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One Major Side Effect of Eating Jalapeños, Says Science

The spicy pepper isn't meant for everyone—here's why.

Jalapeños make for an excellent addition to several dishes, most famously tacos and guacamole. They can also be made into an appetizer (jalapeño poppers, anyone?) or give a sweet margarita some spice. However, there are some people that struggle to tolerate the pepper—and no, we're not just referring to those whose taste buds can't handle the heat.

For those who have acid reflux or heartburn, the fiery pepper can be very painful to ingest, and that's largely due to the major active compound found in both jalapeño and chili peppers called capsaicin. Capsaicin is what gives a pepper its intense heat, and several studies have identified some potential health benefits of the compound, including promoting weight loss.

RELATED: One Major Side Effect of Eating Hot Peppers, Dietitian Says

Still, for those with recurrent heartburn, the pepper's benefits often don't outweigh the discomfort they cause upon consumption. Someone who experiences heartburn may already feel like their esophagus is on fire. When acid flows backward from the stomach up into the esophagus, it results in a burning sensation. Someone may even feel like they have a lump in their throat.

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Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, told Eat This, Not That! in an article about acid reflux that there are two main reasons why spicy foods can trigger these uncomfortable symptoms.

"First, for those who suffer from reflux, spicy foods can inflame an already irritated digestive tract. Second, they may also take longer to digest, and food sitting in the stomach for a long time can cause acid reflux," said Rizzo.

If you're susceptible to heartburn but want to still reap the benefits, there are other methods. Capsaicin can be isolated from the pepper and made into a capsule or even a topical cream. In fact, people use capsaicin in the form of a cream, gel, lotion, or ointment to help alleviate pain from joint problems, skin conditions, cluster headaches, and even nervous system problems.

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Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of <Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more
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