DEAR DR. BLONZ: Cereals and fruit have been a part of my breakfast for decades, but about two days after switching to a new brand of cereal, I started to feel that I had become violent, moody and so depressed. I could hardly pick myself up off the floor. Of course, I stopped eating the cereal, and the symptoms did fade. The cereal is the only new food I can recall. Could this have caused this reaction? Any help would be greatly appreciated. -- S.C., Sacramento, California
DEAR S.C.: The first thing to do was to stop consuming any suspect item(s), but also to make a note of any novel experiences or exposures, including eating out, that occurred during this time. It is good that your problem went away, but the cereal, while reasonable to suspect, may not be the answer. It could have been any of a number of things, from something you ate -- including food poisoning -- to an insect bite, to a reaction to a medication you are taking. Given the nature of the reaction, it is in your best interest to do more checking. You don’t want to take on a food fear if it’s not responsible. Consider contacting your family physician or a specialist competent in the areas of allergy and immunology. Seeking assistance makes sense as it is never a good idea to experiment on oneself, especially when missteps might evoke the type of reaction you describe. If your health professionals believe that a food is a likely suspect, they can help you strategize whether and how to test suspect item(s) or to look elsewhere for clues. Uncovering suspect food reactions is a bit of a detective game, and a knowledgeable approach is key. I have heard from many individuals who have written foods or food components off their menu based on faulty logic. You can read more about food allergies and untoward reactions to food components at the website for the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology: b.link/food32. Also, check out the Food Allergy Network: www.foodallergy.org.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: Is it true that black pepper is very bad for you and that it is not eliminated by the body and collects in the kidneys? -- L.A., via email
DEAR L.A.: It is important to appreciate that nature represents a difficult environment, and successful plants will have evolved to produce a custom collection of phytochemicals to assure their growth and continued reproduction. Along these lines, there are compounds in black pepper (Piper nigrum) that might pose a problem, but only if an excessive amount of crushed peppercorns was a big part of your diet. Assuming there are no contaminants in the pepper, and that there is no individual sensitivity to its components, there is no evidence that black pepper is bad for you when used as a seasoning. The idea that something in black pepper collects in the kidneys does not jibe with any information that I have ever seen.
Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.