By Dr. Gerard Muraida
Your grandmother may have been correct in offering chiles to a sick family member or friend. The remedios of the past have scientific basis for their health claims.
Many medical and nutritional journals report various benefits of consuming chile, including pain relief, inhibition of some bacteria, improvements in cognitive function, red blood cell formation, reduced blood pressure and improved cardiovascular health. Chile can clear nasal congestion, soothe intestinal complaints, boost immunity, promote weight loss and even help maintain healthy eyes.
Capsaicin, a substance found in chile, inhibits substance P, a neuropeptide that carries pain sensations to the brain. It can also reduce inflammation in joints and has been shown to be effective in shingles treatment, as well as in treatment of some neuropathies. There may also be an adjunctive role for capsaicin in the prevention and treatment of migraines.
Chiles have large amounts of beta carotene and antioxidants that help support the immune system and may aid in fighting off colds and the flu. It has been reported that nasal sprays containing capsaicin reduce sinus congestion. Increased body temperature from the ingestion of hot peppers triggers the immune system into action in fighting the norovirus (cold) and flu viruses.
Chile can speed up our metabolic rate by generating the thermogenic processes that generate heat in our bodies. This internal response consumes energy and can burn calories as a result. Care to add some spice to breakfast? Eating chile in the morning can help suppress your appetite the rest of the day, which ultimately supports weight loss.
Chile has high concentrations of potassium, essential for many bodily functions. Potassium combined with folate can reduce your chances of developing heart disease. Moreover, potassium can help relax your blood vessels, which makes blood flow much easier on your body.
The B vitamins, riboflavin and niacin are also found in chile. Niacin can help regulate healthy cholesterol levels and, in turn, lower the risk for heart disease.
Let’s not forget to mention iron. Hemoglobin production is dependent upon iron as a building block, and chile is rich in iron. Hemoglobin carries oxygen in our blood, and adequate oxygen can promote brain health.
Some may complain that chile irritates their gastrointestinal tract. As counter-intuitive as this may seem, the capsaicin in peppers actually acts as an anti-irritant and may be beneficial in ulcer disease. The anti-oxidants in chile may aid upset stomach, reduce intestinal gas, and act as a natural remedy for cramps. Chile also increases saliva and stimulates the production of gastric secretions, thereby aiding in digestion.
Keep in mind that chile should be considered a supplemental component to any medical regimen. Ask your health care provider if it can be part of your daily diet and health plan.