If You’re Into Spicy Foods, Your Kidneys Would Like You To Read This

If a dose of Nexium (or Prevacid or Prilosec—really any proton pump inhibitor) precedes your five-alarm chili or extra spicy enchiladas, you may want to reexamine your game plan. New research shows that your go-to PPIs—the little pills that allow you to eat all the fiery foods and chocolate and caffeine you want—could have a serious effect on your kidneys. (Heal your whole body with the 12-day liver detox for total body health!)

The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that PPI use is associated with a higher risk of chronic kidney disease (CKD)—a condition that affects about 14% of adults in the US and is characterized by a gradual loss of kidney function.

Researchers examined the health records of 10,482 participants in the Artherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study and found that the 322 people using PPIs had a nearly 12% risk of developing CKD over 10 years, while those who had never used the medication had an 8.5% risk. Another batch of records from 248,751 patients from the Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania were also examined. Over the course of 10 years, the 16,900 patients using PPIs had a 15.5% risk of developing CKD, compared with a 14% risk in non-PPI using patients. And within each group that used the medication, twice-daily PPI use was associated with a higher risk of CKD than using the medication once daily.

Spicy Food And Your Kidneys

Proton pump inhibitors were first introduced in 1990 with the promise of giving heartburn and indigestion the boot. Now, more than 15 years later, PPIs are one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States—despite studies that have linked PPIs to other health issues, such as hip fractures, pneumonia, and C. difficile infections, according to the JAMA Internal Medicine study. What’s more, an estimated 25 to 75% of all PPI prescriptions are unnecessary, and patients are known to take them beyond the recommended guidelines.

Spicy food
So what can PPI-taking, acid reflux sufferers do? Make sure you really need the meds in the first place, suggests Jamie Koufman, MD, founder of the Reflux Center and Voice Institute of New York. “If you’re only having occasional symptoms and you know they’re caused by a bad diet, you can probably stop your own acid reflux by rethinking when you eat and how you eat,” Koufman says. In her book, Dr. Koufman’s Acid Reflux Diet, she suggests eating more avocados, fish, and rice, while nixing “trigger” foods like onions, citrus, and chocolate.

And if you’ve been taking PPIs for a while, you may want to start considering your exit plan. “On average, patients shouldn’t be on a PPI for any longer than 1 to 6 months if they have severe acid reflux; they’re not for long-term use,” Koufman says. If you’re wary of PPIs but still want a medical fix for your chronic heartburn, ask your doctor about H2 blockers (like Zantac), which aren’t quite as strong as PPIs but offer fewer side effects, suggests Koufman.


What spicy food says about you?

Spiciness is actually not a taste or flavor — it’s your body sensing the presence of certain chemicals, also called chemesthesis. The chemicals in peppers and other spicy foods can be a deterrent to some animals and serve as a protective mechanism for a plant, but some humans have developed an affinity for this feeling and seek it out in their cuisine. As one study puts it, some people exhibit a preference for oral burn.


Interestingly, studies now show this love for heat is also linked to certain personality traits. If you love the heat of spicy food, you may be a thrill-seeker. People who like spicy foods are attracted to the burning sensation of a compound called capsaicin, which causes a mild feeling of pain when eaten. Chili peppers are commonly associated with spiciness, which is rated on the Scoville scale and measures capsaicin content.

A 2013 study in the Food Quality and Preference Journal describes the many factors that affect a love of spicy foods, ranging from social or cultural influences, how many times you’ve been exposed to capsaicin, physical differences in the sensation of spiciness and a person’s personality traits.

This study also shows that those who seek more frequent chili intake exhibit qualities of “sensation seeking,” or the need for new and complex sensations and “sensitivity to reward behaviors,” which support the researcher’s hypothesis that personality plays a role in whether a person likes spice or not.

There’s good reason to include spices for health as well as for the adventure of eating hot foods. A 2014 study found that healthy compounds in spices, namely flavonoids, work as antioxidants and are associated with a reduced risk of chronic disease.

Capsaicin in particular has been studied extensively in relation to reducing cancer risk, even at relatively low to medium intake levels. Many studies show the most benefit from spices at higher intake levels, so finding ways to include a variety of spices in your diet on a regular basis may offer benefits outside of the kitchen.

If you’re averse to spice but want to enjoy a mild level of capsaicin-containing foods, try sweeter peppers like the Anaheim, ancho, sweet bell or poblano. Increase the heat in your foods by trying Cholula hot sauce, horseradish or wasabi and serrano or jalapeno peppers.

If these medium peppers and sauces are too spicy, start with a very small quantity and work your way up, as studies show that repeat exposure is also associated with enjoying spiciness.

Remember, you can always add spice, but you can’t take it away. The hottest peppers, such as the Carolina Reaper, cayenne pepper, ghost pepper, habanero or Thai chili pepper, should be used only for those who love spice and are accustomed to it; capsaicin content here is much higher than mild or medium peppers. Sensation-seeking folks will likely go for these capsaicin-packed, mouth-burning peppers. Whichever level of spice you enjoy adding to your food, there is a pepper for everyone — so we can all partake in this healthful trend.


Men Who Enjoy Spicy Foods Have Higher Testosterone Levels

Self-conscious men who yearn to be super macho may need to increase their daily jalapeño intake, that is if a new discovery out of France is to be believed. David Chazan of The Telegraph reports:

“Scientists at the highly-respected University of Grenoble have published a report suggesting that regular consumption of chili peppers may raise levels [testosterone], which is believed to make men more adventurous, enterprising and sexually active.

Laurent Begue, one of the authors of the study, said: ‘These results are in line with a lot of research showing a link between testosterone and financial, sexual and behavioural risk-taking.'”


Chazan says the report, fittingly titled “Some Like It Hot,” will soon be published in the journal Physiology and Behavior. The scientists tested saliva samples from 114 men who were given the option of adding hot sauce to a plate of mashed potatoes. They found a direct correlation between the amount of sauce added and the testosterone levels of the sauce adder.

Chazan posits that perhaps the study will trigger a rise in the popularity of spicy foods among French males. He notes that curries aren’t nearly as big in France as they are in Great Britan, and that France’s traditional cuisine relies more on delicate flavors and effects. Yet Chazan says the promise of virility could be enough of a reason for the men to alter their diets. Whether there’s truth to this assertion or Chazan is just being silly, I’ll leave for you to decide. If he’s right though, you can be sure that French cooks will be absolutely steaming.