Can You Eat Spicy Food While Pregnant? Experts Explain
Are they in there, sweating from all the Tabasco?
Pregnancy cravings are infamous, and you’ve surely heard about all the pickles and ice cream that many moms supposedly crave. Apparently pregnancy hormones can shake up your senses of taste and smell, so when you are pregnant, you may eat want to eat stronger tasting foods, including lots of spice. But if you are slathering your food with sriracha at every meal, you might want to know what happens to your baby when you eat spicy food during pregnancy. Are they in there, sweating from all the Tabasco? Is it even OK to eat spicy food while pregnant?
Can you eat spicy food while pregnant?
“Yes, it is safe to eat spicy food during pregnancy,” Dr. Cynthia Flynn, a board-certified OB-GYN, tells Romper. You won’t have to worry about giving your little one heartburn, or making them feel queasy about those quesadillas you’re eating; they’re just as happy getting all those nutrients as you are.
Interestingly, there is some research that indicates that eating spicy foods, if anything, can widen your baby’s palate early on. A study published in the journal Pediatrics found that flavors can pass from the mother to the amniotic fluid, so eating a lot of spiced, sweet, salty or spicy foods while pregnant may shape her baby’s food preferences later in life.
How does spicy food affect your baby during pregnancy?
If you're wondering how your baby will react to that spicy tomato soup going down, you don’t have to worry. “Spicy food does not affect your baby in any way,” says Flynn. “It is an old wives’ tale that spicy food will harm or irritate the baby.” You might notice your fetus doing a happy dance in there when you satisfy a food craving, though, and that’s pretty common — and safe. While some babies fall asleep after a meal, others might get more active, Dr. Kathryn Wright, an OB-GYN, tells Romper. High-carbohydrate foods may raise your blood sugar levels, she says, therefore raising the blood sugar levels of your baby, which may make your baby more active. So unless your spicy food is very high in carbohydrates or sugars, the spice itself may not affect your baby’s reactions.
Why you crave spicy food while pregnant
Cravings during pregnancy go together like, well, Doritos and milk. So if you’re suddenly craving spicy food, chalk it up to those lovely pregnancy hormones. A study found that between 50-90% of women found themselves facing unpredictable food cravings during pregnancy. While many pregnant women seek out sweets, there are those who crave kimchi — the spicier, the better.
If you’re wondering if something weird is going on now that you’re drooling at the very thought of chowing down on some Dan Dan noodles, don’t be: Cravings during pregnancy are completely normal. Dr. Seth Plancher says that food cravings are a common part of pregnancy and are likely due to hormonal changes in your body. “Spicy food cravings do not necessarily mean anything during pregnancy,” agrees Flynn. “Other cravings might have meaning, but a desire for something spicy is simply a food preference.”
Safe heartburn remedies, in case you’ve over-indulged
They say you can’t have too much of a good thing, but try telling that to your tummy after eating chicken vindaloo — and licking the plate clean with your finger (come on, we’ve all done it.) If you’re repenting after popping one too many jalapeno poppers into your mouth, though, get ready to reach for some OTC relief. “Chewable Tums are always safe to take during pregnancy and they also provide a little extra calcium,” advises Dr. Flynn. “Mylanta is also safe when used sporadically.” And be sure to listen to your body; if you feel icky after eating spicy food, you might want to limit the times you eat it, no matter how tempting those spicy tacos are.
How much spicy food is safe to eat while pregnant?
If you just can’t get enough of that jerk chicken you love, you’ll be happy to know that you can consume it to your heart's (and belly’s) content. “You do not need to limit your intake of spicy food unless it bothers you,” says Flynn. “Pay attention to how you feel after you eat something spicy and decide accordingly if it is working for you.” If you’re feeling ill, you might want to not eat it so frequently, or ask for a milder version of the dish.
There’s nothing like indulging a food craving when you’re expecting. And when it comes to eating spicy foods while pregnant, they’re totally safe to enjoy. But if you want to eat spicy foods safely throughout your pregnancy, make sure to recognize how your body feels after eating it. And if you’re experiencing indigestion and heartburn, you might need to look for other ways to spice up your life until you feel better again.
Mennella, J. (2006) Prenatal and Postnatal Flavor Learning by Human Infants. Pediatrics, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1351272/??
Orloff, N., Hormes, J. (2014), “Pickles and ice cream! Food cravings in pregnancy: hypotheses, preliminary evidence, and directions for future research.” Frontiers in Psychology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4172095/
Dr. Cynthia Flynn, OB-GYN
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