For some people, eating chili fruit can be very beneficial; for others, these fruits (they are not vegetables!) can represent bad news. The hot pepper or chili belongs to a category of foods known as Capsicum, and is part of the solanaceous plant family. For years, scientists and laymen have speculated that nightshades aggravate the symptoms of arthritis. However, some research has shown that the compounds in these spicy fruits can help relieve the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.
In addition to hot peppers, other common foods of the Solanaceae family include white potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and hot pepper derivatives, such as paprika and chili powder.
Capsaicin may also help relieve the pain associated with psoriasis, osteoarthritis, and diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage and pain), when applied topically using an over-the-counter cream.
Drugs and Aging, a study published
Solanaceae and alkaloids
Solanaceae contain substances called alkaloids, which are believed to cause a negative impact on muscle, nerve and joint functions. Exactly how they do it is unclear, but researchers suspect that alkaloids can cause calcium deposits to accumulate in soft tissues such as joints, causing inflammation and pain.
However, to date there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that solanaceae aggravate the symptoms of arthritis. In addition, the amount of alkaloids in these foods is so low that critics of this theory consider that Solanaceae probably affect only a very small number of people; specifically, those with a special sensitivity to alkaloids. On the other hand, when cooking solanaceous, its alkaloid content is reduced by 40 or 50 percent.
However, some arthritis patients have anecdotally reported significant relief of their symptoms after eliminating solanaceae from their diet. Therefore, it may be worth trying this modification in your diet plan to evaluate if it works for you.
Capsaicin and arthritis pain
Meanwhile, research done specifically on red hot pepper has yielded interesting results. Chili contains a substance called capsaicin, which gives it that "hot" and spicy flavor that you probably associate with this food. Despite all the heat it creates, capsaicin is an anti-inflammatory agent. The hotter the chili is, the higher its capsaicin content.
One study, published in the journal Drugs and Aging, found that capsaicin can also help relieve pain associated with psoriasis, osteoarthritis and diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage and pain), when applied topically using a cream of over-the-counter
Spicy chili in your diet
There are hundreds of hot chili varieties, with varying degrees of "spicy". The most common varieties are cayenne (cayenne pepper), habanero, jalapeño and Anaheim. When handling newly purchased chilli, fresh or dehydrated, be careful not to touch your eyes with your hands, as you may suffer irritation and burning.
Be sure to talk with your doctor or a professional dietitian about your plan to add or remove chili in your diet. Although these fruits are unlikely to cause side effects or interact detrimentally with any medication, your doctor will help you in your task to know about any alternative or complementary treatment plan that you follow.
About the author
Eilender is a university professor and writer of health sciences, based in New Jersey.