spicy foods when you're hungry

Photo: Kim Carson/Thinkstock

1 of 6
Dishes with a Kick

Why you shouldn't eat it right now: If your stomach is growling because you missed lunch and you can't wait to dig into a dinner with some heat, hold off. Eating spicy dishes on an empty stomach increases the odds that you'll feel some stomach irritation, says Lisa Ganjhu, MD, a gastroenterologist at NYU Langone Medical Center. "There's nothing else in there to mix with the spices and take the edge off when they come into contact with your stomach lining," she explains. That means dishes with cayenne, jalapeƱo, chili peppers or hot sauce are best saved for when there's at least a little something in your system.

Make it better: Dairy is particularly good at coating the stomach and cutting the heat from chili peppers (that's why Indian main dishes often come with a yogurt-based side, says Ganjhu), so try drinking milk or snacking on yogurt before a pepper-heavy meal. And you don't have to settle for bland food. Just opt for spices like coriander or cumin when you can, which, Ganjhu says, are less irritating to your digestive system.