Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Capsaicin Intolerance

Okay, so this is neither about God, nor is it about security, but it's too important for me to not post, so here goes.

I have had debilitating headaches for years. Probably 6 or 7. They would typically hit one side of my head, often behind the eye, or to the side at the temple. My neck would sometimes hurt as if it were "out of whack". For years I had a "cure." I would take 3 Advil and one red Sudafed pill, then I would lie on my back for 45 minutes. It seemed that, usually, at the 45 minute mark I would feel my sinuses crackle and drain, and my headache would go away.

Recently, about a year ago, this stopped working. I'd still do it, in hopes that it was lessening the pain, but it became a case of having to wait them out. This was unfortunate, as they used to also disappear without treatment overnight. Now, they would last for over 24 hours with alarming regularity. They were also happening much more frequently. What used to be an occasional (every month) occurrence became every week and then many times per week. They weren't always debilitating, but half of the fear was knowing that it *may* turn into a killer suicidal OMFG headache.

I went to the doctor, and we tried Butalbitol. Some luck keeping the killer ones at bay, but I still had headaches, now more often than not (this was over this last summer). When my perscription ran out, I was screwed.

Then something strange happened: Someone at work mentioned allergies. I did some searches, but couldn't find anything that seemed to be what I wanted. Allergies involve an immediate reaction to the stimulus. I had seen no pattern of even vaguely immediate feedback. I would get them just before heading home frequently, no matter what I had (or didn't have) for lunch.

One article, however, mentioned "intolerance" factors. I looked them up, and they seemed focused on things like lactose intolerance and such which manifest as gastrointenstinal problems.

Not me (or, at least, not my primary problem). They *did* have one interesting factor, however; timing. Intolerance issues would regularly be hours to a day and a half later. Still, these didn't point to headaches.

One site (wish I could remember which) had a side note about capsaicin intolerance. You know, that chemical that makes chili peppers hot? One result of this was -- Ta Daaa! -- headaches.

My life is hot food. Most mornings, I would get a breakfast burrito at my local joint and it would be HOT. My wife makes the best green chili in the world. I love the Armadillo, Three Margaritas, Q-Doba, Chipotle and many local Mexican food joints.

I put Cholula, Frank's, Bruce's, and Louisiana style hot sauce on darn near everything except cold cereal.

But I stopped cold turkey a month ago.

No headaches. None. Nada. Zilch.

Damn.

Last Friday (3 and a half weeks into this) I put it to the test: Three steak soft tacos from Chipotle Grill for lunch.

A tickly Friday evening, and a headache all day Saturday. Not a debilitating one (after all, I didn't put hot sauce on them, and I ordered them mild) but the chipotle marinade seems to have been enough to set off a minor headache.

I will give updates, but I wanted to post this as I could find no one else who seemed to share my problem. For someone out there, I hope my discovery will help you, because I was getting near my wits end.

Now I feel great!

-B

21 comments:

Sam VR said...

Oh man that SUCKS!!!

PonderPatron said...

Where did you get the killer breakfast burritos? I'm tired of lame bbb...

Fernandopoo said...

I first became addicted to Jus' Burritos there on 120th west of Main st in Broomfield (tiny hole-in-the-wall place on the south side of the street). Then, when I no longer took that route to work, I started going to Mercedes at 112th and Irma in Northglenn. What really sells both of these places is that they have great green chili.

Anonymous said...

Hey bud. Sorry to hear about your troubles. I'm in a similar boat. I've had capsaicin intolerance for as long as I can remember. I can't even touch a jalapeno without getting a rash (literally). Needless to say, I must go to great lengths to avoid eating any peppers and can't eat Mexican, Thai, or Indian cuisine at all, nor anything seasoned with chili powder. The results are painful and embarassing. Unlike you however, I've never enjoyed spicy food. So I don't miss it. I hope you find some acceptable substitute. Good luck!

1SmartGirl said...

I have had this same food intolerance since early childhood. If I have any form of peppers (other than black pepper), I develop a migraine and nausea that last 24 hours. If I stay very still, I won't vomit. I also have this reaction to ginger, dill, curry, paprika, mustard, Miracle Whip, vinegar, most cheeses, apple, coconut, commercial salad dressings or sauces or gravies, soy and all soy products, malt, barley, rye, pumpernickel, and more. My dad had the same reactions.

1SmartGirl said...

PS - One doc told me this food intolerance pattern occurs in people with type O blood. Sure enough, both my dad and I are O positive.

Majo said...

I used to get headaches like that. Then I developed a capsaicin intolerance - throat closes up and all kinds of nasty things happen to my GI - so I cut capsaicin out of my diet.

Headaches went away. Had no idea they were related!

Paige said...

I also have the capsaicin intolerance, but mine is not headache based, it's stomach- based. Not sure which is worse! White and Black Pepper are safe, but Pink, green and red all include capsaicin - as well as paprika, which is not spicy and now found in LOTS of organic foods as a colorant (damn!) to make things orange. I found this out the hard way. Also - important to note that real ginger does not contain capsaicin, but items that are ginger-flavored do. Capsaicin as a flavor ingredient is much cheaper than ginger and often used in ginger-ales, etc. I'm pretty much an expert on the topic now if anyone has any questions. The only antidote i've found is Peppermint, which acts as a cooling agent in the stomach. I doubt this would work for the headaches, but I suppose it's worthy trying. I don't leave the house without peppermint capsules (you can buy at natural food stores) and/or peppermint tea. The Tea works best if you accidentally poison yourself, just FYI.

Fernandopoo said...

I have the stomach issues, as well. All I can say about your post is "wow, I didn't even think about ginger ale". I am a HUGE fan of ginger ale...I wonder if my few "mystery" headaches can be traced back to me downing a liter of soda? Thanks for the info!

C. Garofani said...

This is incredible. There are other people like me!
I have had this intolerance for years, and nobody actually believes me - because nobody's ever heard of it.

I get headaches and stomachaches, sometimes a rash, and I get incredibly drowsy - it ruins my day. I have to go home immediately and sleep, I can't keep my eyes open. Once I vomited - because there was a jalapeƱo pepper that TOUCHED my food (and I thought it was no big deal).

Thanks so much. I thought I was the only one.
And now I've been reading about pepper spray and DREADING encountering that thing - what if it's actually capable of killing us?

Anonymous said...

I developed Capsaicin Intolerance about three years ago...

It took me months of trial and error to narrow it down to capsaicin... and I had to do all this by myself, as like others have said, nobody much seems to have heard of this problem.

I love spicy food - I've lived in Asia for ten years - and I used to eat very powerful chili dishes twice a day... spiced to extreme as in Thai and similar cuisince...

But no more! Just a hint of chili and I am out of action for days, potentially weeks...

I don't get digestive problems though. Instead I become incredibly weak... no vitality, no stamina, weak and stiff limbs - just totally laid out. And headaches.

And yes, as 1SmartGirl said - I am Type O blood ...

If anybody has any links to medical resources on this I would appreciate it, as I would like to show them to my doctor.

Anonymous said...

SAME THING HERE!!!

Capsaicin Intolerance, Has caused me severe ( Migraine ) type headaches with light sensitivity and stiff / sore neck. I have been treated for migraines for years till I found that it was caused by red peppers in its many forms. We are quick to accept what we are told by the medical establishment, but none of the normal migraine protocols would work for me. There is a time delay between what we eat and when the pain would hit, so I set up an experiment on myself and ate a meal with 2 heaping table spoons of red pepper flakes in it. Approximately 3.5 hours later I had my answer with the worse headache that I have ever had, it hit the left side of my head behind my eye and not able to see, I had to be helped back into the house. After recovering and eliminating Capsaicin from my diet I am doing allot better. It is only been a few days, but I wanted to let others know if it helps stop the suffering of one person, it is worth it!!

Adeline said...

Hi Paige thanks for sharing the antidote. Its really hard to not accidentally poison myself. When u say peppermint capsules are u referring to simple mint candy? Or are they something else u get from a pharmacy. Will try the tea out!

Anonymous said...

Canada Dry ginger ale helps me with stomach issues but others have always given me trouble. No I understand. I believe they use real ginger.

Anonymous said...

I hear and feel your fear. I'm sure pepper spray would kill me.

Anonymous said...

As a child my family almost disowned me. I hated breakfast sausage and and the family pizza favorite, sausage and pepperoni. My body figured it out long before I did. Only as an adult did I realize it when someone insisted I have a cesear salad which they insisted required the fresh ground pepper. Almost stopped breathing after one small bite. Yep. Black pepper is my biggest issue because it's so hard to avoid but all other peppers do it too. Once I figured things out had far fewer migraines and "asthma attacks". So hard to live with socially. Eating anywhere but home is difficult. Most folks don't understand and restaurants rarely know what's in their preprepared sauces and items. Even mom and pop's buy some prepared sauces etc.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I thought I was missing something. The problem I have is very imbaressing. I get extreme rash and itching in my crotch area. The doctors said,yeast infection,or they thought I was not in pain enough to worry about. They gave me steroids to apply. Why'll that would work,you are not supposed to use them continuesly. I finally discovered the link to eating spicy food. I think I am having a reaction to the capsaicin. Thanks

John Hughes said...

It's so refreshing to find others with my problem. I was also self diagnosed. Ok with black pepper, but react to all other capsaicin peppers. It was weird that neither my doctor, neurologist or dermatologist suggested I see an allergist. My symptoms are flushed face, (looks and hurts just like a sunburn), hoarseness, hurting joints, (especially knees), burning mouth, tingly lips, and the worse is vertigo which can last for days after ingestion. I did see an allergist who confirmed my allergy. Unfortunately I also have an allergy to almonds and pears with the same symptoms. No cure, just avoidance. I have been pretty lucky at restaurants, especially steak houses. Just as for salt and pepper only. Do a lot more cooking at home. I miss my spicy foods!

John

Anonymous said...

I get acne from bell peppers

Anonymous said...

Can anyone help...why bell peppers give me acne

John Hughes said...

Hey guys. As a side note I had also given myself aspartame poisoning. I had been drinking 6 to 8 diet cokes per day for years. In my research I was demonstrating many symptoms of MS. My daughter-in-law asked me if I had ever heard of aspartame poisoning which also shared many of the same symptoms with MS. (This poisoning also had many of the same symptoms as the capsaicin allergy). At any rate I went cold turkey on the diet cokes and cut out all aspartame. I had a rash on my shin and ankle that I had had for years clear up in just 3 days after stopping. So no MS. Hurray! Most of my issues have also cleared up with the capsaicin avoidance although I can't seem to shake a constant low-level vertigo/balance issue I just have to live with.