Snack food makers are turning up the heat, and it may be to blame for severe stomach problems in children, doctors told ABC News.
An appetite for spicy snack foods could land kids in the hospital with stomach complaints, some doctors warn.
As many as five or six children come into her office each day with gastritis, Dr. Martha Rivera, a pediatrician at White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles, told ABC News. One patient, 12-year-old Andrew Medina, experienced burning stomach pain after eating 20 to 30 bags of spicy snacks per month.
Dr. Martha Rivera, a pediatrician at White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles, told ABC that she sees five or six children a day who complain of stomach problems.
Gastritis is a painful inflammation of the stomach lining that can cause indigestion, bloating, nausea and vomiting, among other symptoms.
“We have a population who loves to eat the hot, spicy, not-real foods, and they come in with these real complaints,” Rivera said.
Frito Lay’s line of spicy Cheetos and Doritos includes XXtra Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, Doritos Tapatio, Doritos Flamas, and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
Overindulging in certain foods and drinks including spicy processed snacks can change the stomach’s pH balance, making it more acidic, Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency room physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told ABC. Kids can get hooked on the jolt of flavoring, too, he added.
“It’s almost like a food addiction. They seek out the burn,” Glatter said. “It’s a little thrill-seeking. It’s like, ‘How much can I tolerate?’ and I’ve seen a number of children who eat four or five bags and come in screaming in pain.”
Andrew Medina, 12, confessed to eating 20 to 30 bags of spicy chips per month, which contributed to burning stomach pain.
Snacks like Flamin’ Hot Cheetos have been taken off the menu at some schools due to sky-high fat and sodium levels — not to mention the neon fingerprints kids leave all over school property after eating them.
But the scarlet-powdered snack and other hot and spicy products are likely only part of the stomach ache, said Dr. Dyan Hes, medical director of Gramercy Pediatrics in Manhattan.
Courtesy Dr. Dyan Hes
Dr. Dyan Hes tells the Daily News that the fat and sugar content in snacks and sodas can be distressing for kids’ stomachs.
“The same kids who are eating these snacks daily … have diets that are filled with junk, and Cheetos may be just one part,” she told the Daily News. “Spiciness can cause stomach upset, but there’s also lots of fat. Usually that stomach pain is coming from the fat content of the food.”
Not to mention those junk food noshes are “usually washed down with a sweet drink, like soda,” Hes added, and the sugar and carbonation can further aggravate the stomach.
Even active, normal-weight kids can experience these negative effects of junk food, and if your child complains of stomach issues or indigestion it’s time to cut back, Hes said. To avoid stomach complaints — or worse, a trip to the ER — increase your child’s fiber intake through whole grains, fruits and vegetables, cut out soda, and cut back on refined and processed carbs.