Cayenne Pepper for IBS & Chronic Indigestion

Image Credit: Jennifer C. / Flickr. This image has been modified.

Cayenne for Irritable Bowel

Nearly 50 million Americans come down with food poisoning every year. Over a hundred thousand are hospitalized and thousands die every year just because of something they ate. If they had ordered something different on the menu or chosen something else at the grocery store, they or their loved one might be alive today. But in the vast majority of cases, food poisoning manifests itself as little more than a case of “stomach flu”—a few days of pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and then it’s gone. So what’s the big deal?

Well, as described in this recent editorial in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, in many cases, that acute infection can trigger a chronic “postinfectious functional gastrointestinal disorder” that can last for years or even forever. The two most common of which are irritable bowel syndrome and functional dyspepsia (chronic indigestion).

Up to 10% of people stricken with Salmonella, E. coli, or Campylobacter are left with irritable bowel syndrome. The thought is that the “transitory inflammation during the infection leads to subtle but permanent changes in the structure and function of the digestive system,” causing the lining of the gut to become hyper-sensitized. How do they determine if someone’s rectum is hypersensitive?

Innovative Japanese researchers developed a device to deliver “repetitive painful rectal distention.” Basically, the researchers hooked up a half-quart balloon to a fancy bicycle pump that was lubricated with olive oil, inserted it into the rectum and inflated it until the patients couldn’t stand the pain anymore. As you can see in my video, Cayenne Pepper for Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Chronic Indigestion, those with IBS had a significantly lower pain threshold, significantly less “rectal compliance.”

Healthy people felt the pain where we’d expect to feel the pain with, effectively, a balloon animal up their tush. But many with IBS also experienced abdominal pain, indicating a hypersensitivity of the entire gut wall. Well, if that’s the problem, how can we desensitize the gut?

In my video, Hot Sauce in the Nose for Cluster Headaches?, we learned about the ability of hot pepper compounds to deplete pain fibers of substance P, a neurotransmitter used for transmitting pain. It’s bad enough to have to rub hot peppers up our nose, where do we have to stick them for irritable bowel? Thankfully researchers chose the oral route.

The researchers concluded that “the chronic administration of red pepper powder in IBS patients with enteric-coated pills was significantly more effective than placebo in decreasing the intensity of abdominal pain and bloating, and was considered by the patients more effective than placebo,” suggesting a “novel way of dealing with this frequent and distressing functional disease.”

After 48 million cases of annual food poisoning, 10% may end up with IBS. Even more may end up with chronic indigestion. How do peppers work against that? We can’t use whole peppers because then we couldn’t blind a placebo, but if we give capsules of red pepper powder to folks suffering from chronic indigestion—about one and a half teaspoons a day worth—and compare that to an identical-looking sugar pill, within a month their overall symptoms improved, including their stomach pain and their feelings of being bloated. They had less nausea, too. The frequently prescribed drug, Propulsid (cisapride), worked almost as well as the red pepper powder, and was considered generally well tolerated… that is, until it killed people. Propulsid was pulled from the market after causing dozens of deaths.

I explore another natural treatment for IBS in Kiwi Fruit for Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

I’ve covered some of the long-term consequences of food poisoning in videos such as Poultry and Paralysis, Fecal Bacteria Survey, and Amnesic Seafood Poisoning. The meat industry is all over it, though: Check out my videos  Viral Meat Spray and Maggot Meat Spray. Why is it legal to sell meat tainted with our leading foodborne killer? Find out in Salmonella in Chicken & Turkey: Deadly But Not Illegal and

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

17 responses to “Cayenne for Irritable Bowel

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  1. Dr. Greger, this is really great info. I’m 25 and I’ve had chronic bloating for years now. I don’t know what started it but I read that an infection can trigger IBS. I have a gastro doc whose tested me for everything and wants to do the pill cam test to see if I have delayed gastric emptying, he said ibds is a last resort/after everything else is ruled out diagnosis. I heard someone refer to that as a trashcan diagnosis. Anyways, my eczema has become more hyper sensitive since then and I can only imagine it has something to do with it since gut/flora health are so intertwined. I wonder if you have any info on gut lining health/intestinal permeability/leaky gut/gut tight junctions in relation to flora, gut issues and other health issues like allergies or auto immune conditions. Maybe something to look into. I’ll stay tuned! ☺

    1. Have you watched Michael Klaper’s video on “Leaky Gut”. And Burgess’ blog ?
      He used an elimination diet to resolve his issues.
      Good luck in resolving or figuring out your condition.

    2. OBS is often related too leaky gut and poor villi function. This is often the result of our being poisoned. Peopple (docs included) forget that our billi is strongly effected by our lymphatic system, and lymph carries everything that the liver cannot remove (like all those human chemical inventions that we did not evolve around).

      1. I wonder how the chronic bloating/distention is related to probably leaky gut. I don’t seem to have any other symptoms besides the chronic distention/bloat and sometimes often belching. There just seems to be a lot of air, either it’s a normal amount being trapped by a spastic intestine/colon or it’s an abnormal larger amount being trapped. Idk. You’re right about how all these things are connected though I’m not too familiar with the lymphatic system in relation to our health.

  2. I still don’t understand this. Most people with IBS have a lot of trouble tolerating spicy food…. so how is it supposed to help?

  3. I believe folks think they cannot tolerate CHILE, when in fact, they can’t’ tolerate “greasie.” Get the fat out then see how great capsacins (chiles) are!

    1. It is possible to have bad reactions to plants in the nightshade family (chilies, capsicums, potatoes). Some people do not tolerate them.
      Other people cannot handle spicy food well, even with no fat in the meal at all. In some people it simply very rapidly through the gut, causing belly issues.

      Also, given the high antioxidant level of chilies and how toxic most western people are, some people could *EASILY* be having a herxheimer reaction (they are producing far too many free radical metabolites at once).

      We live in a very polluted world. In very toxic people (including people with CFS, FMS, MCS, parkinson’s, IBS, etc) it is not uncommon to lose the ability to eat foods that detox : cabbage, onions, garlic, broccoli and cauliflower… at least until a person has detoxed enough to not be poisoned by the results of the sudden veggie detox. Some people must take detoxing VERY VERY slowly.

      My wife (who has FMS/CFS/MCS and other issues) had to start on a 1/16th teaspoon dose of MSM per day and a 1/4 teaspoon dose of Noni juice. Any more and she became very ill (muscle pain, spasms, gut craps, headaches) – and now after many years of daily detox, she takes both of those by the teaspoon. She also had to start her nebulized glutathion (part of the wonderful protocol of Dr Pall, for Fibromyalgia) at very low amounts too (herx reaction again).

      As for me – both of us lost the ability to safely eat : cabbage, onions, garlic, broccoli and cauliflower. These are all natural detox foods.

      I got all mine back (yay) in the last year, and she has only manged to handle eating garlic and small amounts of spring onion.

  4. Would like to try cayenne and see if it helps my IBS. Would much prefer just using the powder, than capsules…….do we think that would work well enough? Or is it important that the powder get to the colon before being released?

  5. That’s awesome. And hahaha I know you had a lot of fun writing this one!! ;) cracking up – a balloon animal up their tush ;) ha!

  6. Thanks for the link to that blog, I haven’t come across this, looks like a lot of great info right in my direction; I’ll be sure to read up on this.

    I did see that video, that’s where I first heard of quercetin helping a leaky gut and recently decided to try some. I previously only knew of vitamin d and l-glutamine for tightening those tight junctions in the gut. I wonder if Klaper has any other info on this.

  7. I’ve recently been diagnosed with SIBO. There seems to be a lot of contradictory information about what I should and shouldn’t eat. If I take out what everyone said, I’m basically left with meat, eggs, and squash. I don’t want to eat meat though, so I’ve been pretty much starving. Can you shed some light on this topic? Thanks.

    1. Ciel, now has a much bigger team of moderators and we are trying to address some of the unanswered questions from past videos, even if they are 2 years old. I see you expressed some frustration (with good reason) regarding diet information you received in the past. How are you doing now? Have you been able to fashion a reasonable diet for yourself focusing on whole food plant based menus? You have extra challenges for sure, and I hope you’re now working with a knowledgeable professional.

  8. I’ve got IBS-Diarrhea which was provoked by hot spices example Salsa, hot Mexican meal no doubt chile peppers, …
    There were reports (in Nutrition about health benefits of hot spicy foods. Well on me, backfired big time I’ve got irritable bowel producing diarrhea from hot spices now even pepper, and even coffee which I used to drink with impunity.
    Now if I had IBS-constipation I might give your hot pepper a try, but with my IBS-diarrhea bound to make me worse. Even a little bit of hot sauce in a half a small gluten free Domino’s pizza set me off.

    On another subject, why gluten free? Internet postings indicate wheat gluten can result in gas, and more gas on top of diarrhea is not a good combination.

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