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Things Heat Up In Manitowoc County
When you think of the food associated with Wisconsin, thoughts drift to beer and brats, lots of cheese and...cayenne pepper. That's right, cayenne pepper.
Paul and Barbara Stitt definitely believe in the healing powers of hot peppers. When they decided they wanted to give something back to their community, no one would have ever guessed it would come in the form of cayenne pepper capsules.
"Our bakery, Natural Ovens, has done very well, so we wanted to give something back," said Stitt. That "something," they decided, would be to help improve the health of Manitowoc County. After discovering and researching the properties of cayenne pepper, Stitt, a biochemist by training, decided to design a program that would give away free cayenne capsules to anyone in their county interested in improving their health.
Since January, 1995 more than a thousand families have signed up for the program, which includes recommended diet changes, a medical history, and follow-up meetings at the bakery with program facilitator Paula Wagner.
Wagner, a long-time bakery employee says she loves working with the people on the program, and has seen incredible results from the participants.
"Each day brings news of people who are feeling a lot better because of the cayenne," she said. "They tell me of improved ulcers, heart disease, circulation, arthritis, and the list goes on." Each person in the program takes from one to four cayenne capsules a day, depending on their health problems. Since cayenne is an herb, not a drug, the bakery can dispense the capsules without any legal problems. Plus, according to Stitt, the cayenne is free (for up to six weeks), and each person is articipating voluntarily--anyone may quit at any time. "We've given away more than 150,000 capsules for free, and people keep coming back for more," he said. Stitt says that they'd like to give away more, and has been interviewed on local radio shows in his area and in the paper about his offer for free cayenne.
Digestive De-tox and Ulcer Afterburners
It was once believed that chile would burn out the lining of the stomach, but this has been disproved by doctors who have used cayenne, ironically, to relieve digestive distress, and more recently, by a medical study conducted in 1988 at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, which found that chile increases gastric secretions in the stomach but does no harm. Rob McCaleb, an ethnobotanist and president of the Herb Research Foundation in Boulder, Colorado, observes that various kinds of chile actually helps digestion and reduces flatulence by increasing the circulation in the stomach and intestines so that food is processed and absorbed more efficiently. Indeed, one of the reasons cayenne is often included in herbal blends is so that all the ingredients will be assimilated more productively.
Lee Klatt, 59, of Twin Rivers, Wisconsin, suffered with duodenal ulcers for twenty years, but after less than two weeks of taking cayenne, his symptoms were noticeably relieved.
"It always felt like I had a bobber in the base of my throat; it was like trying to swallow a cork," he said of the pent-up gas that was always in his stomach. "But now I can eat the rust off of nails again."
Klatt said he has tried other remedies, such as using dairy products in an attempt to coat his stomach, but none ever worked. It was Paul Stitts' offer on the radio that convinced Klatt to try cayenne. He began in mid-December by taking four 500-milligram capsules three times a day, and has now cut back to two capsules three times a day. Klatt said he receives no pay for his participation in the program, only the free cayenne, and his only cost is for extra cayenne which he buys from Stitts at a price of $15 for three hundred capsules.
In addition to the cayenne, Klatt said he tries to make healthy food choices by eating less red meat, drinking distilled water, avoiding dairy products, and eating a lot of fresh vegetables. Even so, he does not consider himself to be a strict dieter. "I don't go overboard and worry about cheating when I eat," he said. "If you're going to cheat make sure you can enjoy it because guilt will hurt your stomach and hurt you."
Since his treatment has been so successful, Klatt said he might reduce his cayenne intake, and then gradually stop treatment altogether; however, if this should this prove detrimental, he is not afraid of taking cayenne indefinitely to maintain good health. Not only has his stomach condition improved, he said, but his circulation is more efficient, making his feet and hands warmer than before. "I'm feeling in the pink, emphatically," he said.
Some people have even reported that their ulcers were healed through the use of cayenne. Although there is no scientific evidence to verify this, a 1991 study conducted at Kyoto Pharmaceutical University in Japan reported that capsaicin given orally decreased muscle contractions in the stomach and increased the flow of protective mucus. It seems that the body initially perceives chile as an invader, and in defense, secretes mucus in the digestive and respiratory tracts to flush it out. As a result, the stomach is coated and soothed and the nose begins to run, which is why chile is also effective in breaking up the congestion of a cold.
Dipasquale said the dosage of cayenne must be monitored carefully when treating ulcers. A proper dose, she said, will produce the protective mucosal coating, but if a patient ingests too much, the capsaicin will work its way through the mucosal surface and irritate the mucosal membranes in the digestive tract. "There's a very fine line between proper dosing and overdosing," she said.
A moderate overdose of cayenne is not harmful or damaging in the same way that excessive chemical drugs are, but untherapeutically high amounts can cause unnecessary pain and diminish healing properties. Many people have probably experienced the consequences of a mild overdose when a laxative effect kicks in the day after eating too much chile. This is the result of digestive tract irritation. Dipasquale also said that cayenne should only be taken when an ulcer is in a healing or calm phase, but never when it is acute or inflamed.
Additional digestive benefits of chile include the prevention of arterial blockage and the increase of fat metabolism. McCaleb said that chile can the lower blood level of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), which contributes to atherosclerosis, without affecting high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL), which retards atherosclerosis. A 1982 study done at Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University in Bangkok found that chile triggers a short-term blood thinning, or clot- resisting response, but this is not one its main therapeutic uses. McCaleb said that a cayenne-garlic combination is much more effective for preventing stroke.
Furthermore, a 1986 study at the American Institute of Nutrition showed that capsaicin reduces the amount of triglycerides (stored fat) in the blood cells, as well as reducing fat deposits in the liver. And, a good piece of news for the weight-conscious: studies at the Oxford Polytechnic Institute found that eating hot chiles can raise the metabolism enough to burn 45 calories of a 700-calorie meal!
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