Q. I was on reflux drugs like omeprazole (PPIs) for over ten years and even had surgery for severe reflux. I was determined to get off the PPIs, so I started drinking ginger tea, eating crystallized ginger when acute pain hit, snacking on several almonds every few hours, and taking a teaspoon of honey at night before bed. It definitely helped ease the symptoms but did not eliminate the heartburn.
Feeling discouraged, I ate some jalapeno-topped snacks even though my doctor had warned me to avoid anything hot. My reflux is now kept in check by jalapenos every few days without needing anything else! The reflux pain only returns if I go a week without eating any jalapenos.
I have been PPI-free for over 18 months now and feel so much better. Why would jalapenos make such a difference so quickly? The pain eases within an hour of eating them and lasts for several days.
A. There is research suggesting that capsaicin (the hot stuff in jalapeno peppers) may be protective for the stomach lining (Journal of Physiology, Paris, Jan-Dec, 2001). Although some people experience discomfort when they eat hot peppers, regular use appears to decrease reflux symptoms (Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, April, 2010). This may be related to the way regular use of capsaicin cream on the skin can reduce pain, by depleting substance P that transmits pain. You can learn more about mustard, vinegar and hot peppers for heartburn in the book, Best Choices From The People’s Pharmacy.