For a lot of people food is something in which they can take joy and comfort. We indulge in junk food, try to eat healthy food, make too much food to celebrate special occasions and, thanks to the internet, we can learn about new and exotic foods to try from all over the world. But there are issues we need to be wary of, like over indulging, and food allergies, and safety in terms of food prep. But even the most wary and responsible among us would be unlikely to have seen any of these bizarre reactions to food coming.
10. A Collapsed Lung Caused by Ghost Peppers
If you’ve ever tried to eat a ghost pepper before you know that you should probably never eat a ghost pepper. They average about 1 million Scoville heat units. Compare that to sriracha which, at best, is about 2,500. For most people, eating a ghost pepper will cause extreme discomfort, sweating, drooling and potentially some stomach upset. That’s a good reaction, though, relatively speaking.
A 47-year-old man who had entered a ghost pepper eating challenge. After suffering some severe pain and vomiting he was taken to the hospital. Doctors discovered that he was suffering from an esophageal rupture, which means he ended up tearing a hole in his throat as a result of eating the pepper. He also suffered a pneumothorax, better known as a collapsed lung.
The hole in the man’s throat was leaking food into his chest cavity including hamburger, onion and “green vomitous material.” It’s been suggested he wasn’t even eating pure peppers, but a burger with peppers on it, then he chugged a bunch of water afterwards. He spent 23 days in hospital as a result, and still had a breathing tube when he left.
9. Carb-Heavy Foods Leading to Drunkenness
You’ve probably experienced some stomach upset at least once in your life after eating something that wasn’t necessarily bad, it just didn’t agree with you. Maybe it made you feel sick, or maybe it just made you gassy, who’s to say? The stomach is a weird and wonderful place, and no one knows this better than a 61-year-old Texas man whose claim to fame is an inexplicable beer gut.
Rather than excess weight from drinking beer, this beer gut refers to the way the man digests food. He went to the hospital suffering from dizziness and related issues and a blood test revealed his blood alcohol was 0.37% which is indicative of being pretty drunk. The weird part, of course, was that the man had not had any alcohol.
As it happens, the man suffers from a condition called auto-brewery syndrome. Doctors initially brushed it off as the man basically being a liar. They assumed he was drinking in secret and not admitting to it. After keeping him under observation and determining his alcohol levels would rise even when he clearly wasn’t drinking, they discovered that he had an abundance of brewer’s yeast in his digestive tract. As he ate any carbs, the yeast and sugars combined to start producing alcohol inside his body.
The condition is pretty rare and not enough studies have been done to verify much about it, but it does seem linked to the use of antibiotics, which may kill off other gut bacteria.
8. Black Licorice Heart Attacks
Black licorice is a bit of a maligned treat in the candy world and routinely shows up on lists of the worst candy ever. Still, some people have a taste for it and, as if to validate all the haters out there, that could be a very bad thing. Eating large quantities of black licorice carries some serious health risks that you might not expect from run-of-the-mill candy.
Black licorice has been linked to at least one death due to a heart attack. The man was 54-years-old and had been eating an entire bag or two of black licorice every day for weeks. He collapsed and then died 24 hours after getting to the hospital. His blood tests showed incredibly low potassium which is caused by something called glycyrrhizin. It’s what makes black licorice sweet, but it’s clearly dangerous.
Low potassium can dangerously alter heart rhythms and that, combined with the man’s already poor health owing to smoking and a poor diet, led to the fatal heart attack. Obviously you need to consume large quantities of licorice to suffer this fate, but it can happen.
7. A Throat Swelling Shut From Hot Food
Getting your food piping hot is usually a good thing because most meals just taste better that way. But there are levels of heat and you’ve probably burnt your tongue at least once when you realized something wasn’t cool enough to eat yet. So what do you do when food is too hot? Most of us wait, or maybe blow on it to speed the process up. Sadly, that was not what Darren Hickey did.
The 51-year-old man worked as a wedding planner and was at a venue where a chef offered him a fish cake to try. He must have eaten too quickly as the cake was hot and, rather than spit it out, he simply swallowed it. The fish cake burned the back of his throat and for a time he seemed fine. However, as the day progressed, the burn began to swell until it caused his throat to constrict so much he could no longer breathe. He died as a result of his injuries.
6. Death Caused by Fermented Corn Noodles
Most of us in the Western world eat noodles made from wheat, and occasionally we’ll have rice noodles as well. But you can make noodles out of a lot of different ingredients and that includes corn. A Chinese dish called suantangzi is made with fermented corn noodles and that’s where the problem arose for a family in China that consumed the dish back in 2020. Nine family members ended up dying.
There is a bacterium that can grow in corn which produces something called bongkrekic acid as a by-product. The bacteria that produces it is nearly impossible to get rid of, you can’t wash it off and you can’t cook it out, either. It has no taste or odor so you can’t tell if your food is infected.
Consuming infected grain leads to vomiting and abdominal pain and the mortality rate is pretty high. The only method of prevention is to basically not eat fermented grains at all.
5. Severe Gastrointestinal Distress from Escolar
The saying “there’s plenty of fish in the sea” is typically a reference to romantic prospects but it’s also just an accurate observation. There are lots of fish in the sea and humans tend to only consume a small number of them as a food source. Tuna, salmon, and bass are all very common. But what about escolar?
Unscrupulous fish sellers will sometimes swap escolar for tuna because it’s cheaper. By all accounts, escolar is a tasty fish, but it’s not ideal for most people to eat thanks to a natural wax in the fish’s flesh that can, in some people, cause keriorrhea. Even if you don’t know that word, the suffix must be ringing a few bells. It’s a specific kind of diarrhea that you can Google if you’re feeling adventurous and is known to be caused by escolar anywhere between 30 minutes and 36 hours after eating it.
While some people will hide the fish, pretending it’s tuna, other places sell it openly as white tuna, butterfish, rudderfish or Hawaiian walu, because it really is considered tasty and it doesn’t cause the adverse reaction in everyone, making it kind of like the seafood version of Russian Roulette. It earned escolar the nickname of Ex-Lax Fish.
4. Dreamfish Hallucinations
Along the coasts of Africa and Europe you can find a fish called salema porgy, but it’s more often called dreamfish. People have been eating them since Ancient Rome and probably before, but it’s definitely not an everyday sort of thing owing to the fact these little fish will make you trip out. They contain hallucinogenic compounds similar to LSD.
Despite the effects, or because of them, you can find the fish on menus throughout Europe, you just need to be cautious when eating it. Some people have noted that they’re pretty incapable of doing even basic tasks after eating the fish. At least one diner claimed to have seen the Angel of Death while other people have hallucinated Batman or the chatter of birds. As in, they could see the sounds birds were making.
It’s not all fun and games, however, as abdominal pain, amnesia and paralysis are also potential effects, along with “brain electricity.”
3. Popcorn Lung from Microwave Popcorn
Microwave popcorn is over 40 years old at this point and has been a staple of movie nights at home for that entire time. Who doesn’t love a bag of pre-buttered popcorn that’s ready in two minutes? But there is a little known dark side to microwave popcorn that’s known as popcorn lung. Sounds a bit silly, but it had the potential to be fatal.
Popcorn lung happens when the bronchioles of your lungs become damaged and inflamed from inhaling toxins. It gets its name because of how closely tied to popcorn the disease was. In fact, it was first identified in workers at a popcorn factory and later popped up in some people who ate large amounts of microwave popcorn at home.
Popcorn used to be processed with a chemical called diacetyl. That was what made it taste like butter without having to use real butter which would go bad in a package of popcorn.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the chemicals in the popcorn bags themselves were also determined to contain perfluorinated compounds, which have been linked to cancer.
2. Nardoo Poisoning
Most of us have likely not heard of nardoo, but it’s an edible fern you can find in Australia. Aboriginal people have known of it for ages and they can show you how to cook and eat it too, if you want. And, if you don’t want to suffer the potential lethal consequences of eating it, you really should follow their instructions.
Nardoo’s big claim to fame dates back to 1861 when Robert O’Hara Burke and William John Wills tried to be the first non-aboriginals to cross Australia from South to North. Within three months their supplies ran low, and some locals showed them how to make nardoo. With an abundant supply, they continued to eat it, up to five pounds of it a day, but there was a problem. Despite eating, they were growing weak. They lost weight, their heart rates slowed, and they began to shake frequently. They were starving, but didn’t realize it.
Nardoo contains an enzyme called thiaminase. It prevents the body from processing thiamine, which is vitamin B1 and that, in turn, prevents you from metabolizing energy from the food you eat. So you can eat and eat and eat but get no nutritional benefits.
What Wills and Burke failed to realize was that the aboriginals had been roasting the seed pods of the nardoo before preparing it. Heat breaks down the thiaminase and makes it edible. They were eating it raw. Both men died from it as a result.
1. A Sexually Transmitted Allergy
Nut allergies are so commonplace that kids can no longer have peanut butter in most schools and peanuts were replaced by pretzels on airplanes. But the extent to which a person may suffer a nut allergy is not something most of us fully understand because, in some cases, it’s almost unbelievable. That’s the case with a couple who were written about in a medical journal back in 2007.
In this case, the man in the couple had eaten Brazil nuts two or three hours before getting together with his girlfriend, who they were both aware was allergic to the nuts. He claimed to have already bathed and brushed his teeth before seeing her so there was no chance of a reaction. However, there was still a reaction, and a very specific one in a very sensitive location that manifested after they had sex, if you catch our meaning.
Further testing showed that the allergens from the nuts were actually transmitted through her boyfriend’s semen during intercourse causing her to have an allergic reaction. There’s evidence of a similar situation happening to another woman indicating allergies can be essentially sexually transmitted.