WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Spicy foods are among some of the most popular snacks in America, with about 69% of millennials and 73% of Gen Z claiming they buy spicy snacks for themselves or someone in their household, according to a 2021 Harris Poll.
Dr. Amy Seery, a pediatrician at Ascension Via Christi in Wichita, Kansas, said that eating too many of these snacks can lead to stomach issues, and she’s already seeing these types of problems in children.
“Really spicy snack foods have grown in popularity. And unfortunately, when kids are consuming large amounts of it or very, very spicy foods, they’re now coming into our clinics much more often with stomach complaints,” Seery said.
Many Americans turned to snacking — or more snacking — during the pandemic: The International Food Information Council said that 41% of consumers under 35 snacked more than normal in 2020.
“With the pandemic, we certainly noticed a lot of kids have taken on more aggressive snacking habits,” Seery said. “And what they’re choosing to snack on these days is causing problems for some of our kiddos.”
There’s no specific brand that causes more problems than others, but it’s fairly easy to spot which snacks may need to be moderated by parents. According to doctors, if a package is marked with flames, the snack could be a culprit.
“Some kids’ stomachs handle it well, many kids’ stomachs don’t,” Seery said.
Some of the symptoms Dr. Seery observes in patients are upper-abdominal pain that can sometimes be very sharp, as well as acid reflux. Some kids also are not sleeping well as a result of these problems.
In more extreme cases, these snacks have the potency to erode the inner lining of the stomach.
“So that’s why we recommend making children have a nice balanced diet. It’s much gentler on the stomach,” Seery said. “There’s nothing wrong with spicy in moderation.”
Some red flags that parents should look for in their children are unexplained weight loss, pronounced vomiting, persistent diarrhea beyond two weeks, and extremely sharp abdominal pain.
If parents notice a pattern of abdominal discomfort, the first step should be to stop the spicy foods. This can save the child a trip to the doctor, and prevent exposing children to medications they would not need otherwise.
Another way to help keep the body from developing these symptoms, Seery said, is to exercise regularly.
“Getting up and getting moving is what our body craves and helps our body function at its best,” Seery said.