The difficulty of quantity eating challenges mostly depends on how large each challenge meal is, and the difficulty of a spicy food challenge mostly depends on the intensity level of the spicy ingredients used to create the dish. There are quantity challenges of all shapes and sizes, and there are also spicy food challenges of all various spice levels. Recovering from a spicy food challenge is similar in some ways, but also very different in other ways than a quantity food challenge. Every now and then, you may find a quantity challenge that is extra spicy, but hardly any of those are nearly as hot as typical extremely spicy challenges. For that reason, this article will specifically deal with recovering from normal sized spicy food challenges rather than large quantity spicy challenges. For help recovering from large quantity eating challenges, be sure to read our Recovery From Quantity Food Challenges article. It’s filled with advice to help you minimize the side effects from overeating.

As mentioned in All Stomachs Were Not Created Equally, every individual handles spicy foods differently. The term “a lot” has a unique meaning to each individual when referring to the size of a meal, and the term “spicy” has a unique meaning to every individual too. My idea of “spicy” is covering something  with pickled jalapenos and Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. If you serve me a dish containing raw jalapenos or anything spicier than those, I will need a big glass of ice water to help recover from the burning sensation afterwards. Anything served with habanero peppers and any chilies or sauces spicier than those, I will not willingly eat for personal enjoyment. Extreme “chili heads” reading this will laugh, but my body is not that great at handling spicy foods. That is why I specialize in large quantity food challenges, and only attempt spicy food challenges every now and then. Your body, on the other hand, may handle spicy foods much more efficiently than mine. You may actually enjoy eating dishes containing habaneros and ghost peppers. Regardless of your current spice tolerance, you will most definitely need help recovering after an intense spicy food challenge. Unless you have very rare super human powers and are not affected by extremely spicy foods, your mouth and eventually your entire body will burn!!

Because I do not specialize in eating extremely spicy foods, so that I could create an accurate and complete guide to recovering from spicy food challenges, I enlisted the help and advice of somebody who most definitely does. Aaron Wakamatsu, from Portland, Oregon, operates Aaron’s Food Adventures which is a very popular food review blog that focuses mostly on spicy foods which can be found all around Oregon, Washington, and the rest of the west coast. To watch some of his videos, check out Aaron’s YouTube Channel. You can also follow him on Twitter and Instgram. Aaron has sampled and eaten every different type of pepper that exists today, including the ridiculously spicy Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper, and the world’s hottest Carolina Reaper pepper. It’s very safe to say that Aaron knows how to safely recover from extremely spicy food challenges. This article will follow a format similar to our Recovery From Quantity Food Challenges article, and the tips can be applied to whenever you eat a very spicy meal. Let’s begin by listing what you should do before the challenge begins:

Recovery Starts Before The Challenge Begins

1. Ask what spicy ingredients are included – In case you do not already know, capsaicin is the name of the active chemical ingredient in chili peppers that produces the burning sensation that we associate with spicy foods. Each pepper has a unique level of spice, meaning that the concentration and intensity of the capsaicin is very different for each pepper type. The intensity is measured in units called Scoville heat units (Scovilles) and all of the peppers are ranked on the Scoville Scale. Click that link to see a pretty solid list of the major peppers that you will find in most spicy food challenges. Some restaurants include what peppers they use along with their challenge advertisement, but most do not. When you contact the restaurant to confirm the challenge details along with the date and time you want to attempt the challenge, ask what main spicy ingredients are featured in the challenge. If the person starts getting defensive, acting like they use a top-secret recipe, just ask what the hottest pepper or ingredient is, and emphasize that you really don’t care what the recipe is or what else is in it. The spiciest pepper or extract is what you need so that you can know how spicy your food could possibly be.

2. You can train and build your spice tolerance – You can increase your stomach’s ability to expand further through gradual Stomach Capacity Training, and you actually can build your spice tolerance gradually too. By having some spicier meals leading up to the challenge, you will allow your body to prepare for and get used to dealing with spicy foods. Your challenge will still burn like hell, but the recovery won’t be as tough or as long.

3. Eat a normal meal to establish a solid base – The most important thing you should do before beginning an extremely spicy challenge is to eat a solid meal and establish a good base inside your stomach. That extremely spicy food will be traveling down your esophagus like burning lava and it will totally wreak havoc on your empty stomach if there is nothing to mix with first. You don’t need to eat a massive meal, but you definitely need to eat something. Aaron recommends that you consume a solid meal containing both fats and carbohydrates, such as a cheeseburger with french fries. Capsaicin is a fat-soluble chemical and not water-soluble, so there must be foods or liquids containing fat present to help your body digest the spicy foods. The greasy burger will provide your body with the fat it needs, and the high-carb bun and french fries will be there to soak up the spicy oils and everything else. You don’t want all that spicy food just sitting there pounding on the lining of your stomach, so eat a solid, dense meal beforehand to minimize the intensity of your “capsaicin cramps” after the challenge. Eating a garden salad is not going to help, and don’t eat so much that you struggle to finish your challenge. Eat this meal about 20 to 30 minutes before eating the spicy food so that the original meal has time to settle but not digest. If you don’t want a burger and fries, a dense peanut butter sandwich would be a great option too.

4. Get yourself “in the zone” with a proper mindset – I’ll never forget the first time I had Wasabi. I was in Auckland, New Zealand, and we were at an Asian buffet. I grabbed a piece of sushi and scooped up a large portion of what I thought was guacamole. Needless to say, I began freaking out and immediately spit it out of my mouth, while everyone around me fell out of their chairs laughing. This happened to me too the first time I had a salad topped with raw jalapenos. I figured they would be just like pickled jalapenos, and I was definitely wrong. Before beginning the challenge, establish the proper mindset you need to be focused and aware that what you are about to do is definitely going to burn and it is going to hurt. Don’t let anything surprise you and throw off your game. Focus is the key to staying calm, mentally strong, and you will also experience less pain after you are finished. Being prepared for this experience will yield way better results during your recovery.

5. You may take upset stomach medication beforehand – Before quantity eating challenges, we recommend you supplementing digestive enzymes so that your digestive system can break down and process all of the food you are consuming more easily. There will be more enzymes to help take care of all the necessary work, and your body won’t have to work overtime to produce all that are required. Since spicy challenges are not extremely large, you don’t need to really worry about digestive enzymes, but you do need to worry about that very upset stomach you are about to have. To help get your body ready to battle what you are putting into it, you may want to take a dose of upset stomach medication before your challenge. Pepto-Bismol, Tums, and Alka Seltzer are the top 3 options, but you are welcome to use off-brands too. Along with actual results, some placebo effects will kick in too, and you may not feel as bad afterwards or experience harsh “capsaicin cramps.” For the best results, take it ten to fifteen minutes before your challenge, just like you’d take enzymes before a quantity challenge.

Now that you have a solid understanding of what you need to do before your challenge to make recovery after your challenge even easier, here is a list of the things you need consider doing after finishing the challenge:

What To Do After Your Challenge Is Finished

1. Worry about calming the burn in and around your mouth first – As soon as your challenge is complete and you are able to drink or eat whatever you want, you need to focus on getting rid of the intense burning sensation on your lips, in your mouth, and wherever else on your face the sauce or food may have landed. You may not want ice cream or dessert after a large quantity challenge, but you will definitely want some after a spicy food challenge. Capsaicin is a fat soluble chemical, so water, soft drinks, juices, and any other fat-free liquids will not have much effect on reducing the extreme burning sensation. Unless you are severely lactose intolerant, you need to have some very cold dairy after you are finished. You may want regular whole milk, chocolate whole milk, ice cream, chocolate pie, or even a delicious milkshake. Skim, 1%, and 2% milk will help temporarily because of how cold they are, but they won’t have as significant of an effect on the burning sensation as whole milk will. If you have a preference that you know the restaurant will not have, bring your own. You may even want to bring a cooler with some ice cream or a milkshake on ice until you are finished. One recommendation is that you do NOT chug whatever you decide to drink afterwards. You will run out quickly if you do that, unless you brought an entire gallon of milk. Take a big drink or scoop and let it sit in your mouth for a while so that the fatty dairy can help dissolve the capsaicin so you can begin feeling a sense of relief. Some restaurants include milk or ice cream as part of the prize, but most places will at least have something available for purchase to help you find relief. Just remember that milk and desserts typically aren’t the cheapest things on the menu.

2. Wash your hands thoroughly and be careful touching things – One of the biggest mistakes that people make after attempting a spicy challenge is that they go to the bathroom too soon and end up leaving behind some capsaicin residue on their private parts. I have made that mistake before, which is why I added this tip, and trust me when I say that it doesn’t feel good. Even if you wash your hands thoroughly three or four times, capsaicin is not a water soluble chemical, so there may still be a little remaining on your fingers. Be careful touching things for the next few hours after your challenge, even if you wore gloves while you were eating. Obviously, don’t kiss your significant other or anyone else for a few hours afterwards either. It may be the last kiss that you get! 🙂

3. The pain depends on your tolerance vs the # of scoville units – The discomfort you feel after a large quantity challenge somewhat depends on how your body reacts to the foods you ate. For spicy challenges, the pain you experience depends on how your body reacts to the level of Scoville units in the food that you just ate. Typically, the spicier the peppers used, the more intense your pain will be. I personally will not do any challenges involving Trinidad Moruga Scorpion peppers, Carolina Reaper peppers, or anything else hotter than ghost peppers. Ghost peppers are my limit. I won a spicy wings challenge a few years ago and they were covered in a sauce containing Scorpion peppers. To make a long story short, that experience scarred me for life!! My body does not react well to spicy foods though, and you may have a much higher spice tolerance than me. If the challenge only involves raw jalapenos and habanero peppers, and you ate a solid meal beforehand, you may not even get a stomach ache afterwards. If you have a lower spice tolerance than me though, you may get a stomach ache. As said above, it just depends on the person because every stomach is unique. Unless you are super human or have a ridiculously high spice tolerance like Aaron does, if you do a challenge involving chilies hotter than the ghost pepper, you need to prepare yourself mentally for some painful capsaicin cramps. You’ll wonder why you just did that!!

4. Rest and avoid scheduling important activities afterwards – I can tell you from experience that you need to keep your schedule empty the evening after you do an extra spicy food challenge. If you do attempt to go out or go somewhere with people, you most likely will not be much fun. Stay home and get some rest while your body recovers and recuperates as it digests your food you just ate. Once that food is really down into your digestive system, it will make you do two things. You will experience “capsaicin cramps” which are basically very intense contractions that will make you hunch over and curl up in horrific pain. Your body will be doing everything it can to battle and digest the ridiculously spicy food you consumed earlier, and the cramps are just a sign from your body telling you that you should never do that again. The second thing that will happen is that you are going to feel like you have to go to the bathroom (#2). The first few times this feeling happens, you may end up just sitting there in pain on the toilet. Your body is trying to get rid of everything, but it just can’t yet. If you do attempt to go out that evening, make sure you will be at a place with an easily accessible bathroom. Please note that I am mostly referring to after you attempt a spicy challenge involving ghost peppers or hotter. If you only consumed habaneros and other similar peppers, you may not even experience any side effects. Feel free to drink and party. If you ate a Carolina Reaper pepper though or something loaded with 100% capsaicin extract, do yourself a favor and just stay home. Back in the day, I tried going out after a spicy challenge on two separate occasions, and I had to go home early both times because I just could not stand up straight or function well.

5. Calm your stomach with Sprite or 7up instead of dairy – Many people mistakenly eat loads of ice cream and drink milkshakes during the hours after a spicy challenge, and even the next day, hoping that the fatty dairy will calm their stomach and give them some relief. According to Aaron, milkshakes and ice cream will definitely help provide initial relief and soothe your burning lips and mouth directly after the challenge, but they won’t really have a significant impact on your stomach and digestive organs once the food is down processing through your body. Aaron recommends drinking Sprite, 7up, or ginger ale to help soothe your stomach ache. That does not necessarily mean you should chug an entire 2-liter bottle though. Drink a glass every few hours or whenever you feel the cramps getting intense. The clear decaffeinated soda will help more than milkshakes and ice cream.

6. You may use upset stomach medications – We mentioned the possibility of taking these before the challenge just to make your body aware that something bad is coming, but now we recommend that you take some more after the challenge. Whether you prefer Tums, Pepto-Bismol, Alka Seltzer, or any other upset stomach medicine, take a dose or two every few hours after the challenge to help settle your stomach and provide some relief. For more information about these, check out our helpful Optional Medicinal Drugs That Help Recovery article.

7. Drink plenty of water – The most important nutrient that you can give your digestive system is and always will be WATER. If you want that food pushed out of your body so that you can feel normal again, you need to help your digestive system out by giving it a lot of water. The water is not meant to calm your stomach or anything like that, but the water will help get your system working faster to move that food through and out of your body. For more reasons why you should drink a lot of water, read our Water Is Nature’s Ultimate Digestive Aid article.

8. Try using a laxative or stool softener – As mentioned directly above, water will definitely help your digestive system operate and move that spicy food through, but you can give it a much harder and quicker boost by taking a laxative a few hours after the challenge. Like after quantity food challenges, I take a Colon Cleanse high fiber supplement that also contains natural laxatives. It speeds up the process and really helps push the food out quickly. While we are discussing “pushing the food out,” please also note that you may experience some pain while going to the bathroom due to there still being capsaicin remaining in the waste that you just got rid of. While it typically is not true that the food hurts just as much going out as it did going in, you may definitely experience a strong burning sensation down there which is completely normal and nothing to worry about.

9. Get some great sleep if possible – The human body does a huge majority of its recuperating and necessary repairs while you are asleep, and that is why at least six to seven hours of sleep are recommended per night. If you ate some really extra spicy peppers or consumed 100% capsaicin extract, you may not be able to, but do your best to get as much sleep as you can that evening. When not in bed, you will probably find yourself sitting on the toilet, and I know that from experience. Your ability to sleep depends on your spice tolerance vs the food you ate, just like the level of pain you experience does. Let you body repair itself, recuperate, and move that spicy food through your body, and hopefully you will feel better when you wake up the next morning. If you are still hurting even when you wake up, after you painfully use the restroom, continue following the advice above.

10. Throwing up is completely up to you – First of all, please note that we are not telling you that you should do this, and we are just making you aware of the possible option that you have. If we had to specifically recommend something, it is that you should not try any extremely spicy challenges at all!! It is one thing for your body to have to digest six pounds of food totaling over 8,000 calories, but it is an entirely different story allowing your body to digest one pound of extremely spicy foods. Having to sign a waiver before attempting the challenge should definitely be a sign that you are about to do something stupid. However, there are hundreds of extremely spicy food challenges and meals around the world, and the purpose of this article is to help you recover after eating one. It is physically impossible to eliminate the initial burning sensation while you are attempting the challenge and directly afterwards, but there is a way to avoid an upset stomach and all of the other negative side effects you may experience the next two days afterwards. That solution is to stop the problem before it starts. As stated in the beginning, we are not specifically telling you to do this, but you do have the option of “pulling the trigger” once you really begin to feel your body “crying for help.” Reversing the spicy food all back up will prevent it from being processed through your digestive system, and that definitely is not a bad thing. While it isn’t exactly healthy to process a ton of food at one time during a large quantity challenge, it cannot be good for your body to uncontrollably cramp in pain for many hours and also not be able to sleep for two full days. If you do choose to use this option, be aware that it does burn coming back up, and you will need to relieve your mouth again from the capsaicin it just came in contact with again. As stated, this choice is totally up to you.

This is already long enough, so we will conclude now, but following the advice above will definitely help you recover from your next extremely spicy food challenge much faster than you would by not doing anything at all. I’d like to personally thank Aaron Wakamatsu for all of his help and input towards making this article complete. Make sure to check out his food review blog if you are a big “chili head” spicy food fan like he is. He puts a lot of effort and time into his videos and reviews, and it definitely shows!! To find out how to recover from a very large quantity food challenge, be sure to check out our Recovery From Quantity Food Challenges article. Lastly, keep in mind that these tips do not only apply to recovering from spicy food challenges. You can use these when recovering after any other time you consume extremely spicy foods, no matter what you ate and where you are. You’ll notice results quickly and recover much faster than you could ever expect to before finding this site 🙂

Thanks for reading about recovery from spicy food challenges and using!!

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