Q. My acid reflux was so severe that I was on four prescription acid suppressors a day. I could not sleep more than an hour at a time because the reflux would wake me. If I did sleep, I’d have a bad headache upon waking from reflux.
Then I ate some Thai hot sauce. I thought the hot sauce pain would be better than the constant reflux, but to my surprise, the reflux went away!
I now consume about 4 ounces of the spicy hot sauce a day to keep the acid reflux away, and I feel great. I don’t need acid fighters any longer and all my stomach pain is gone.
My 80-year-old dad told me vinegar would cure the heartburn. I ignored him because that sounded counterintuitive, but he was so right. I wish I had listened before the acid reflux hurt my esophagus. The good news is that my doctor says it is healing now. He cannot believe how hot peppers cured it.
A. Hot sauce for heartburn definitely sounds counterintuitive. Researchers in Mexico City, where they know about hot peppers, studied the effect of chilis on heartburn symptoms (Revista de Gastroenterologia de Mexico, 2010). They found that capsaicin, the compound that gives hot peppers their zing, caused heartburn in most subjects with reflux and about a third of healthy subjects.
Those with Barrett’s esophagus, however, were less sensitive to subsequent heartburn triggers after exposure to capsaicin. Barrett’s esophagus is a condition in which chronic reflux has damaged the cells lining the esophagus.
Another reader wrote: “Here in the U.S., I get acid reflux about every other day. Even bland food can set it off. I treat it occasionally with ranitidine.
“When I’m in Thailand, however, I eat the spiciest food I’ve ever put to my lips. For some odd reason, I get no heartburn whatsoever.”
We imagine that your condition was Barrett’s esophagus, or something quite similar. That might explain why the hot sauce helped your heartburn symptoms. We are very pleased to hear that the condition is healing.
For more information on heartburn and how to handle it, we offer our Guide to Digestive Disorders.