A recent study conducted by the National University Hospital (NUH) has found that spicy food such as curry worsens acid reflux.
The study, which was published last month, found that patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease – upper abdominal discomfort with symptoms like heartburn – who consumed curry experienced greater and lengthier periods of pain than healthy volunteers.
The study involved 25 patients and 19 volunteers who were monitored over a day for acidity changes.
After consuming 400ml or 800ml of curry, they were again monitored for three hours for changes in pH level in their oesophagus, through which food passes to the stomach.
Results showed that curry consumption led to more oesophageal acid exposure and more episodes of acid reflux in both groups.
But for the patients, it caused more severe upper abdominal symptoms such as heartburn, nausea and belching.
And while the milder symptoms in healthy volunteers went away within 30 minutes, the symptoms in the patients only improved after three hours.
Dr Lim Lee Guan, one of the authors of the publication, said consuming curry does result in more acid moving upwards from the stomach into the oesophagus, thus causing the symptoms.
With gastroesophageal reflux disease increasingly common in Asia due to lifestyle factors such as obesity and dealing with anxiety, the consultant at NUH’s department of gastroenterology and hepatology added that symptoms are increasingly common among Asians, with “curry being unique to Asian palate”.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, which can occur at any age, can, however, be managed effectively with medication and lifestyle changes such as weight loss for obese patients, he added.
The gastroenterology specialist added that there could also be other causes for acid reflux like smoking and alcohol consumption.