We used videoendoscopy to investigate the effect of eating spicy foods on the gastric mucosa. We employed four meals: a bland meal of unpeppered steak and french fries (negative control), a bland meal with 1950 mg of aspirin (positive control), a spicy Mexican meal (30 g of jalapeño peppers), and a pepperoni pizza. Twelve subjects (eight men and four women, aged 24 to 43 years) were studied in a randomized, crossover trial with the test meal given at the noon and evening meals; each subject received all four test meals. Each study consisted of a baseline endoscopy, which was repeated approximately 12 hours after the last test meal. Gastric and duodenal damage was scored using a modification of the Lanza scale. Eleven of 12 individuals taking the bland meal plus aspirin developed multiple gastric erosions (median score, C; which equates with "severe" injury). In contrast, the median endoscopic score for the other three meals was O. Single cases of a single erosion were present after the Mexican meals and after the pizza meals. Another experiment was done to examine the effect of spices directly on the gastric mucosa; approximately 30 g of fresh jalapeño peppers was ground in a food processor and then placed directly into the stomach. Endoscopy after 24 hours revealed no visible mucosal damage. The ingestion of highly spiced meals by normal individuals is not associated with endoscopically demonstrable gastroduodenal mucosal damage.
Graham DY, Smith JL, Opekun AR. Spicy Food and the StomachEvaluation by Videoendoscopy. JAMA. 1988;260(23):3473-3475. doi:10.1001/jama.1988.03410230091035