What is a Dietary Irritant?

What is a Dietary Irritant?
by David Klein, Ph.D.
Colitis & Crohn’s Health Recovery Center

Many like to include chile pepper or cayenne in their guacamole recipe. That seems enjoyable. However, chili peppers and cayenne are irritants. What is an irritant?

Irritants are dietary items which are toxic and harmful to our body. Because we are not adapted to the toxic chemicals they contain, the body works to expel them. This applies even if they occur in foods and items touted as “healthful” and “natural,” such as garlic, onions, most herbs, sea salt, spices and fermented products. While most plant foods, except the ripe, organic fruits of our natural diet, have varying amounts of toxins, the harmful components of certain food items can overwhelm the body, trumping any of their beneficial values.

Even if we are not aware, toxins in any amount are sensed by the body as a threat. If the load is severe, the body initiates an irritation response, i.e., more blood is sent to the afflicted area delivering the so-called “immune system,” our “hazmat emergency clean-up crew” of sorts. In extreme cases, the nerves become inflamed and very painful and we become fatigued, feverish and sick.

When the body senses a threatening quantity of toxins, our sensory apparatus will give us a warning—but we will notice it only if we have not masked the response with numbing foods and drugs. Many fool themselves into believing that the discomfort is “worth the indulgence.” Do you remember your first chilis, onions, garlic, spicy pizza, pretzels, pickles, wine or beer? Do you ever wonder how you came to enjoy them? A child with pristine senses will scream at the slightest touch of any of those upon the tongue!

Our primary sensors for determining the suitability of our foods are our eyes, nose and taste buds. It may take all three to discern whether a food is really going to be “good.” If the sight, aroma or taste on the tongue repulses us, or “turns us off,” that food will not be beneficial. Sharp, bitter, sour, acidic, hot, foul and other acrid messages from our taste sensors loudly indicate: DON’T EAT IT–DON’T SWALLOW IT–GET RID OF IT!.” But, will you obey?

As we grow up and become conditioned to eating more and more unhealthful items, the toxins in our body build up to the point where many experience an ongoing cycle of elimination crises called “colds,” “flu,” “infections, “allergies” and so on. Most people listen to their doctors who blame their ills on bacteria/germs and/or an “auto-immune response,” and they fight them with antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. In all cases of “drug-induced recovery,” the body actually healed itself despite the extra poison—it was stimulated to clean up an even more potent threat! But, when the medicines don’t “work” they try immunosuppressants. Killing nature’s rubbish eaters (bacteria) with biocides then smothering the body’s life force with even harsher chemicals never restores health—this only begets chronically sick, lifeless people!

Many ask: “Can’t my body transmute the toxins—isn’t a little bit OK once in a while?” My smiling response is: “A toxin is a toxin— why accept a little poison when you know that no poison is good? Don’t you really prefer to eat only “real food” and not suffer tomorrow and wear yourself out?”

So, how does the body respond to “deal with” irritants which enter the stomach and bloodstream? If we are fortunate enough to still have ample vitality, the body will protect itself with any and all of these intelligent responses: watering eyes; hypersalivation; mucus secretion; vomiting; sneezing; coughing; expectoration; sweating; skin suppurations (pimples, rashes, boils); increased heart rate, blood pressure, urination, defecation and menstruation; and the so-called “immune system” (which is really our “defense system”) springing into action and working so hard that our body temperature rises to feverish heights as toxins are broken down and neutralized for elimination. All these are self-purification processes which we must learn to trust and support without interference!

We must understand that the body has its limitations and we must not constantly tax it. Self-purification processes consume our precious energy; they are enervating. If we continue the toxic assault and exceed the body’s self-purification capability, we will become chronically fatigued and increasingly sick. If we have trained our mind-body to hold down offensive dietary items under the belief that we are deriving pleasure or some other benefit from them, sooner or later we will end up in big trouble!

Some of the earliest signs of internal irritation are: reddened and tearing eyes; stuffed or runny sinuses; mouth sores; low-grade fever; sweating; gastrointestinal discomfort (stomach aches, etc.); diarrhea; headaches; itchy ears and skin. If we ignore the warnings and, at worst, cover them up with medicines while assuming everything is going to be OK after the medicines “work,” one day we may be slammed with an extremely acute detox crisis or even cancer. It happens to people of all ages every day! They did not suddenly “get sick”; their habits made them sick!

How can such a disastrous scenario sneak up on us? When we have chronic irritation from an unremitting toxic load, it can progress in this way: inflammation followed by ulceration, induration (hardening/scarring/necrosis), then cancer, where the body is decomposing on its way to an early death. Those are the final four stages of the disease process as taught by Natural Hygiene crusader John Tilden, M.D. over 80 years ago. The medical establishment didn’t get it back then and they still don’t. Meanwhile, over 40% of people in our society get cancer which is treated with extremely toxic chemicals when a detoxification and natural lifestyle regimen is the answer!

Dr. Herbert M. Shelton warned: “Hardening and thickening of the tissues occurs in any and all parts of the body to resist constant irritation. This can be seen in the mouth, stomach and intestines of those who employ salt and condiments.” Dr. V. Virginia Vetrano cautioned: “Inorganic table salt itself irritates the lining of the arteries and predisposes to atherosclerosis.”

Which items rank as the worst irritants in modern diets? Here’s my short list (there are many others): pepper; salt; vinegar; alcohol; oregano; curry spices; chile pepper; garlic; onion; leek; scallion; shallot; chives; radish; mustard paste; mustard leaf; arugula; coffee; cola; charred meat. Note that if we ingest a mouthful of many of those items, our nerves will scream with pain, while the other more deceptive items are palatable only after we have forced ourselves (or were forced in childhood) to “get used to” them. Also note that most of those are stimulants which leave us physically and mentally depressed after the “high” wears off, as the body expends a great amount of energy attempting to eliminate them and repair the damage. Unfortunately, many health enthusiasts, even rawfooders, have been taught that salt, spices and pungent herbs are needed to enhance the flavor of recipes, and most indulgers end up sick most of the time and do not understand why and they accept that as “normal”!

To varying extents, all of those irritants paralyze the stomach, deadening its nerves. They also fool us by clouding our mind and perverting our taste buds, leading to disordered eating and myriad health problems. Those items do not “spice up” our lives—they deaden us! A variety of fresh, organic food to which we are biologically adapted has all the flavor we really need to be satisfied and happy.

I shun seasoned guacamole. I occasionally enjoy avocado with tomatoes and greens—that’s zesty enough for my palate. The avocado and tomatoes can be blended into a dip or salad dressing. Fresh lemon juice can be added.

So, what’s in chiles, cayenne (powderized chiles) and black pepper? Here is an extract from Dr. Bruce Ames’ landmark paper, “Dietary Carcinogens and Anticarcinogens–Oxygen radicals and degenerative diseases”; 1983; Science 221; 1256-1264:

“Safrole, estragole, methyleugenol and related compounds are present in many edible plants. Safrole, estragole and methyleugenol are carcinogens in rodents, and several of their metabolites are mutagens. Oil of sassafras. which had been used in “natural” sarsaparilla root beer is about 75 percent safrole. Black pepper contains small amounts of safrole and large amounts (close to 10 percent by weight) of the closely related compound piperine. Extracts of black pepper cause tumors in mice at a variety of sites at a dose of extract equivalent to 4 mg of dried pepper per day (about 160 mg/kg per day) for 3 months; an estimate of the average human intake of black pepper is over 140 mg per day (about 2 mg/kg per day) for life.”

Wikipedia states: “Piperine is the alkaloid responsible for the pungency of black pepper and long pepper, along with chavicine (an isomer of piperine). It has also been used in some forms of traditional medicine and as an insecticide.”

Chilis also contain piperine as well as capsaicin, the chemical used in pepper spray. Enough said!

Humans’ most egregious folly, the one which imposes the most toxic assault on the body, is indulgence in unnatural eating. Simple meals of ripe, raw, organic, fresh fruits and vegetables and occasional nuts and seeds comprise our specie’s most naturally healthful and truly delicious diet. If you are not yet there, be persistent and patient. A water fast will help bring the clarity needed to become attuned to your true senses. After a few weeks of eating only the purest, unadulturated foods, you’ll understand how senseless it is to change their flavors with additives. Be true to your body and it will be true to you!

    • Justin Lovenow
    • June 25th, 2010

    Thank you David!
    You are a true core Natural Hygienist, one of the very few alive today. I will spread and communicate your NH insights further. Our world’s bodys-minds need to heal and awaken. NH is a great wisdom tool to use.

  1. Hello David!
    I used your photo of the guacamole in my blog.
    If there is any problem please let me know.


  2. Great article, David…! The Truth..! 🙂

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