Don't eat spicy chips if you have a stomach ulcer

By Tim Nelson
Updated September 27, 2018
Credit: AbbieImages/Getty Images

Unless you’ve borrowed your mom’s credit card to buy Supreme, there’s a good chance you don’t really know who rapper Lil Xan is. There’s probably an even better chance that you’ve never been sent to the emergency room by processed junk food. And yet, here we are.

As evidenced by the above shoddily-filmed Instagram video, 22-year-old Diego Leanos was hospitalized not for abusing the prescription benzodiazepine that inspires his stage name, but for an alleged overindulgence in Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. The snack “ripped something in my stomach open so I puked a little blood,” Xan says.

When presented with such an absurd claim, incredulity and speculation is a natural reaction. Maybe this was some sort of cover-up for a more serious (or unflattering) hospitalization. Maybe it was some sort of viral marketing stunt. But can Hot Cheetos really cause stomach issues serious enough to merit hospitalization?

At least one gastroenterologist (a digestive system specialist) believes that overeating spicy chips can be a contributing factor to stomach and gallbladder problems. “We do see tons of gastritis [inflammation of the stomach lining] and ulcer-related stuff due to [hot chips]," Dr. Cary Cavender of Le Bonheur Children's Hospital told WREG earlier in 2018. "We probably see around 100 kids a month, easily."

Still, there’s reason to be skeptical. A story about Cheeto-based hospitalizations from 2012 implies that while it’s possible that the spices found in hot Cheetos could exacerbate gastrointestinal issues, it’s also possible that what Xan perceived as blood in his vomit may have been nothing more than the signature red dye.

When examined in more detail, Lil Xan’s description of the events that sent him to the hospital seem consistent with Dr. Cavender’s medical opinion. On top of his “really poor diet”, Xan told TMZ that one bag (of indeterminate size) was enough to give him four days of stomach aches, at which point a subsequent bag caused him to vomit blood. That’s consistent with the symptoms of a stomach ulcer, a diagnosis that seems corroborated by Xan’s description of his ultrasound results.

So will eating a single bag of Hot Cheetos send you to the hospital? Nah. Given Xan’s comments about his diet and collection of bad face tattoos, this was likely that the product of truly rampant Hot Cheeto consumption above and beyond what the casual snacker would have to worry about. Still, there’s no harm in moderating your Hot Cheeto consumption or getting your spice fix somewhere else.