It's not pleasant, but we've all been there. Our stomach is burning after eating spicy food. The downside of curry is that you'll tend to find that you'll need to 'go' more often the next day. But why does curry make you poop? Well, there are several possible reasons, and it might not be a bad thing. Today we explore curry, tummy trouble and everything in between literally. Read on to find out more (but not while having your lunch)…
Why Does Curry Make You Poop? The Quick Answer
The most likely cause of tummy trouble after eating Indian food is because many recipes contain chilli. Capsaicin, the hot compound found in chilli, irritates the intestinal lining of your digestive tract. As a result of this irritation, your body will try and purge itself, leading to loose bowels.
We've all gone a little spicy the night before and have been left the next day with a severe case of 'ring sting'.
However, there is more to curry than simply chilli heat, and there are plenty of reasons why we can be left feeling a little 'pressurised' the next day. Here's a full list and detailed explanation of everything in curry that can make you poop!
Why Does Curry Make You Poop | 8 Possible Reasons
You've felt a rumble, and now you are wondering why curry makes you poop?
Paying the price for a curry is one of the downsides. It happens to the best of us. Chances are it will pass within 24 hours (pun intended). The reasons for 'Delhi Belly' are numerous. Here are 8 things that could be contributing to you feeling like a curry powdered rocket: -
1. Chilli Heat
The most obvious and likely candidate for a severe case of 'Montezuma's revenge' is more than likely chilli.
You'll find that many curries feature chilli in one form or another. (Even mild curries may contain a trace of chilli, and if you are particularly sensitive, then this could give you an upset stomach).
Chilli contains a compound called capsaicin. This compound is what triggers a burning feeling in your mouth. It also works on other areas of your body, including the lining of your throat, stomach and intestines.
When irritated, your body will do its best to flush away the irritant. It's the reason your nose runs when you eat hot food.
And your nose won't be the only thing that is running…
Where's the nearest bathroom?
2. Overloading Your Digestive System
If there is one thing that curry isn't, it's light.
Going for a curry normally involves piles of stewed meat dishes and plenty of side dishes. You'll rarely be left hungry after eating an Indian meal.
But, there is a downside.
Overeating can be a short-term cause of discomfort. There is even a medical term called 'dumping syndrome' (although this is a chronic condition more than an acute one).
According to Eatingwell.com, this can lead to feelings of sluggishness, elevated blood sugar and severe stomach discomfort.
Even if you are no stranger to spicy food, creating a backlog (sorry) can lead to you needing to go much sooner than you think.
3. Alcohol with Curry
There is no finer food pairing than a nice glass of beer to wash down a spicy curry.
You may be doing more harm than good and adding insult to injury.
According to the National Institute for Health, alcohol can affect digestive transit times, leading to diarrhoea. It also inhibits the absorption of nutrients and fluids (both of which need to happen if you want to avoid loose stools).
Alcohol can also trigger the stomach to produce more gastric acid, which further exacerbates intestinal irritation. Combined with a spicy curry, it will only go one way!
4. High Fibre
There are plenty of vegetables in curry, creating a meal that is traditionally quite high in fibre.
That's a good thing, right?
Well, yes and no. Some fibre, such as that found in rice, is insoluble. This means that it doesn't readily soak up water.
According to the boffins at WebMD, insoluble fibre can often help towards easing constipation.
Easing constipation? There's another name for that, I reckon…
The last thing you are going to be is constipated after a curry! It might just be the fibre that is helping you on your way!
5. Onions, Lots of Onions
If there was one ingredient that makes curry a curry, it is the humble onion. You'll find it in so many forms in plenty of Indian dishes: -
- Onion features extensively in base gravy
- You'll get whole chunks of onion in loads of curries, like a jalfrezi
- Some Indian dishes are purely onion based, such as onion bhajis.
But onions aren't spicy? Yeah, but they still contain compounds that irritate the lining of your tummy!
Onions are packed with something called Fructans. These naturally occurring sugars are not bad, but they are fermentable carbohydrates that can start to 'fizz' and react with the acids in your gut and stomach.
Fizzing in the stomach. We all know where this is going. Cooked onions have less effect than raw onions. Still, you may feel a little 'explosive' for those particularly sensitive, especially if you have eaten Indian food packed with onions.
6. High Fat/Oil Content
Let's be honest.
Curry isn't always the healthiest choice of food. Depending on your choice, you may find that your dish has a higher-than-normal fat content.
As mentioned by Harvard Medical School, it is possible that you could be one of those individuals that are unable to adequately digest large amounts of fat. This can cause the colon to secrete excess fluid, eventually leading to diarrhoea!
7. Food Intolerances
Many people go for an Indian and just put a bubbly belly down to the chilli.
The real reason for needing to poop after curry could be something a little more serious. Curry can contain both dairy and, occasionally, gluten. Both are known allergens that can trigger intestinal problems for a small percentage of people.
The good news?
There are plenty of dairy-free choices if you know where to look, and normally, there isn't much gluten in many Indian dishes.
8. Food Poisoning
We need to tell you something, as there is a common misconception surrounding Indian food.
In reality, the chances of food poisoning when eating Indian food is about the same as any other cuisine in any other restaurant.
There is a possibility that you could have been unlucky.
Where does this myth come from? Well, as with most rumours, there is often a grain of truth hidden within.
If you have eaten food on the Indian subcontinent, especially street food, then there is a higher-than-normal chance that you indeed could be suffering from food poisoning.
General food hygiene standards tend to be much laxer if you've been brave and gone all authentic while travelling. This, twinned with poor food storage methods and warm temperatures, can lead to some really nasty bugs being found in Indian food.
However, for those who are eating and ordering in western restaurants, you don't need to worry. They must comply with food safety standards to remain in business, so the cause of your belly bother is more likely a result of one or several of the factors mentioned above.
Do Indian Spices Make You Poop?
It's not guaranteed, but there may be things lurking within Indian spices that have you feeling a little more lively in the bottom department. Often spice blends will contain either onion, garlic or chilli powder. All of these can be bowel irritants.
Historically, spices have been used as natural remedies for constipation. This article would seem to suggest that the following spices speed up digestive transit: -
Guess which of the above spices appear in curry? That's right, all of them. So, it's no wonder you might feel all free-and-loose the night after a balti or bhuna!
Why Does Curry Make You Fart?
The main reason curry makes you fart is the inclusion of lots of Fructans in the recipes. Fructans nearly always make their way in through garlic, ginger and onions. These ingredients or the 'holy trinity' will feature in most Indian dishes.
If you want to know more about Fructans in onions and curry, check out my detailed article here.
Is Spicy Food a Laxative?
Spicy food, and particularly Indian, is a well-known laxative. There are several elements that all combine to make the perfect storm. After reading my article, have a quick scan through the following 'checklist' of things that might cause you to have tummy trouble. See how many boxes curry ticks?
Causes of Laxative Effects
Present in Curry?
High Oil Content
Spices with laxative properties
Is Curry Good for Your Stomach?
Now here's the thing. A fast digestive transit is not necessarily a bad thing. Sure, it makes a long train ride a little more difficult, but how quickly food goes from one end to the other is a good indicator of your digestive system's health.
A study from the Technical University of Denmark has demonstrated that the longer food stays in your digestive tract, the more likely that harmful byproducts are produced by your gut biome. Fast transit times can reduce the likelihood of conditions such as rectal cancer, renal disease and more.
So, is going to the loo after a particularly spicy curry a good thing?
Well, it might sting a little, but a faster digestive transit after a curry could actually be good for your health.
Loose Bowels from Curry | 7 Tips to Feeling Better
So, you've had a curry, and you can't sneeze with confidence? Don't worry, it is probably temporary. Until the time comes that you get 'back on track' and your tummy trouble vanishes, here are 6 great tips to minimising the negative effects of needing to go for a 'number two' following a curry: -
1. Avoid Going Too Spicy
As the popular adage goes, prevention is better than cure.
One easy way to cut down on post curry poop syndrome (a fictitious term I've just come up with) is to minimise the chilli, as this is likely the cause of intestinal discomfort.
Going for mild curries is a great way to avoid a rumbling tummy the next day. You can find a detailed list of milder curries here.
If you have made a curry and it's too hot, you could always check my guide on how to make it milder too!
2. Don't Add Insult to Injury
If you have irritated your stomach, the last thing you want to do is go and do it again the following day. Adding new spicy food on top of old spicy food is probably not a good idea. While leftover curry is one of life's joys, save it for a time when you aren't feeling quite so 'fragile'.
Not many people know, but you can freeze curry really easily.
3. Don't Overeat
Everything in moderation is a popular phrase, and rightly so.
Why not apply it to curry?
I'm all for Indian every night of the week, but to do that, you might want to exercise a little self-restraint. Try to order smaller portions and avoid overloading your digestive system the next time you order.
If you are ordering an oily main, steer clear of a fatty appetiser.
If the curry is spicy, pair it with plenty of milder foods
4. Drink Plenty of Water
One of the dangers of diarrhoea is that you make yourself feel poorly through dehydration.
In chronic cases, constant bowel movements can deplete your body of vital electrolytes and fluids.
The quickest way to start feeling the right side again is to ensure that these vital salts are replaced before they become too low.
The key to achieving this is to up your fluid intake. Again according to Harvard, the average person should drink around 6 cups of water daily. If you've got loose bowel movements, you could consider upping this to account for your losses.
5. Eat Plenty of Fibre
If you've been 'going' and can't seem to stop, it is time to counter the adverse effects of Indian cooking.
Upping your soluble fibre intake will help absorb any excess liquid in your gut. It's fairly easy to do and should help relieve the symptoms of loose stools after eating Indian food.
Want some inspiration? Why not try: -
- Nuts and Seeds
- Fresh vegetables
- Sweet Potatoes
6. Consider Pharmaceuticals
Now, look. I'm not a doctor, and this isn't medical advice. There are over-the-counter solutions that can be purchased that will effectively 'bung you up'. However, according to guidance from the UK National Health Service, products like Immodium should only be used as a short-term solution
7. Be Aware of Intolerances
While curry is well known for causing 'the runs', it is also important to be aware that it might not be the only reason for needing the bathroom sooner than you'd like.
Food intolerances can also cause remarkably similar symptoms to 'Delhi belly'. If you've noticed that regardless of the type of curry that you eat, you need to 'go' more often, there could be an underlying reason. Perhaps it's the naan or the dairy instead of the curry?
You can find support for food intolerances here.
Why Does Curry make You Poop? | Final Thoughts…
There are plenty of reasons why Indian food may leave you feeling a little 'fast and loose'. Why does curry make you poop? It's likely a combination of the negative effects of chilli and Fructans in the ingredients, not to mention that Indian cuisine tends to be quite rich. To avoid hot curry, you need to know what they are. Allow me to introduce you to my expert guide.