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Can You Eat Spicy Food While Pregnant? Why Your Favorite Hot Sauce Is Probably Safe

Eating spicy foods is generally safe for mom and baby, and may even have some surprising benefits.

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Happy girl preparing lunch whit her pregnant mother at home
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Pregnancy can be one of the most joyous moments in life, but it also requires a lot of patience and flexibility as you adjust to new ways of doing things. That includes changing your diet and cutting out foods you once enjoyed without a second thought, like those endless piles of sushi on date night. You might even be wondering, Can you eat spicy food while pregnant?

Well, here's a happy update: You're probably still good to douse your food in your favorite hot sauce. Spicy stuff is generally safe for you and your baby!

Why can't you eat certain foods during pregnancy?

When it comes to food restrictions during pregnancy, the biggest reason for them lies in the risk of contracting foodborne illnesses or "food poisoning." Because the immune system is weaker during pregnancy, and the immune systems of unborn babies are still developing, there is a higher risk of both mother and baby developing severe medical complications from food contaminants.

According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, "Foodborne illness during pregnancy can cause serious health problems, miscarriage, premature delivery, stillbirth or even death of the mother. Different microorganisms or chemical contaminants can affect the mother and fetus or newborn in a variety of ways."

Are there any dangers of eating spicy food while pregnant?

While spicy foods themselves are not typically of concern, and can even have benefits, ensuring that they are adequately cooked and are from reliable, clean sources is vital. For example, if eating spicy chicken wings, the chicken must be cooked to an internal temp of at least 165 ºF to kill all bacteria, like salmonella. Similarly, pregnant people should avoid undercooked or raw meats, seafood, and dairy and wheat products.

Pregnant women are also more susceptible to food aversions and uncomfortable physical symptoms due to hormone changes. Nausea, indigestion, and heartburn can all be triggered by foods, including spicy ones. If the smell of spicy foods is unpleasant and causes nausea or vomiting, or if you experience a burning sensation in your chest or feel that your foods are slow to digest, it might be the spices at play.

The way the body reacts to smells and foods can change throughout pregnancy. In fact, it's quite common for pregnant women to enjoy a particular food during one trimester and be unable to tolerate it during others. The same goes for spicy foods. A good rule of thumb is to monitor how you feel while and after eating spicy foods — it's the best indicator of whether or not they have a place in your pregnancy diet.

What are the benefits of eating spicy food while pregnant?

Spicy foods can help your baby develop adventurous eating habits later in life. Taste buds develop around eight weeks of gestation, and because babies swallow small amounts of amniotic fluid in the womb, they can actually taste some of the flavors from the foods you eat. Studies have suggested that babies exposed to certain foods in the womb or through breastmilk are more likely to enjoy them later in life.

Hot chicken wings very likely won't be your baby's first solid food, but if they're a food you regularly enjoy during pregnancy or while nursing, don't be surprised if your child shows interest in them as they get older!

Another benefit to eating spicy foods is their ability to lower LDL cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Chili peppers, in particular, contain a chemical compound called capsaicin that has been shown to improve blood flow in the arteries and reduce the accumulation of cholesterol in the body.

Spicy foods are also known to trigger labor. According to a 2011 study, 20 percent of the women in the survey claimed that eating spicy foods helped induce their labor. But if you want to get things going, there are other fun and effective things you can do, like having sex, orgasms, and enjoying nipple stimulation.

So, if you've been avoiding your favorite spicy foods during pregnancy, adding them to your diet in moderation is generally safe for you and your baby — and may even be beneficial. Still, Scary Mommy advises checking in with your doctor whenever you change your diet during pregnancy.

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