Cayenne Pepper for Irritable Bowel Syndrome & Chronic Indigestion

Cayenne Pepper for Irritable Bowel Syndrome & Chronic Indigestion
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Chronic red pepper powder ingestion may be an effective treatment for IBS and chronic dyspepsia (indigestion), both of which can arise from food poisoning.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

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, or chosen something else at the grocery store, they or their loved one would be alive today. But, in the vast majority of cases, food poisoning cases manifest 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, which means chronic indigestion.

Up to 10% of people stricken with Salmonella, or E. coli, or Campylobacter are left with irritable bowel syndrome. The thought is that the “transitory inflammation during the infection could lead to subtle but permanent changes in the structure and function of the digestive system,” causing the lining of the gut to become hypersensitized.

How do they determine if someone’s rectum is hypersensitive, though? Innovative Japanese researchers developed a device to deliver “repetitive painful rectal distention”— basically, a half-quart balloon hooked up to a fancy bicycle pump that was lubricated with olive oil, inserted, and inflated until they couldn’t stand the pain anymore. And, those with irritable bowel had significantly lower pain threshold; significantly less “rectal compliance.”

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

We learned in the cluster headache story about the ability of hot pepper compounds to deplete pain fibers of substance P—a neurotransmitter the body uses to transmit pain.

It’s bad enough to have to rub hot peppers up your nose; where do you have to stick them for irritable bowel? Thankfully, researchers chose the oral route.

Conclusions: The results of this preliminary study indicate 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….”

Though after the 48 million cases of annual food poisoning, 10% may end up with IBS, even more may end up with chronic dyspepsia—chronic indigestion. How do peppers work against that? Well, you can’t use whole peppers, because then, you couldn’t double blind a fake placebo pepper. But, if you give capsules of red pepper powder to folks suffering from chronic indigestion—about one-and-a-half teaspoons’ a day worth—and compare to placebo, within a month, their overall symptoms dropped, including their stomach pain, and bloated feelings. Less nausea, too.

The frequently prescribed drug Propulsid (cisapride) worked almost as good as the red pepper powder, and was considered generally well tolerated—that is, until it killed you. Propulsid was pulled from the market after causing dozens of deaths.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

 

Images thanks to Pictogram-free. Thanks to Ellen Reid and Shane Barrett for their Keynote help.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

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, or chosen something else at the grocery store, they or their loved one would be alive today. But, in the vast majority of cases, food poisoning cases manifest 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, which means chronic indigestion.

Up to 10% of people stricken with Salmonella, or E. coli, or Campylobacter are left with irritable bowel syndrome. The thought is that the “transitory inflammation during the infection could lead to subtle but permanent changes in the structure and function of the digestive system,” causing the lining of the gut to become hypersensitized.

How do they determine if someone’s rectum is hypersensitive, though? Innovative Japanese researchers developed a device to deliver “repetitive painful rectal distention”— basically, a half-quart balloon hooked up to a fancy bicycle pump that was lubricated with olive oil, inserted, and inflated until they couldn’t stand the pain anymore. And, those with irritable bowel had significantly lower pain threshold; significantly less “rectal compliance.”

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

We learned in the cluster headache story about the ability of hot pepper compounds to deplete pain fibers of substance P—a neurotransmitter the body uses to transmit pain.

It’s bad enough to have to rub hot peppers up your nose; where do you have to stick them for irritable bowel? Thankfully, researchers chose the oral route.

Conclusions: The results of this preliminary study indicate 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….”

Though after the 48 million cases of annual food poisoning, 10% may end up with IBS, even more may end up with chronic dyspepsia—chronic indigestion. How do peppers work against that? Well, you can’t use whole peppers, because then, you couldn’t double blind a fake placebo pepper. But, if you give capsules of red pepper powder to folks suffering from chronic indigestion—about one-and-a-half teaspoons’ a day worth—and compare to placebo, within a month, their overall symptoms dropped, including their stomach pain, and bloated feelings. Less nausea, too.

The frequently prescribed drug Propulsid (cisapride) worked almost as good as the red pepper powder, and was considered generally well tolerated—that is, until it killed you. Propulsid was pulled from the market after causing dozens of deaths.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

 

Images thanks to Pictogram-free. Thanks to Ellen Reid and Shane Barrett for their Keynote help.

Doctor's Note

Check out Hot Sauce in the Nose for Cluster Headaches? to learn how hot pepper compounds work by depleting pain fibers of their substance P.

I’ve covered some of the long-term consequences of food poisoning in videos such as Poultry & Paralysis, Fecal Bacteria Survey, and Amnesic Seafood Poisoning. The meat industry is all over it, though! Check out 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.

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

For further context, check out my associated blog post: Cayenne for Irritable Bowel.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

46 responses to “Cayenne Pepper for Irritable Bowel Syndrome & Chronic Indigestion

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    1. I’m a long-time UC sufferer, Kathy, and I’ve read about and tried a LOT of things. I tried cayenne once while in full disease and it turned out to be a bad idea. I had one doctor, who was actually one of the most open-minded and knowledgeable I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with, tell me to strictly avoid all chiles. Turns out he was right, at least when in active disease. My advice: If you’re bleeding, avoid the spice. I’ve learned the hard way that you’re just a special case with active disease and what’s normally healthy is not necessarily so then. Soft, easily digested foods are essential to healing your inflamed gut, and that needs to be your top priority!

      I will tell you that a plant-based diet seems to have had the most positive effect among the things I’ve tried. I got the idea from that Japanese study discussed on this site (Thanks, Doc!). However, you really need to watch the fiber when in active disease. I find that I have to be very cautious with legumes, brown(red, or black) rice, and nuts or seeds or my system stays irritated and I don’t heal. If you haven’t done so, try eating a strict plant-based diet for about a week with a foundation of potatoes (not fried), noodles and white rice with enough cooked veggies and non-seeded fruit to get some good nutrition and see how it works for you. It was hard to get my mind around eating mostly foods with a high glycemic index and I seem to feel worse for it in some respects, but it helped me heal. When you’re better, slowly start adding whole grains, nuts, etc. to the point you can tolerate them.

      Another biggie for me, even if you don’t feel like it, exercise every day!

      Good luck!

      1. Kevin, I have been in remission with UC for over 10 years now. I was very very sick.what helped me was Fenugreek. I used to soak the seeds and drink the water, all day. Now I just drink it 1st thing in the morning. I hope hat helps.

          1. Soak for about two hrs, for one tblsp add 12 oz of hot water, no need to grind and you can eat the seeds, they get the texture of sunflower seeds, when ready to drink, add more hot water1/4 cup and drink.if you have leftover seeds, add a little more water to drink later.

      2. The nice thing about eating cooked white (or sweet) potatoes is that you’re getting a lot…a lot…of the right kind of fibers, starches, and nutrients, which are not harsh, but still provide the necessary vehicle to build up the probiotics/good bacteria, needed to fill the intesine and yet not irritate. White rice also works for me, though not as nutritionally good, but no noodles or any other flour products. I often don’t eat a lot of beans when I am in a flare, but peas are ok. Peas are a real super food for us. Stick with alkaline creating foods. Don’t know what you mean by non seeded fruit, but maybe non pitted fruits might be what you’re talking about, like peaches etc. Can’t eat them. Oranges are acid going in, but result in an alkaline effect on the body…really excellent. Eating baby greens with an orange squeezed over it, cut up the flesh and enjoy it in the salad too. A great healthy (for the gut) is the wonderful sweet onion out now. No oil at all. Use a few slices of avocado, but absolutely no oil….at all. U can live well on these items and get all you need. You can eat only one thing at a time tio do an elimination type investigation. Put what you eat into the site “cronometer.” It will tell you what nutrients you are getting…and log onto the discussion panel of Dr. McDougall’s web site. drmcdougall.com Many others are dealing with your issues and worse. I get lots of help ther and you’ll see Dr. Greger there too. This is a lifetime of help you (and I) need, not a simple answer.

        Don’t worry about the “Glycemic” levels of the vegetables. These are the natural foods for us humans. Talk to JeffN, RD, who has a forum on the disscussion forums. He is been dealing with all these issues for years. Come on over. See you there. Lynn

        1. By seeded fruits I mean strawberries, blackberries, etc. I’m curious, do noodles make you ill or is it just the idea of wheat gluten you’re against?

      3. whole grain fiber is like a sandpaper for the one-cell-layer thin intestinal wall, see if you are better off avoiding grains while in acute phase. A book 80/10/10 is a good read if you what to “eat” your way out of IBS and Chron’s on plant-based diet. Recently Dr Campbell – the author of China Study names 80/10/10 as the healthiest diet out there http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9F_2aQnSnI

      4. I take 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper in my smoothie a day. I found that my body adapted to being able to accept the cayenne pepper by starting of with a little of it and building in quantity over time. Some people do have adverse reactions to the solanine compound it contains, which is the reason some people have issues with cayenne and other nightshades.

    2. If you have a bleeding ulcer do not use it. But if it is not bleeding it could help. My doc said if it is not bothering me do it. It has helped my gastric problems. But I also just sprinkle some on my foods. Like eggs , or put a little in any dish it won’t make much of a taste change. I won’t do the pills as I don’t want to much and plus I believe natural is best. Backing soda may help you. A tbsp in a glass of water ever day. Studies have also shown it can help keep you from getting cancer. By raising your ph levels.

  1. Interesting. So it is used as a pain suppressor? Does that mean that the symptoms may have been treated but not the cause? Or have I missed something in the video.
    Apart from that, brilliant website, very interesting material. Is there a section where we can read all the studies that you quote? To see what kind of value these studies have, because not every study is as thorough as it should, isn’t it.

    Thank you for your answer.

    1. If you can’t find them (I couldn’t) have them made up by your nearest compounding pharmacist. That’s what I ended up doing.

  2. Again a very interesting video and presented with great humor! NF is very informative – also for healthprofessionals. (Mostly) interesting comments from great people in the comment forum.

      1. I searched as you suggested and find none that are enteric-coated. Please share with me the specifics of the product(s) you have found.

  3. I suggested this to a close friend. He had these symptoms exactly. Onset IBS symptoms after food poisoning and could not eat corn products. After a week of taking cayenne his is symptom free. He says, “I am completely healed.” Thanks Dr. Greger!!!! I will try it for my own bowel issues.

    1. Please let me know where your friend purchased enteric-coated cayenne pills/caps. I find many sources for cayenne but none are enteric-coated. Thanks.

    1. I’m not sure many here would agree with you… This site promotes whole foods ‘plant based vegan’ diets devoid of animal products to heal the body. Chris Kresser is certainly not a friend of this site…He is one of those Paleo hacks looking to cash in on the public’s ignorance about the dangers of animal food consumption. The article you linked to promotes eating beef liver and other animal products again not supported by this site. Low-carb Paleo diets are a fad like Atkins and the sooner they go away the better.

      check it out ~~> http://nutritionfacts.org/video/uprooting-the-leading-causes-of-death/

      a few more…

      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/c-difficile-superbugs-in-meat/

      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/bowel-wars-hydrogen-sulfide-vs-butyrate/

      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/tick-bites-meat-allergies-and-chronic-urticaria/

      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/estrogenic-cooked-meat-carcinogens/

      1. Agreed, not necessarily my point of view ether. I should have put it in quotations. But still someone is making this recommendation based some success.
        I have been PBWF for 2 yr but I have no commitment to anything other than what is optimum for me, whatever that may be.

        1. Hi Nodelord, thank you fo the reply. I’m curious as to why you are following a plant based diet yet arguing against it at the same time? That makes no sense… So instead of linking to paleo sites how about we discuss the wonderful positives of being plant based and lets leave the paleo stuff for the paleo sites. So what do you like about your plant based diet so far after 2 years? Can you tell us what you are eating these days? I’d like to hear some positive things about what made you switch to plant based? and congratulations for making the switch.

          1. You are confusing me with the sources of info that I found. I find, that in many cases the truth is hard to find, as the evidence providers offer findings with some measure of bias. I am constantly looking at this from as many angles I can find. So far I haven’t found strong evidence to change to anything but a PBWF diet. My current diet is much like a GF Dr. McDougall diet.

            There is a crazy amount of variables and permutations when it comes to matching an individual with their optimum diet.

            Here is something that may be of some interest.. https://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2012nl/aug/wars.htm

  4. Dr Greger – how can someone with IBS including gastritis, which would be irritated further by taking cayenne pepper capsules take advantage of this possible solution? Wouldn’t this make the inflammation worse?

    1. Hi BenJ. What did the study say? Did it mention how and where the enteric coated caps “dissolved”? We would not know anymore information than the researchers who conducted the study. You make a good point, as it seems logical that someone with stomach sensitivity should be cautious of hot peppers but interestingly this study proved the opposite. Plus, the alternative is taking drugs for chronic dyspepsia, which will also have side effects. Really up to the person whether or not they’d want to try red pepper or medication, but how neat that simply taking red pepper is an option!

    2. It is a very good question, also if you eat cayenne peper, (one and half tea spon a day) i wonder how react the stomach to it. it may not affect to much the gastric acid ad in this case it is a great solution for the intestines… will be good to see the impact of red pepper in the stomach.

  5. Had my gall bladder removed 5 1/2 years ago. Have had difficulty with digestion ever since, and not just fatty foods. One big no-no for me is spicy food. Through a process of elimination I’ve been told that it could be IBS that is causing my symptoms. How would I be able to try cayenne pepper capsules for my IBS if spices are irritating for me?

    1. I think it is important to realize that GMO foods (such as non organic soy and corn, wheat, etc.) can cause these symptoms too. Make sure your good is non GMO. For more info see Jeffrey Smith (also has books).

  6. Thank you for this video! I have a question on IBS : why do they say that starch is bad for people with IBS.
    Thank you very much.

  7. I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Trigger foods any hot spice causes increased bowel muscle activity and diarrhea. Cayenne pepper would really get my bowel moving and chain me to the toilet. Maybe hot pepper is for someone with constipation IBS, not me. There are likely some other trigger foods which may have a mild diarrhea; I’m experimenting. BTW, 80 year old, largely vegan, exercise.

  8. I’ve got IBS-Diarrhea which was provoked by hot spices example Salsa, Mexican foods, … and am now even sensitive to black pepper. I’m very dubious about trying red pepper ……

  9. http://gut.bmj.com/content/57/7/923

    Neurogastroenterology
    Increased capsaicin receptor TRPV1-expressing sensory fibres in irritable bowel syndrome and their correlation with abdominal pain

    A Akbar1, Y Yiangou2, P Facer2, J R F Walters1, P Anand2, S Ghosh1

    Author affiliations
    Abstract

    Objective: The capsaicin receptor TRPV1 (transient receptor potential vanilloid type-1) may play an important role in visceral pain and hypersensitivity states. In irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), abdominal pain is a common and distressing symptom where the pathophysiology is still not clearly defined. TRPV1-immunoreactive nerve fibres were investigated in colonic biopsies from patients with IBS, and this was related to abdominal pain.

    Methods: Rectosigmoid biopsies were collected from 23 IBS patients fulfilling Rome II criteria, and from 22 controls. Abdominal pain scores were recorded using a validated questionnaire. TRPV1-, substance P- and neuronal marker protein gene product (PGP) 9.5-expressing nerve fibres, mast cells (c-kit) and lymphocytes (CD3 and CD4) were quantified, following immunohistochemistry with specific antibodies. The biopsy findings were related to the abdominal pain scores.

    Results: A significant 3.5-fold increase in median numbers of TRPV1-immunoreactive fibres was found in biopsies from IBS patients compared with controls (p<0.0001). Substance P-immunoreactive fibres (p = 0.01), total nerve fibres (PGP9.5) (p = 0.002), mast cells (c-kit) (p = 0.02) and lymphocytes (CD3) (p = 0.03) were also significantly increased in the IBS group. In multivariate regression analysis, only TRPV1-immuno-reactive fibres (p = 0.005) and mast cells (p = 0.008) were significantly related to the abdominal pain score.

    Conclusions: Increased TRPV1 nerve fibres are observed in IBS, together with a low-grade inflammatory response. The increased TRPV1 nerve fibres may contribute to visceral hypersensitivity and pain in IBS, and provide a novel therapeutic target.

  10. Hello. Thanks for the video but I have IBS and I was wondering: the cayenne pepper is only to reduce pain? So it doesn’t heal the gut or something like that?
    And how should you take this then?

    Thanks in advance!

  11. Hi Doctor, I use to be a federal meat inspector worked closely with birds chicken, fowl. What a horrible industry, well they all are horrible. I thought I was doing a good thing for the public and animal welfare and maybe somehow I influenced some change but thats wishful thinking.

    I’ve had campylobacter 3 times. The first time was the worst. Everything came out both ends and well I think I was paralyzed for a few days because of it. My spine had like a burning sensation and I didn’t have enough food couldn’t leave the bathroom. About a month later I had a sharp pain in my side went to the hospital via ambulance, they gave me some anti-inflamatories and the pain didn’t go away. Some month later after screaming at my doctor i had a lung exam i had a pulmonary embolism and did for some years almost 5-6 years for sure (wasn’t on the right dosage and my genes could have effected that).. long story sorry but I know its connected.

    I’ve never felt the same since I use to workout sometimes twice a day, played hockey baseball very active. I went plant based almost 3 years ago. I feel great and love that people like yourself are changing peoples lives for the better. If I can work up the courage maybe i’ll create a documentary on what I saw and tell the public how they’ve been mislead. it may be karma for working there there are many mornings its as if my body is paralyzed and quite often during that time my spine is hurting or like on fire. MRI suggests I have tarlov cyst. I’m late to work very often sometimes it takes some hours just to wake up even though Ive had enough sleep.

    My belief is I somehow gained that cyst during my first bout of campylobacter and that the blood clot also is a result. I believe I had some variation of Gillian-Barre syndrome but I can’t be certian. It’s been almost 20 years and I still have not been given a diagnosis if you ever read this and had any suggestions I’d love to here them.I will adding cyanne peppers to my diet as well I may try rubbing ALOE and Honey on my spine and see if that somehow reduces the cyst which i think may be giving me the pain. Again sorry for the long post its been a long 20 years and I’m still trying to figure this out.

    Keep up the great work Thank you

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