dried red chili peppers

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.

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  1. Peggy

    I eat Jalapenos and anything that is hot land spicy on my food all year round but especially in the cold season. I do not get a flu shot and haven’t had the flu or even a mild cold. I think the spicy things that I eat must kill all the viruses that might think of staying with me.

  2. Mark D.

    The ingestion of vinegar, or other acids, to relieve indigestion appears to be quite rational. There is a condition called achlorhydria, the failure of the stomach to secrete gastric acid. If the failure is partial it is called hypochlorhydria. These conditions, said to affect 10-15% of the general population and frequently encountered in otherwise normal patients, were discussed at length on pp. 1014-1015 of the 4th (1970) edition of Goodman & Gilman, The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics. The remedy was hydrochloric acid with meals. They were also discussed in the 1972 edition of the Merck Manual.
    I could find no mention of it in the 2001 edition of Goodman & Gilman. A proprietary mixture of acids and lipids, trade named BioSavor, was found effective experimentally against a similar condition in early-weaned piglets (Morrow, et al, 1995). The diseases are still recognised in 2013 ICD-10. A couple of studies from the mid-twentieth century showed the incidence and severity to increase with aging from 40 to 80 years, with a 70% incidence at the high end. So there is nothing counter-intuitive about relieving symptoms of indigestion with vinegar (acetic acid).
    Homemade tomato soup or sauce, itself acid, made with olive oil, butter, and basil, oregano, and/or thyme works very well for me. It is much more palatable than just vinegar! Lack of stomach acid has been reported to hinder the absorption of vitamins, so it might be a good idea to take your vitamins at the same time as the vinegar.

  3. Maggie(Muggins)MacLean

    After my first pregnancy, I had terrible heart burn and acid reflux. I was quite miserable and there was nothing I tried that was working ‘well enough’. I had tried all the ‘home remedies’ & ‘over the counter’ recommendations.
    I couldn’t sleep properly anymore so I finally decided I must visit my Dr. (my last resort, but prescription drugs worry me, and basically that is what a visit incurs more often than not). I was give a ‘prescription’, which did give me relief, My Dr. informed me that I would probably need to take it regularly from now on forward. I liked the relief but I didn’t like a ‘life long dependence’ on a pill.
    I continued my research and came across a unique old classic German remedy for chronic acid reflux. For some reason it clicked with me and I decided to give it a try. Here it is: Juice a fresh cabbage and drink half a cup 3-times a day, for 30 days.
    I did this (and at the same time I decided to give up the prescription pills, I did not take while I drank the juiced cabbage).
    I got the results I had hoped for. I did supplement for the first 2-weeks with DGL before every meal (2-capsules).
    It was life changing and it cured the problem, which is way better then treating the symptoms.
    I had to pass this along, because I so empathize with the pain and discomfort that acid reflux can create.

  4. sharon k.

    Apple Cider Vinegar (with the mother) in water works great. Also does Aloe Vera Juice. I even found that the lesser expensive 100 percent Aloe Juice from Walmart and Publix does the trick. 7 dollars a gallon. Be careful though because so many junk food beverages are starting to list aloe as an ingredent. Sugar will only worsen Acid Reflex.

  5. alan

    well, capsaicin is a natural anti-inflammatory, isn’t it?

  6. Betty France

    My dad must have had heartburn back in the 50’s. He would take half glass of water, add maybe a couple tablespoons vinegar, then quickly add a spoon of soda, stir for one second, then gulp it down while it was still foaming. He said it worked.
    I took Requip for 7 months and got such severe reflux that no amount of soda/vinegar would have helped. It was a different kind of reflux or something.

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