Monday 31 May 2010

Why Do We Eat Chili? Because We're Grown-Ups!

In the UK, there's a reality TV programme called 'Come Dine With Me', where a group of strangers throw dinner parties for each other and then grade each other's efforts - you may have a syndicated version in your country. Although raw, I'll admit I find this programme a true 'guilty pleasure' (although I do wish someone could tell Dave Lamb, the presenter, that people who don't meat but do eat fish aren't 'vegetarians'!).

Anyhow, on a recent 'Come Dine With Me', one of the guests said how much he detested hot (as in spicy) food. In fact, he did make a Big Fuss about it and, as the programme is, after all, about cooked food, and spices are so prevalent in modern cooking, one does wonder why he agreed to take part in the programme. After an evening in which he left uneaten most of the food prepared for him, and asked how on earth his fellow guests could eat it, one guest answered with some exasperation and rolling of eyes 'because we're grown-ups!' Cue cheers from most of the TV audience, who would most likely have united with the other guests, who had identified him as 'the odd one out', and, because he didn't want to eat chili, was unsophisticated - not a 'grown-up'.

'Because we're grown-ups....!'

Chili is something that, like alcohol and nicotine, (and cooked food), we are averse to the first time in our lives we try it.

Natural Hygienist Mike Benton, writing in the original (Eighties) 'Life Sciences' course, on chili:

'The truth is that cayenne pepper, along with all other hot peppers, chilies, etc, contain harmful alkaloids...when hot peppers are eaten, the body is thrown into an emergency state in an attempt to eliminate the toxic oils and substances in the peppers...All hot peppers contain a poisonous alkaloid called piperidin and a harmful crystalline substance known as piperin. Hot peppers also have acrid resins and volatile oils which irritate the digestive and urinary tracts.'

Generally, when children encounter even a small amount of chili in food for the first time, they feel like their mouths and stomachs are on fire. They don't like it. That is because their bodies are still sufficiently pure and sensitive to detect and react to the harmful substances in chili.

However, with repeated doses (just as with cooked food, just as with any drug), their vibrant little bodies are ground down and literally 'beaten into submission', until... 'an adult who has abused his digestive system for a number of years on a conventional diet merely experiences that momentary burning warning which is the weakened body's signal to avoid the hot pepper.'

The burning sensation is there to tell us 'do not eat'. Clear enough to other mammals, who don't eat chili. But, being human beings, we are forever prey to that devil inside us who likes to pervert the natural, to harm ourselves, to deceive ourself and others, to (it hopes) our ultimate destruction, and it persuades us that it is 'grown-up' and sophisticated to enjoy food with chili.

But this is a lie. As it's not a sign of a developed, or strong, system that the 'tolerance' level for chili (and other toxic substances) is raised, but a sign of a weakened system that has lost the vitality to react.

Herbert Shelton in 'Toleration Means Loss of Vital Resistance' describes it thus:

'If you are not accustomed to using fiery condiments and you undertake to use red pepper, it causes the lips, mouth, tongue and throat to burn intensely. When swallowed, it produces discomfort to the stomach. There is later a feeling of discomfort in the intestine as the irritating pepper passes along. When, finally, it's expelled in the stools, the anus and rectum burn as much as did the mouth when the pepper was swallowed.

Persist in the use of the pepper and its irritating effect grows less and less until, finally, it produces no burning of the mouth and throat, no distress in the stomach and intestine, no burning of the rectum and anus. The membranes of the entire digestive tract become thickened and hardened in defense against the repeated irritation. The protective thickening impairs their other functions. The sense of taste is dulled, digestion is impaired. Doubtless something similar to this takes place in all the tissues of the body that are subjected to chronic irritation by alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, arsenic, opium, salt and other poisons and irritants in common use. They, too, must undergo changes to defend themselves.'

The more chili we eat, the more we abuse our digestive systems. Those with IBS symptoms generally find their symptoms worsen after eating spicy food. The gastric specialist, Franz J Ingelfinger MD, showed that hot and highly seasoned foods harm the stomach lining, adversely affecting our ability to absorb nutrients. (And the sensory nerves, which are affected by the burning sensation caused when eating chili, can become damaged and die on repeated exposure to the alkaloid capsaicin in chili.)

Chili is 'warming'/stimulating

Sure it is. This is because the capsaicin so irritates the body that the heart rate/circulation is increased as the body works hard in order to remove it from the system (perspiration will increase as well). The chili overall acts as a stimulant. Stimulants have the effect they do because the body senses something toxic and goes on 'red alert' (heightened response) and 'all systems go' (feeling of energy, a 'rush') to marshall all bodily resources to eliminate the toxic invader. Nora Lenz: 'These foods are eaten only for the abusive thrill reaction they force upon the body, reactions which are easily mistaken as 'energising' the body when in reality the body is losing its energy stores...'.

So-called 'healing' effects

If our body still retains any vestige of vitality, our noses will run when we eat chili. The hotter the meal, the more they will run. Some have been persuaded that in this way the chili is 'detoxing'. But the reason our noses run is that additional mucus is being produced by the body to protect delicate body tissues from the irritants.

Some extol chili's benefits as an 'antibiotic'. Rather than get into lengthy discussion here, I would say that, sure, if you believe that it's a good thing to take antibiotics with your meals, eat chili - I'm sure it will kill all sorts of things in the digestive tract.

We do see the occasional study that suggests chili may 'cure' this or that. One recently showed that chili 'attacks' cancer cells. However, not only was the Cancer Research UK organisation reserved with their comments ('This research does not suggest that eating vast quantities of chilli pepper will help prevent or treat cancer.'), but even if eating large quantities did reduce cancer cells, what price this for the harm it would be doing to our bodies in other ways? Drugs (and by that I mean anything toxic to our bodies) don't cure. They suppress one symptom whilst getting up to mischief elsewhere. The only way to remove illness (if it's not too late to) is to remove the cause of the illness.

So why do people eat chili?

They eat it because, like so many things, they've been seduced into eating it by the 'grown-ups', and, after initial resistance, have accustomed themselves to it, and, like other drugs, have come to enjoy it - some to the extent that their tastebuds have become perverted and, sadly, food without chili (ie the pure, the natural, the unadulterated) is seen as 'bland'.

Some eat it for the 'kick'. They have come to enjoy and long for that feeling of stimulation as described earlier - the feeling of the body 'under challenge' as they eat. But as with all cases of ingestion of toxic substances for titillation, for kicks, there will be 'payback' in the long term from the cumulative effect of abuse of the digestive systems.

Raw people who use chili are still 'in transition' from cooked food. Yes, even those who have been 100% raw for 20 years. I have chili occasionally - perhaps every 1-2 months at raw food restaurants, and in the occasional kale and avo salad, and this is evidence that I haven't yet totally rid myself of the addiction to the titillation, to the kick of toxic substances that characterised my old cooked diet. I don't beat myself up about this (see my last article 'Enjoy the Raw Food Diet'), as I'm 'on the journey' myself and not 'there' yet, but let's see our clinging to these substances as what it is, rather than trying to fool ourselves.

Chili and the Chainsaw Massacre

When we eat chili, we are inflicting violence on our bodies. If we do it repeatedly, that sensitivity - the signals that tell us good from bad - cease to operate effectively.

Think of those other substances that we instinctively disliked as children but are then persuaded by our role models that we should have them, eat them more and more frequently until there are no longer any (apparent) adverse effects, finding we can 'tolerate' larger and larger quantiies as time goes on. They're always substances that are toxic to us.

We've started to twig that that figure of manhood from days gone by - the man who can 'take his liquor' - is in fact a tragic figure, that the reason he can drink large quantities of alcohol without the body (in the immediate instance at least) exhibiting the effects is because the body has lost the vitality to react. As Robert Rust explains: 'The body has been forced to choose a slower road to death via toleration rather than a quick one by maintaining sensitivity.'

Most people, when they first see a fictional murder on TV or in a film, are upset, are affected. But, for many, repeated exposure anaesthetises until the violence has less and less effect, until a TV drama seems dull without it, and there is a search through the TV schedules for the titillation/shock element (in heavier doses) for 'entertainment'.

Is comparing chili with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre a bit OTT? Well, maybe, but this article isn't really about chili. It's about what 'grown-ups' do. When our devious minds (and the minds of others) persuade us, through their flattery, through their lies, that we should do something that is harmful to us, physically and/or psychologically, and we come to repeat that action until we get to the point where we can no longer detect the harm it is doing us, we will pay a price, with our bodies, with our spirits.

Chili because we're 'grown-ups'?

We can't be children again. But raw food can help us regain the innate knowledge we had as children, and still have, but has been hitherto hidden in a mass of confusion. We can start to see the 'grown-up' world as it really is - a world of deception.

And when we understand that, when we can see again, we can turn from the world of the 'grown-ups', and, armed with that precious gift of knowledge, can start on the journey towards truly growing up.


Esmee La Fleur said...

Hot peppers also cause the release of endorphins and are, therefore, somewhat addictive (like running).

Debbie Took said...

Thanks for that info, Esmee.

At least running is good for our bodies.

Well, probably...mostly...:-)

Linda said...

So well written, I loved reading this.

Debbie Took said...

Linda, I'd been a bit worried that this article was coming over too 'heavy' in tone, so really appreciate your comment.

David Cohen said...

Good post. Perhaps in a future post (part II) you could expand to include other raw foods which could be classed as irritants, or have the same or similar effect to chilli peppers.

Debbie Took said...

Hi David

You might find this Natural Hygiene text on 'condiments' of interest.

greenmama! said...



Unknown said...

Hi Debbie
Thanks for another great article - and well timed too, as in an effort to wean myself off high fat salad dressings I'd started to add chili to low-fat dressings, using mango and tomatoes, etc. Looks like I'll have to stop before I get addicted! I think I knew this but needed reminding!
Thanks for all the great information you give us

Debbie Took said...

How about...a squeeze of lime, or a bit of chopped mint, or fennel for a healthier 'kick'?

Dr Doug Graham told me that peppermint and mango go well together. So guess what I now have growing in the garden! Doesn't grow as voraciously as spearmint, but has come up again his year after laying dormant through a very cold winter!

Anne said...

Great post Debbie ♥
So true about chilies.
My son got a taste of chili when a chili-eater cut up some fruit for him using the same knife that had cut up chili. Needless to say it was not a good experience for him.
Like anything else, I guess we can build up a tolerance to toxins, but better to naturally avoid them as children do.
Thank you for the article ♥
Love and Peaches XX.

Debbie Took said...

Hi Anne

I remember chopping chili once then rubbing the corner of my eye. Interesting experience...

Soylent said...

That's moronic; coffee, moderate amounts of alcohol and chili are all good for you. Verifiably so.

Chili in particular reduces platelet aggregation, blood cholestorol and triglyceride levels and is strongly anti-angiogenic(reduces formation of capillary blood vessels which cancer needs to spread and which fat cells need to proliferate).

Exercise creates microscopic tears in muscles, causes a huge increase in free radicals and DNA damage as a result of increased oxygen consumption. Yet we have very strong evidence that it builds and maintains muscles into old age and reduces cancer incidence.

People in nature did not live of raw food, they weren't vegetarians, they weren't couch potatoes, didn't have regular meals, the ate all kinds of icky, toxic and unhygienic stuff. Your body needs small, regular challenges and provocations.

Debbie Took said...

'Moronic' eh? Normally I reject the very few posts that come in that are aggressive/insulting, but I thought I'd publish Soylent's post for readers' amusement.

David Cohen said...

Hi Debbie... If a child eats strong tasting watercress or parsley, or similar leafy green for the first time, and finds the taste a bit difficult / repulsive to deal with, and says they don't fancy eating that again, are you suggesting that that should be it, they should then leave it etc... David

Debbie Took said...


Coincidentally, since going raw, I find watercress and rocket far too acidic.

Unknown said...

I would like to know your take on lemons, limes, grapefruits. They are sour and can cause irritation in both the mouth and digestive track. My kids love all three, without being forced, yet most kids and adults alike do not. Just so I am clear, you believe that if a person reacts "unfavorably" to a food item, it is bad for them or possible toxic? I am intrigued by this point of view. Health and happiness to you. Tennielle

Debbie Took said...

Hi Tennielle

Yes, strictly speaking, I do not believe we should be eating things we find unpleasant/physically uncomfortable to eat, even in small quantities. diet isn't perfect yet, and after many years of following the standard cooked diet, with it's various seasonings, I use a little lemon or lime juice in dressing sometimes. Grapefruit I'm not very fond of, unless it's a very sweet variety. But I'm interested that, if I'm understanding you correctly, your children can eat limes and lemons easily. If so, it could well be natural to eat them, and our unnatural diet (or diet history) be the reason that most people find them sour.

sjudenim said...

Hi Debbie,

thanks for this post, very interesting. I'm gradually eating more raw foods in my diet and am now thinking about cutting out chilli peppers entirely.

Your argument seems pretty logical but I was interested in what you thought about one of the points made by 'Soylent' in the comments above in relation to eating chillis (and maybe other minimally toxic foods).

Namely that exercise is also a process which is damaging for the body but the body's response to that damage is beneficial overall (ie. exercise builds/maintains muscle).

Could it be that as the body develops to better tolerate exposure to capsaicin etc. in chillis this then reduces the harmful effects of eating chillis? your article also mentions that this toleration response from the body inhibits the other functions of the digestive system, do you think that this has been reasonably proven?

I've looked around online and there are a number of studies that appear to show some positive health benefits of eating chillis, but there are a few others that show the opposite - it seems to be quite a controversial topic. There are lots of references to it reducing blood cholesterol in particular.

Debbie Took said...

Hi sjudenim

Being a Natural Hygienist, I view 'toleration' as the body, ground down by higher and higher doses of the poison, ceasing to have the vitality to fight back, no longer having the energy to detox (so uncomfortable symptoms would no longer be present), eg as someone who regularly drinks half a bottle of scotch a day would not vomit after one glass, as a small child might. Re health benefits such as lowering cholesterol, many poisons have 'benefits' for one part of the body while wreaking havoc on another. Isn't aspirin thought of having some 'benefits'?