Q: I recently visited an unfamiliar restaurant. When my order came, I thought they had added a dollop of decorative eggplant to my plate. I put the entire teaspoonful into my mouth and immediately realized it was wasabi.
I began coughing, and my face turned bright red. I ran to the bathroom to spit it out. An employee asked if there was anything she could get me. I immediately asked for vinegar, remembering that it neutralizes hot, spicy food. I got immediate relief from gargling the cider vinegar.
A: Wasabi (Japanese horseradish) is made from the stems of a plant that grows in Japan. Because it is so scarce and valuable, some of the wasabi that is found in restaurants or supermarkets is actually created from horseradish and hot mustard with food coloring to make it look green.
Others have made your mistake and swallowed too much of this condiment. Because spicy mustard and horseradish can taste extremely hot, too much all at once can take your breath away. Your gargling trick might save someone else from experiencing a bad reaction.
Q: After gallbladder removal in 2014, I started having bouts of bad diarrhea leading to nausea and dehydration, and then to the hospital. I could no longer go to meetings or even shop safely.
Then I remembered reading stories from this column and decided to try coconut cookies. Two Archway Coconut Macaroon cookies a day plus a cup of ginger tea solved most of the problem. I no longer miss meetings or have to stay at home all the time. It is not a perfect cure, but it does work well for me, and I am grateful to know about it.
A research report presented at the Digestive Disease Week conference in June 2017 supported the role of coconut oil and cocoa butter against intestinal inflammation. Mice that were fed high-coconut chow had better bacterial ecology in their GI tracts and less inflammation.
Not everyone benefits as much as you do. That said, some patients with Crohn’s disease have had remarkable success with this simple approach.
Q: I use turmeric as a spice rather than buying capsules of it. It is absorbed much better if you take it with a little pepper or ginger.
I used to just put a little turmeric on a spoon with some kind of fat and some pepper and eat it, but I noticed that it was irritating my stomach that way. Then I read that in India they put turmeric in warm milk and give it to kids to drink. I tried that (in almond milk) and no longer have an upset stomach.
A: You are quite correct that in India people use turmeric regularly as a spice rather than take it in capsules as a dietary supplement. It is a key ingredient in curry.
Medical uses for turmeric keep expanding. The active ingredient, curcumin, has been shown to ease inflammation and pain associated with arthritis (Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, June 15, 2016). It also has anti-cancer activity.
You can learn much more about the health benefits of turmeric and other spices in our book “Spice Up Your Health.” We include special recipes for turmeric toast and scramble as well as turmeric milk. It is available at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email them via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”