a few days. Once your body acclimates to the inclusion of red peppers in your diet, this side effect may cease or decrease.
Even if you do not eat hot peppers, you can experience a side effect from handling them. Capsaicin works its fiery sensation even on your skin if the juice from red peppers absorbs slightly. This can turn your skin red and cause the burning sensation or itch. Unless you are allergic to hot peppers, however, this type of side effect should occur only briefly and then dissipate. When handling hot peppers, wear gloves to avoid such a rash and burning sensations.
Carole Anne Tomlinson is a registered nurse with experience in rehabilitation, nutrition, chemical dependency, diabetes and health problems related to the elderly. Tomlinson holds a Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice and is presently working on her master's degree in nursing. Her screenplays have been viewed by Merchant Ivory, Angela Lansbury and Steven King's associates.