Turning the tables: Capsaicin for people with heartburn

 

 

For many of us dealing with heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), spicy food is a thing of the past for most of us because it triggers the acid and burping. There are exceptions of course, which I’m grateful from an extra pinch of ground pepper to some wasabi paste, but nothing quite beats the heat chili peppers bring.

However, a 2016 study titled “Influence of capsaicin infusion on secondary peristalsis in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease.” by Yi et. al., shows that repeated intake of capsaicin / chili peppers may help reverse the effect of heartburn, as far as people who have triggers with chili peppers are concerned.

According to the said study, people who ate a meal with chili peppers makes the symptoms flare up at the first instance, but repeated exposure to capsaicin may reverse the effects of heartburn. Yet despite these findings, there are still a number of people who complain that consuming chili in any form makes their reflux symptoms flare up. When it comes to GERD, there’s no really telling what sets one’s symptoms without a little carefully thought out trial-and-error.

 

Before one hits the pickled jalapeños, one has to keep in mind that mild chili peppers are the ones best suited for consumption for most people, with or without reflux. In fact some of the hottest peppers can even give chefs and cooks slight burns just from touch.. Tasting and handling aside, the best way to check a pepper’s heat level is with the Scoville Heat Scale. The higher a chili pepper is on the heat scale score, the hotter the pepper is.

 

 

 

Scoville Heat Units Chilli Pepper
1,569,300 – 2,200,000 Carolina Reaper Pepper (PuckerButt Pepper Company, Fort Mill, South Carolina).
350,000 – 577,000 Red Savina habanero (Capsicum chinense Jacquin)
100,000 – 350,000 Habanero (Capsicum chinense Jacquin)
100,000 – 225,000 Birds Eye pepper
50,000 – 100,000 Thai pepper (Capsicum annuum)
30,000 – 50,000 Cayenne pepper (Capsicum baccatum and Capsicum frutescens )
30,000 – 50,000 Tabasco pepper (Capsicum frutescens)
5,000 – 10,000 Chipotle, a Jalapeño pepper that has been smoked.
2,500 – 5,000 Jalapeño (Capsicum annuum)
100 – 500 Pepperoncini, pepper (also known as Tuscan peppers, sweet Italian peppers, and golden Greek peppers.
100 – 500 Pimento
0 Sweet Bell pepper

Unfortunately with heartburn, nothing is completely certain since different people have different reactions to their own set of personal triggers, so on one hand, there is hope that repeated attempts to eat chili peppers will increase resistance effects in the long run. On the other hand, it could also give one a pain in the neck after trying something out and the acid shoots up crazier than before.

Personally, I think it’s worth a shot at least once, not because YOLO, but the long term benefits helps one with heartburn live a step nearer to normalcy. Think of it as someone trying to adapt by increasing resistances to an allergy like seafood. But as a precaution, keep heartburn medication on hand in case it doesn’t pan out. Good luck and we hope this helps you out.

References:

http://www.refluxmd.com/turn-heat-turn-heartburn/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28018112

https://www.chilliworld.com/factfile/scoville-scale

 

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Honey Nutribar: The Future Disaster-Relief Snack

In a country where natural disasters happen often, food that’s both filling and nutritious is a necessity. Unfortunately, most relief packs from donations consist of either crackers and biscuits, canned goods, or things like noodles or rice which require potable water. The last two options have downsides to them, which are the problem of artificially made preservatives, as well as the lack of sustainable potable water or water-filtration systems in evacuation centers and in ground zero.

If my guilty pleasure of watching people who eat military or civilian Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) has taught me anything, ready to eat foods need to meet certain criteria.  Since its purpose is to be ready to eat even after a year of storage or more, an MRE pack should remain edible despite being stored  for a long period of time. It should be easy to transport without crumbling apart readily. And most importantly, these should have a healthy amount of calories and nutrients to make one survive the grueling day or have a substantial meal in a pinch.

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While we don’t have locally-produced MRE packs like in the US or Indonesia, I would have to say that the Honey Nutribar is a step in the right direction.

Created by the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI), the Honey NutriBar is made out of pinipig (pounded glutinous rice), honey, rice krispies, dried fruits, and pectin. What sets this bar apart from the commercially available ones is the process that’s involved in preserving it.

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Each bar is vacuum-sealed in laminated aluminum foil, and then irradiated at a dose of 1 kilogray gamma radiation at the PNRI’s Multipurpose Irradiation Facility. Now one asks him or herself, “Irradiated? Isn’t that toxic?”. Unlike what happens in nuclear meltdown and accidents like Chernobyl or Fukushima, the irradiation process does not turn the food radioactive, and in fact makes it safer for consumption.

Now what is irradiation exactly? It is the process wherein the food (in this case, the Honey NutriBar) is exposed to electron beams or gamma radiation. Here are some benefits to the irradiation process.

  1. Preservation by destroying or deactivating the organisms that speed up spoilage and decomposition.
  2. Elimination of disease-causing bacteria such as Salmonella and E.Coli.
  3. Sterilization. Sterilized food last long in storage and a useful source of food for patients with severely-impaired immune systems.
  4. Irradiating does not change the taste or consistency of food.

Currently, the said product is still in development. The team at PNRI has managed to get the Honey Nutribar’s shelf life at nine months, but the staff in the PNRI conference area told us that the team is aiming to make it shelf-stable for two years.

With a bit of help from individuals and groups willing to invest in this research, the Honey Nutribar will soon be able to provide a readily available and tasty source of food during natural disasters and other emergencies. Since these are packed with nutrients and sufficient calories, these snack bars are also great for athletic events and outdoor activities.

 

For more information on the Honey Nutribar, please contact:

Ms. Zenaida M. De Guzman

Head, Biomedical Research Section, Atomic Research Division

Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Nuclear Research Institute

Commonwealth Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City

Tel. No. 929-6010 to 19 loc. 273

Email: zmedguzman@pnri.dost.gov.ph

RiMo Curls: A creatively healthy snack

For just a moment, imagine being in the shoes of a kid in a candy shop with a sizable amount of cash to buy anything and everything from the place. However, there is a catch; one can only select from the lesser types of sweets one doesn’t care much for.

In a way, this is the experience of how we at Team Glasses Food Blog haven’t had chips / crisps / curl snacks in a long while now, because of our respective health concerns. We honestly thought we couldn’t have anymore of those types of snacks anymore. But in a stroke of good luck (and a lot of science), we found ourselves eating those words after finding out about RiMo Curls.

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During the last day of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST)’s National Science and Technology Week, Kat and I were roaming around to satiate the craving for science, innovation, and of course, food. A poster caught my attention of rice and monggo beans (mung beans) being turned into a crunchy and ready-to-open snack, aptly named RiMo Curls. We soon out that this is made possible by the technology applied from the DOST’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute

Now, one may think, ‘Well, there are plenty of healthy snacks right there, why is this one any special?’ However, RiMo Curls is a snack worth trying among the plethora of ‘healthy’ snack foods on the market. Many older versions of healthy snacks have much to be desired in terms of texture or taste, but with this snack, there’s a different and longer lasting crunch after the pack has been opened.

The rice and monggo flour blend is an interesting choice of ingredients since I normally only see these two during meals with one on top of the other. The cheese flavor is thankfully, only lightly applied and not overwhelming in terms of flavor.

 

Here are some more reasons to enjoy RiMo curls:

  1. It’s protein and energy rich!
    • It contains 120 kcal of energy (8.5% of recommended daily energy needs for children 4 to 6 years old)
    • It also contains 3 grams of protein (7.9% of recommended daily protein intake for children 4 to 6 years old)
  2. It’s iron and zinc fortified
  3. Low salt content (and it really is since each bite wasn’t coated with thick amounts of cheese powder or other seasonings)
  4. And it’s gluten free too

We hope to see this snack, and others of its caliber, becomes more readily available throughout the country. We definitely enjoyed it and hopefully those with our conditions can too in the future.

RiMo Curls is manufactured and distributed by Nutri Dense Food Manufacturing Corporation. For more information, please contact the company at:

2/F UP-ISSI Bldg. E. Virata Hall, E. Jacinto St., UP Diliman Compound, Quezon City, Philippines

TeleFax No: (075) 600 8251

Mobile No/s: +63 999 729 0234 / +63 916 641 8611 / +63 923 703 2198

Email: nutridensefmc@yahoo.com.ph

Heartburn: A change in lifestyle

the_definition_of_heartburn

Photo by Christopher Dart (https://www.flickr.com/photos/darty53/8686152556/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Before working abroad in Doha, I already had the problem of acid reflux and normal remedies prescribed by the doctor worked out well for me. A bit of portion eating there and a less chili, no coffee, booze, or softdrinks for a period of time, and drink your medicine. After those two weeks, I’d feel better and be back to eating anything I liked without a care in the world. A matter of wash, rinse, and repeat. Easy peasy, I’m mostly healthy after all. I was unfortunately mistaken.

After the wear and tear of shifting schedules from my many tech support jobs, and the six day work week in Doha, perhaps my body finally called up to take its dues. A month or so after coming back to Manila, I began burping and having the taste of stomach acid line my mouth. Didn’t mind it much, drink some water or some milk, good to go. I only took notice when I kept regurgitating foam after a single bottle of beer, my walk home punctuated by spitting out the foam that came up from my throat.

The gastroenterologist pretty much confirmed my worst fears, I had heartburn a few months before I turned 28th. I bet you’d ask, “So what? Just drink medicine and go.” or “It’s not like (insert here disorder / disease / ailment), you have it much better.”

One would normally dismiss such thoughts, until Kat reminded me what an untreated and ignored gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) / heartburn can do to someone.

According to this article from cancer.org, one of the risk factors for having esophageal cancer or Barrett’s esophagus is GERD. While it does not happen to everyone with heartburn, I most certainly do not want to ever encounter them in my life if I can help it. After all, everything that we eat and drink goes through the esophagus, so it’s imperative that we take care of it, along with everything else in our body.

I can safely say that I’m a foodie, having both an interest in having a meal and making one, something I share with Kat. I didn’t want to give up on that and live in the spectre of being defined as another foodie who had to stop because he couldn’t each much anymore. And with a few changes here and there, I can say I’ve done rather well with a good deal of help from Kat and a couple of friends’ suggestions here and there, along with our Team Glasses Food Blog.

But there are times where heartburn catches up to me, no matter how I try to take care of myself. After the string of many food adventures, I had to get myself checked up again. As per my latest gastro check up, I was told that it’s a recurring thing, so I guess I’ll have to deal with this the best way I can.

On my part and your part, if you’re dealing with heartburn but still love eating great food, here are some things to remember:

  1. Follow your gastroenterologist’s advice and don’t cut corners. Maintaining your health matters more, no matter how the medicines costs initially.
  2. Remember your trigger foods and stay away from these or at the very least, do your best to put these on the side if possible. Also skip the alcohol, deep fried food, and tobacco—even if you don’t have GERD.
  3. Find what works for you, in terms of food portioning and the meals you can actually eat.

As what I’ve learned here while writing with Kat about our different food adventures here in Team Glasses Food Blog, life doesn’t really end if you’re living with medical conditions here and there. One can still find great food places in Metro Manila, without sacrificing your health. And this is the reason why we continue to write our foodie reviews, thoughts, and adventures. We really hope that we help you out in our own way.

Eating and Cooking with Heartburn

Before having heartburn, I loved to try new things with food, from Japanese curry to a recipe a friend from Mauritius gave me, which was frying up butternut squash with fenugreek seeds. And of course, I loved eating spicy food, even learning to make my own kimchi while I was working in the middle east.

But like all good things, it came to an end in a spectacular way when I kept on burping on the way home after drinking only a bottle of beer. Just imagine all the foam and feeling that I wasted good craft booze that deserved better. This meant going to the gastroenterologist to have it looked at.

Lo and behold, I felt my foodie adventures disappear in an instant when he said that I had heartburn. I already expected him to give me a list of all the bland food I’d have to eat, but I think the fates were kind that day. The physician said that when I find food or ingredients that triggers the acid build up and burping, I should take note and avoid them. Of course the usual suspects were in the list, like citrus fruits, coffee, alcohol, milk, fried or spicy food. However, I didn’t expect eggs to be one of my triggers.

Since I live alone, eggs should probably have been the easiest to cook protein for a balanced diet; however, I only discovered I couldn’t eat them when Christmas time came. It was two weeks before Christmas when my landlord gave me a large tray of eggs, around 30 pieces in total for the holidays. Thankfully this saved me a trip to the grocery when the funds were tight. I first tried making sunny-side up and ended up burping like crazy even if I chewed slowly or at less. I then tried scrambled eggs with the same result, and later to progressed all the way to hard-boiled and soft-boiled egg. After the last attempt, I shook my head and gave the remaining eggs to my sister. I think for a week I couldn’t even look at the pack of pancake mix I was aiming to use.

But when there’s a will, there’s a way. I discovered ways around the thought of eating bland food by making hand tossed salads without the ranch or thousand island dressing, using reduced amounts of oil whenever I need to fry something, boil ingredients whenever possible, going less on the salt and processed foods, and if I have to eat something not exactly good for me, I eat just a few tablespoons of the stuff and then move on. Using fresh ingredients and light sauces as much as possible is one’s valued ally in not being stifled at every turn. I also had to teach myself how to chew thoroughly and slowly because I used to eat fast and plenty.

Another thing I’ve tried is drinking probiotic drinks or eat some yogurt every now and then. After reading up on a study on the benefits of probiotics for the stomach (Del Piano, M. et al… Capurso L. (2006), “Probiotics: from research to consumer”, Digestive and Liver, 38), I decided to give it a shot even if I knew dairy and I had a fickle, if not warlike, relationship. In a few weeks of drinking and stocking up on those two things, I’ve noticed that I wasn’t burping as often or as hard as before. And then out of sheer desire, I decided to give a glass of red wine a try. Thankfully, it didn’t cause me to be a burping mess again. Just a rumble or two but nothing beyond that. Hopefully there will be definitive study on it soon.

I’ve come to the present day realization that changing the way I cook, eat and drink helps keep heartburn or GERD at bay, giving one the opportunity to still be a foodie without sacrificing my health in the process. And anyone can do it given time, planning, and becoming the master of what you eat and drink, not the other way around.

Epilepsy Bite by Bite

When one thinks of diseases that necessitate food restrictions, among the first things that come to mind are food allergies, or ‘lifestyle diseases’ such as hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. Not many people would immediately put ‘epilepsy’ at the top of the list, owing to the fact that it’s not always a readily apparent condition. Yet according to the World Health Organization, around 50 million people worldwide live with epilepsy, and each year 2.4 million more people are diagnosed with it.

What exactly is epilepsy? Actually the term ‘epilepsy’ refers to a whole range of diseases that manifest as recurrent seizures, oftentimes without other underlying causes or diseases. A seizure may be described as an abnormal electric impulse in one part of the brain. In a sense it can be likened to what happens to some gadgets when plugged in during a power surge. Fortunately the brain doesn’t burn or fizzle out the way gadgets do, but instead it triggers changes in a person’s behaviour ranging from brief lapses of attention that resemble daydreaming, or outright convulsions. The Filipino word ‘tirik´ sums up the experience of a seizure quite aptly.

35471660-a-medical-background-with-a-man-and-epilepsy-waves

Credit to: 123RF

Since epilepsy is such a diverse disorder, there are no specific foods or ‘triggers’ that people living with epilepsy need to avoid. What may worsen a seizure for one person may have little to no effect on another. However some of the more common triggers include stress, sleep deprivation, and alcohol consumption. Other persons are triggered by sudden noises or the presence of flashing or strobe lights.

It has also been thought that caffeine, as well as food additives such as preservatives and artificial colourings, can be implicated in some seizures. One frequently blamed additive is the infamous MSG (monosodium glutamate), an often used flavouring in processed foods as well as some recipes. Other foods may not necessarily trigger seizures, but they may have unwanted interactions with the anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) that most people with epilepsy take in order to control their seizures. For instance, taking some fruit juices such as grapefruit may change the levels of an AED in a person’s blood, thus worsening side effects such as dizziness or drowsiness.

Considering all these possible dietary pitfalls, a ‘lifestyle change’ is often easier said than done. For yours truly this meant saying goodbye to a number of comfort foods from my student days. It was bye-bye to chips, instant noodles, fried luncheon meat and even some types of bacon. Instead of going to parties at bars or clubs, I had to content myself with more mellow cafes and coffeeshops. Then when it became apparent during my medical training that caffeine was not helping my condition either, I had to also give up coffee.

It was not easy. Suddenly it felt as if I could not eat anything I liked, much less be sociable in the company of other foodies. I could bring food from home, but what if I wanted other options or wanted to be with friends who were bent on eating anything they wanted? So what was next? Wide-eyed me, clutching a cup of hot chocolate, and wondering what on earth I could still munch on, without breaking my budget.

Fortunately I wasn’t exactly alone in this struggle. And so the Team Glasses Blog’s journey began with two foodies (one with Heartburn and me with Epilepsy) to help people with the same health conditions about making their own foodie trips in the Metro.

Thoughts on Heartburn

A few years back, I enjoyed and perhaps took for granted the fact that I could eat and drink anything I like. As a 20-year-old man, buffet or spicy food with a bottle of brew was love on my end. But things started to change when I heard the word ‘acid reflux’ from the doctor’s diagnosis two years ago. No to chilli peppers anymore, but I could still eat a good bit of food. In my travels in Qatar, I discovered Indian food which didn’t need the said peppers but still allowed me to eat spicy food. Some roti with some paya, masala, or beef curry is a passionate story on the taste buds.

But like all good things, it came to an end unexpectedly when I started burping one day after eating too much fried chicken two to four months before I came home. It led to that dreaded day I finally got my full diagnosis from the gastroenterologist. I now have heartburn or GERD etching itself into my daily vocabulary. From no more coffee, strong tea, and booze among other trigger foods, to slower and more thorough chewing, and altering my posture, my lifestyle changed almost immediately.

GERD

But why did I do that in the first place, a lifestyle change, you may ask? One nasty thing no one ever really tells you is that if one leaves GERD to its devices and lets it have its way, it may eventually cause esophageal cancer. With rather nasty cancer stemming from one’s esophagus, the lack of decent food will be least of one’s problems. And as someone who found his reasons to keep on living and chasing after the life I wanted to live, changing my habits was not a hard decision to make.

Still, one can live a foodie life in the fullest by remembering to do the following. First, noting down trigger food matters. Such is a case with Liempo. It doesn’t trigger me unlike someone I know who has GERD too. However dairy starts up my burping, and in worse cases, leads to some spitting of small amounts of vomit from the excess acid. Second, volume eating is the enemy. It’s best to chose quality instead. And lastly, consulting an expert is always best for one’s wellbeing. They are best situated to give the best advice possible for living with the condition.

Ending this on a good note, GERD isn’t death like I used to believe it to be. It isn’t insurmountable because with some lifestyle adjustments, one can still eat well, and live better. The best of luck and hopefully our blog helps with future foodie trips.