Are Hot Cheetos slowly tearing us apart inside?

Flamin’ Hot XXTra Crunchy Cheetos. (Photo: John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/MCT)[/caption]

Rene Craighead, 17, told CBS affiliate WREG-TV that she ate about four bags of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, Takis, and other spicy chips a day before she started having stomach problems. “She loves them. Every time I go out, she says, ‘Bring me back some Hot Takis, bring me back some Hot Chips,'” Craighead’s mother, also named Rene, said. “I want to make her happy, so I brought them back. She was eating big bags and would take them to school with her.”

The younger Craighead’s doctor said the spicy chips were behind the teen’s gastric issues, and she eventually had to have surgery to remove her gallbladder. “I was surprised that my daughter was sick like that,” the teen’s mother said.

Gallbladder-removal surgery, also known as a cholecystectomy, is usually necessary if a person has pain from gallstones that block the flow of bile in the gallbladder, a pear-shaped organ that sits just below the liver on the upper right side of the abdomen, according to the Mayo Clinic. Gallstones are hardened deposits of digestive fluid, and people are at a higher risk of forming them if they’re overweight or obese, eat a high-fat, low-fiber diet, eat a high-cholesterol diet, and are female, the Mayo Clinic says.

This story is pretty freaky, but you don’t need to worry that you’re destined for gallbladder-removal surgery if you love spicy foods, Atif Iqbal, MD, medical director of the Digestive Care Center at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., tells Yahoo Lifestyle. Capsaicin is the main component of chili peppers (and spicy chips), and that can cause a painful or burning sensation in your stomach after you eat a lot of spicy foods, Iqbal explains, but it has no impact on your gallbladder. However, capsaicin may cause stomach issues like gastritis, which is inflammation of your stomach, if you eat a lot of spicy foods, he says.

When you eat spicy foods, your stomach releases acid to process these foods, and spicy foods have a tendency to generate more acid in some situations, Ashanti Woods, MD, a pediatrician at Baltimore’s Mercy Medical Center, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. Spicy foods can also lead to a weakness in the sphincter muscle located between the esophagus and the stomach and is designed to keep stomach acid from traveling back up into the esophagus, he says. As a result, you might struggle with some heartburn if you have a serious spicy-foods habit.

However, it’s possible that spicy chips, which typically are high in fat, were part of an overall high-fat diet that could contribute to a person’s risk of developing gallstones, Rudolph Bedford, MD, a gastroenterologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., tells Yahoo Lifestyle. (According to nutrition information for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, the snack has 11 grams of fat per serving.) “Gallbladder issues in teenage girls is usually due to obesity,” Bedford says. ‘”It’s really about the amount of fat and high caloric content of foods but not specifically the spiciness of food.”

Overall, if you love spicy foods, you don’t need to worry about having your gallbladder removed because of it, Iqbal says. However, if you start noticing stomach issues when you eat spicy stuff, it’s probably a good idea to cut back on the heat and talk to your doctor, Bedford says.

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