Doctors warn about potential for "flamin' hot" gastritis

Doctors warn about potential for "flamin' hot" gastritis »Play Video
A bag of Flamin' Hot Cheetos.

The next time your child gets a stomach ache, you might want to ask them if they've been eating spicy snacks.

Doctors are warning parents that the snacks, like the Flamin' Hot Cheetos and the Flamin' Hot Doritos, can make your kids sick after seeing more kids coming to the emergency room with stomach pains and gastritis from hot and spicy junk food.

The snacks are popular with the younger crowd, like teenagers Lola Lewis and Anayeli Diaz, who go to Lincoln High School in Portland.
"Oh, so good!" said Lewis. "They're yummy! I love them!"

"We eat them for snack. We eat them for break all the time," added Diaz. "They're, like, my first chip option!"

But pediatrician Heather Larson at Randall Children's Pediatric Care in Forest Heights said the manufactured spice flavoring in the hot and spicy junk food can be harder to digest than the natural spices in spicy food like salsa, resulting in some children suffering from gastritis and stomach pain.

"It's more of a processed food, kind of a fake spice, that can irritate the stomach," said Dr. Larson. "By making it more acidic, it's starting to damage the lining of cells that are in the stomach. And it's the injury to the lining of the stomach that causes all of the pain."

Dr. Larson added that it is not just the quality of the spice, but the quantity that some children eat.

"We don't see a lot of kids coming in and saying, 'I ate 10 jars of salsa and my stomach hurts,'" said Dr. Larson. "When it comes to your junk food, your chips and that kind of thing, they start eating and they don't stop until the bag is gone."

Dr. Larson said children of a certain age may be more at risk.

"They're at the age group where they're going to 7-Eleven or going to the convenience store to buy snacks and you have no control over what they're doing, as far as what they're choosing to buy," she said.

She said one bag a week of a spicy snack should be enough for children.

"Push it back to where it's a normal portion size and it's once a week instead of multiple times a day or every single day," Dr. Larson said.

She also suggested that parents talk to their children about the possible effects of eating too many "flamin' hot" snacks, and that their stomachs may need time to heal if they hurt after eating spicy chips.

"Maybe if our tummy's bothering us, we need to back off and hold off on doing it for a couple of weeks," said Dr. Larson, "and choose some other things like maybe a piece of fruit or yogurt."