So, you've gone to town and ordered hot. Tasted great, right? But it's the next day, and now you've got a problem…
You know what I'm talking about….
Ok, not the most pleasant of topics, but if you like Indian food, knowing how to stop ring sting is something that you probably really want to know. 'Ring Sting' is the name given to lower intestinal pain brought about by spicy food. In this article, we will look at what causes it and how you can prevent it (and maybe even cure it).
What is Ring Sting?
Ok… Let's take a breath. Here goes…
'Ring sting' is a slang term used to describe rectal discomfort caused by eating spicy food.
See, I can be polite?
It can be caused by a combination of factors, some of which directly result from eating something too spicy… If it burned on the way in, chances it will burn on the way out.
It also has secondary causes brought about by the more regular bowel movements that spicy food can sometimes encourage.
Want a laugh?
Have a listen to this while you read.
What Causes Ring Sting?
Ok, let's take a deep look into (sorry) what causes ring sting. There are two areas I'm going to focus on—primary causes of ring sting and secondary causes.
We all love a tasty and spicy curry. Curry is made up of various elements. Some of which aren't entirely 'gut friendly'.
If you've had a browse through a few curry recipes, you'll have noticed that a fair few of them contain a certain element. It can take your dish to the next level but isn't loved by everyone.
We are, of course, talking about the humble chilli.
While Chilli peppers may taste great and give your food a spicy kick, they also contain elements that burn… At both ends.
Chilli peppers contain a compound called Capsaicin. These elements bind to something in your body called TRPV1 receptors. You find these in your mouth, and their job (amongst other things) is to detect heat.
This is the reason why chilli peppers 'feel' hot when you eat them: the more chilli, the more capsaicin binding to these receptors, the greater the burn.
So far, so good?
Now, there's a place these receptors are found, and it isn't only your mouth…
Have you guessed it yet? That's right… Down there.
When you eat chilli in any form, whether that be raw fresh chilli, cooked chilli, or chilli powder, the Capsaicin doesn't digest completely. If you've ever eaten a particularly 'spicy' curry sauce and been able to feel it on the way down, this is the reason.
As the Capsaicin passes through your digestive tract, it gets those TRPV1 receptors all worked up! This is a major cause of stomach cramps and pains caused by eating spicy food.
And guess what?
Those TRPV1' heat detectors' are present all the way to the very end of the line…
Want to see what an excess of Capsaicin does? Check out this video. Insane.
There are a few other reasons why you might feel a little uncomfortable in the trouser department after eating a hot curry.
Let's be frank. Most people's tummies don't cope well with spicy food. Once you have eaten it, there's a chance that you might have to 'visit the bathroom' a little more often than you usually would.
If you've ever had an upset stomach, you'll know that after a little time, the 'bomb bay doors' can get a little bit stressed.
Sitting for prolonged periods.
Well, if you are suffering from bowel irritation, you want it to stop.
What better way than sitting for a few extra minutes 'to make the badness go away'?
According to the NHS, one of the main causes of a painful back end is sitting on the toilet for too long. If you are going more often or prolonging your visit to rid yourself of the badness, it isn't going to make your bum feel any better!
Looser bowel movements can often lead to a bit of a bigger 'clean-up' operation.
Still enjoying that sandwich? Probably not.
While it is important to observe proper hygiene, it is also worth remembering that your bottom is pretty sensitive, and 'the way out' can often be irritated by being a little too zealous.
How Long Does Ring Sting Last?
This all depends on the cause of your ring sting…
Remember how we said that Capsaicin causes your body's heat sensors to fire? Well, this isn't a permanent situation (thankfully).
Provided you can rid your body of every last trace of Capsaicin, you should notice that the burning feeling stops. The time from eating something to expelling it entirely can vary with each individual. Still, as a good general average and according to the Mayo Clinic, it shouldn't take any longer than 36 hours for that devilish chilli to be flushed out.
But, and it's a big but…
(and maybe a sore one?)
If your ring sting has been brought about by secondary causes, it might take a little longer. If you have chafed your bottom with excessive wiping or have 'sat on the throne' for a little longer than you should, there is a chance that your body (and bum) needs a little time to recover.
This can take a couple of days.
If this sounds like a nightmare, you can do a few things if you want to prevent ring sting.
How to Stop Ring Sting?
Alright, this is what you are here for, and I want to help. Here are some great things to do if you want to know how to stop ring sting.
1) Eat Less Spicy Food to Avoid Ring Sting
Alright, I know this one is obvious. But if you have had 'Johnny Cash' playing in your head all day and it's unbearable, maybe next time you could consider toning it down slightly?
By reducing the amount of chilli in your Indian food, you are reducing the amount of Capsaicin. As I said, less Capsaicin means less triggering of those pesky heat detectors (both in your mouth and elsewhere…)
2) Condition Yourself
One thing that I get asked often is, do people who eat Indian regularly get ring sting?
Well, the answer is actually…
The reason for this is that they are used to it. Think about some of your favourite spicy cuisine and where it comes from. Do the people in the regions it originates from struggle?
You can actually condition your back end to put up with a bit more punishment.
Want scientific proof? I'm not talking out of my ass!
Dr. Sutep Gonlachanvit, a Gastroenterology doctor (of the aptly named Bumrungrad hospital!), is quoted as saying that eating 2 grams of hot pepper per day desensitises the burning feeling!
3) Eat fibre!
It's no secret that fibre makes for a quicker bowel transit and keeps you 'regular'.
Remember when we talked about how long ring sting can last and the causes? If you can get rid of the chilli quicker, you might be able to be rid of the primary cause of ring sting sooner!
But which fibre? One word my spice loving friend... Metamucil!
I'm normally a big believer in prevention rather than cure. But I love hot curry far too much. If you are like me and just want to live with it, you will want to follow the approach of damage limitation.
Here are some great ways to cure ring sting.
1) Moist Toilet Tissue
So you've gone mad on madras and are feeling the consequences?
Lots of wiping isn't going to do your bottom any good at all.
Moist toilet paper! There's an old joke about putting a toilet roll in the freezer. While this isn't a realistic option, moist toilet paper is an excellent second choice. It prevents chafing, which can cause fissures and tears in your back end. Pick one with aloe vera for a cool and refreshing feeling.
A wet wipe will also clear any last vestiges of fiery Capsaicin, a primary cause of ring sting.
If you like spicy food, moist toilet paper is an absolute blessing, if you buy it in bulk it is super cheap.
2) Use a cream.
If your 80's tea towel holder has seen better days, it might be time to give it some love. Ointments containing calamine are known to salve areas that are itchy and fiery.
Just a little goes a long way and will prevent you from walking like John Wayne for a week!
There are loads of creams on the market. This one is great for soothing a poorly bottom.
3) Drink Lots of Fluids
If you've been a little more regular than you would like, there is a good chance that you could become dehydrated… This is actually really bad for your health and can make you feel pretty lousy.
The solution (pun intended) is to drink a little more. Electrolyte-rich drinks, such as sports drinks, can stop you from losing vital salts and minerals.
If you keep hydrated, your skin will be less dry, which is a great way to stop 'sensitive areas' from becoming dry and irritating… if you know what I mean?
4) Don't Sit too Long!
Ok, I get it, you feel bad, and you want the badness out… Fair enough.
Sitting down for too long is actually going to make matters worse and can even cause haemorrhoids. If you think ring sting for a day is bad, wait until you've got it for months!
5) Avoid sitting on hard surfaces.
I want you to be kind to your behind!
Sitting on hard surfaces causes stretches and tension in the muscles and area of your posterior. This can make even a mild case of ring sting feel much worse. Try sitting on a cushion!
5) Go Non-Spicy for a Day
It's no use adding insult to injury. If you are struggling, it might be worth taking a day or two off spicy foods. Eating mild foods that cause you to feel a little more 'solid' is always a good option if you are having regular visits by Eartha Kitt
I'll be the first one to admit…
If you like spicy food, ring sting is going to happen. It's a hazard of the job. (pun intended). It's literally a biological process. If you follow the guidance above, you should have a pretty good idea of how to stop ring sting, even if you can't eliminate it entirely.
Now, will that be a vindaloo or a red hot phaal?