Spicy Food and Sinuses: Can Spicy Food Light a Fire Under Your Nasal Congestion?

Spicy Food and Sinuses: Can Spicy Food Light a Fire Under Your Nasal Congestion?

If you’re stuffed up and trapped in a haze of nasal fluid, you may not think to grab some spicy food to fight your nasal congestion, but you’ve probably noticed the burning sensation leaves your nose running like a broken dam!

Eating spicy food isn't everyone's cup of tea, but it definitely has an immediate effect on your congestion. There's more to spicy food and sinuses than you might think, so let's go over a few things before you reach for that cayenne pepper.

Does Spicy Food Help With Congestion?

Capsaicin, the compound that gives chili peppers their kick, helps thin out thick mucus and stimulates your sinuses. This stimulation helps your sinuses drain better and promotes better air circulation. If you regularly experience aches and pains, this compound may sound familiar to you. That's because capsaicin is also used in creams and ointments as a pain reliever. Capsaicin's warming properties help block pain receptors in your skin, reducing the pain you feel. Fighting fire with fire, so to speak. [1]

Hot peppers aren't the only foods that can kickstart your sinuses.

If you've ever cried while chopping an onion, you're in good company. But dry those tears— that compound that burns your eyes, called quercetin, can also help relieve a stuffy nose and reduce sinus inflammation.

Garlic also contains compounds that can help with sinus problems. This pungent culinary favorite contains ajoene, allicin, and S-ally cysteine, which all thin nasal mucus and provide relief from inflammation. However, garlic and garlic supplements can interfere with medications like blood thinners and drugs that lower blood pressure, so if you're on any of these prescriptions, talk to your doctor before adding more garlic to your diet.

Other spices like ginger and turmeric also possess anti-inflammatory properties that can help keep your sinuses healthy and free of excess mucus.

All this can help relieve sinus congestion caused by multiple different factors, from the common cold and allergies, to the dreaded sinusitis (also known as a sinus infection).

The runny nose you get after you eat hot or spicy foods may feel like a welcome relief if you’ve been feeling stuffed up and miserable for a few days. There's actually a term for it too— it's called gustatory rhinitis.

What is Gustatory Rhinitis?

Gustatory rhinitis is a form of nonallergic rhinitis, or when you have a runny stuffy nose that isn't caused by allergies. Inversely, allergic rhinitis is all those familiar nasal symptoms that are triggered by allergens like dust, pollen, or animal dander.

Some common symptoms of gustatory rhinitis include:

That last bullet point is especially important. You may be thinking now, "Wait! I thought spicy food cleared my sinuses. How can it cause a stuffy nose?"

Unfortunately, spicy food isn't a cure-all for your clogged sinus passages, and a chili pepper a day may not actually keep nasal congestion away.

In fact, spicy food has some notable drawbacks that can make it a less-than-ideal treatment for your nasal congestion.

When You Play With Fire: The Downsides to Eating Spicy Food

Eating spicy food isn't a pleasant experience for some people. For them, that's reason enough not to use it for their sinus problems.

However, there's another rub when it comes to spicy food and sinuses. While all that heat is very good at clearing your sinuses, it can actually stuff them up too.

Eating spicy food can actually increase mucus production, which can cause a stuffy nose. That's bad news if you're already unable to breathe through your nose.

Not only that, but eating spicy food can aggravate a sore throat by worsening that inflammation. When you eat spicy foods, this gets your salivary glands going and triggers high amounts of mucus to be created in your throat. All that mucus hanging out in your throat is uncomfortable, so your main instinct is probably to clear your throat of all that excess mucus— except this can cause further irritation in your already aggravated throat.

Spicy foods are also one of the main triggers for acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This is because capsaicin, while helpful for clearing your sinuses, can also irritate your esophagus and cause abdominal pain. One Korean study observing GERD patients found that hot and spicy stews caused symptoms in more than half of the study's observed cases. [2]

Spicy food can also aggravate and trigger nonallergic rhinitis symptoms. Spicy food can trigger nonallergic sinusitis attacks, including symptoms like sneezing, congestion, coughing, and a reduced sense of smell. 

So while spicy food can help with your nasal symptoms, it’s important to consider that it can also trigger them, so tread gently if you’re a fan of spicy food or are looking for ways to decongest naturally. [3]

Thankfully, there are other ways to naturally decongest, and it doesn’t involve starting a fire inside of your mouth.

SinuSonic: A Spice-Free Nasal Congestion Solution

Looking for a way to clear your sinuses without drugs, nasal irrigation, or a burning sensation? SinuSonic has you covered.

Our unique devices use gentle vibrations and light pressure to help you decongest naturally. Just breathe normally into the nosepiece— the device's unique "flutter valve" will provide gentle resistance as you breathe, which will help you breathe more efficiently as you decongest.

Need to blow your nose while using the device? That's normal!

Whether you're experiencing congestion from the common cold, allergies, or even a sinus infection, SinuSonic can be that breath of fresh air you need after being stuffed up for so long.

Nasal Congestion Got You Fired Up? Try SinuSonic!

Eating spicy food can be an effective way to help relieve sinus congestion— but it's not a perfect solution.

Not only can it be unpleasant if you don't enjoy the burn of spicy food, but it can actually cause nasal congestion too! Thankfully though, there are easy and natural ways to relieve nasal congestion without lighting a fire in your belly.

Do your nasal symptoms have you feeling heated? Try SinuSonic!

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  1. "Capsaicin." National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Compound Database, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Capsaicin.
  2. Choe, Jung Wan, et al. "Foods Inducing Typical Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Symptoms in Korea." Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, Korean Society of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, 30 July 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5503285/. 
  3. “Is Spicy Food Good for the Sinuses? | Livestrong.” LIVESTRONG.COM, Leaf Group, www.livestrong.com/article/518083-is-spicy-food-good-for-the-sinuses/.