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How to Enjoy Your Sichuan Sauce Without Triggering Heartburn

By Carissa Andrews  •   October 23, 2017

Photo Credit: Kou Shui Ji or Mouth-watering Chicken (口水鸡) in Sichuan Chilly Oil Sauce, by @CANPharmacyKing from Hong Kong West Restaurant Victoria BC
Photo Credit: Kou Shui Ji or Mouth-watering Chicken (口水鸡) in Sichuan Chilly Oil Sauce, by @CANPharmacyKing from Hong Kong West Restaurant Victoria BC

Heartburn can certainly put a damper on the types of foods people enjoy—spicy foods being one of the top sour stomach and heartburn causing culprits. But what if we told you it’s still possible to enjoy your favorite Sichuan sauce without triggering heartburn or bringing on acid reflux? Furthermore, what if we told you, there are actually some pretty awesome health benefits to eating those spicy suppers? Well, there are. Let’s dig in a bit deeper to understand the risks and benefits associated with spicy food consumption.

Heartburn Triggers

Do you crave spicy meals, only to regret the decision to up the hot factor a few hours after indulging? Heartburn and acid reflux are often the culprit of some intensely unpleasant aftereffects of a yummy, spicy meal. Its official name is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and it arises when food and stomach acids get up into the esophagus by escaping the valve at the top of the stomach.

Enjoying your Sichuan sauces without triggering heartburn really is a personal affair. It all starts by knowing what your particular heartburn triggers might be. The most common causes researchers have found to trigger the burning sensation in your chest include:

• Alcohol

• Citrus fruits (including juice)

• Carbonated beverages

• Coffee and other sources of caffeine

• Chocolate

• Tomato sauces

• Fatty foods (particularly deep fried)

• Spicy foods

Spicy Food Benefits

Spicy foods might be a source of contention for heartburn sufferers, but they can also have their own unique health benefits. Sometimes, it might be worth balancing out the pros and cons to see if it’s worth giving your favorite hot sauce another try. Here are our top five benefits of enjoying spicy foods to your heart’s content:

Clears Congestion

With cold season just about upon us, spicy foods are just the trick to clear up any sinus congestion that may be bringing you down. Spicy foods contain capsaicin, and it works to clear out sinus by making your nose run. There are even studies to show that spicy foods with capsaicin help to ease sinus infections. Pretty nice, eh?

Added Flavor

Need a way to boost the flavor of your dish without adding extra calories? Hot sauces like Sichuan are fantastic for adding tons of flavor to just about every dish (pasta, meats, veggies—you name it!), without the high caloric content some of the others carry. In fact, on average, a tablespoon of most spicy hot sauces have under 10 calories per tablespoon. What’s not to love?

Metabolism Booster

In addition to being low on the caloric side, most hot sauces are great for kickstarting your metabolism and keeping your digestive tract moving along. This is in part because most hot sauces contain capsaicin and vitamin C – both known metabolism boosters.


Regardless of the type of health sauce, chances are there are some peppers or pepper parts hiding in there somewhere. Every pepper under the sun has its own unique set of antioxidants, but all of them help in a variety of ways – from slowing tumor growth and inhibiting cancer cells, to protecting eyes against cataracts or macular degeneration.

Supports Healthy Blood Pressure Levels

– We all know high blood pressure isn’t good for a person. In fact, chronic high blood pressure can lead to a host of health problems, many of which can become severe. Lucky for us, studies are showing that consuming spicy foods containing capsaicin promotes nitric oxide release in the blood, which results in lowered blood pressure.

Recipes and Tips to Avoid Heartburn

Fortunately, even if you suffer from bouts of GERD, you can still enjoy your spicy foods. Here are three important tips to keep in mind, as well as a couple of recipes you might want to try out.

TIP #1: Smaller, frequent meals

One of the easiest, and likely most obvious tips to avoid heartburn comes down to moderation. You don’t need to say no to your Sichuan sauce if you keep your portion sizes under control. That being said, many GERD sufferers get relief by eating more frequently, as well.

TIP #2: Quit smoking, get moving

Unhealthy habits have a way of making things worse. Research has begun to pile up, indicating a correlation between smoking and susceptibility to GERD. In fact, the longer people smoke, the more likely it becomes they will suffer from acid reflux. When you combine that with obesity, your chances increase exponentially. In fact, being overweight can add pressure to the valve at the top of the stomach, increasing your BMI by just 5 can increase your GERD risk by 1.2%.

TIP #3: Sleep elevated, go for a walk

Regardless of what you eat, reflux can occur any time stomach contents rise over the stomach valve. One of the best ways to alleviate nighttime reflux is to sleep with the head of your bed elevated. This can be done by elevating the head of your bed a couple of inches with wood blocks, or deploying a wedge-shaped pillow under your torso. Gravity also is important if daytime heartburn has you down. Stay upright for a couple of hours after eating, and even try going for a light walk after a big meal to keep things moving along.

RECIPE IDEA #1: Spicy Scrambled Eggs

Need a super quick, but yummy way to rev up your metabolism in the morning? Why not try your favorite hot sauce on some scrambled eggs? Be sure to maintain an upright position after eating (or maybe go for a 20-minute walk) to avoid any reflux symptoms after eating.

RECIPE IDEA #2: Yummy Sichuan Sauce

This recipe has been modified from the Quick and Easy Sichuan (Szechuan) Sauce, posted via Vogue.com. It’s got a similar kick, but goes a little easy on the chili sauce.


½ tsp ground, roasted Sichuan Peppercorns

¼ tsp salt

4 tsp tahini

2 tsp organic tamari gluten free soy sauce

1 ½ tsp chili oil with flake

½ tsp olive oil

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix. Great on noodles and sautéed veggies.

Hopefully you’ve realized spicy foods can still have their place—even if you suffer with GERD. All it takes is a little awareness of your personal triggers, and incorporating some mindful tips for eating spicy foods so they don’t cause unwanted reflux. That way, you can enjoy the health benefits and yummy taste without ever having any of the GERD symptoms that goes along with it. Enjoy!


Carissa Andrews is a freelance writer, graphic designer, and author. You can learn more about her at her website.


The purpose of the above content is to raise awareness only and does not advocate treatment or diagnosis. This information should not be substituted for your physician's consultation and it should not indicate that use of the drug is safe and suitable for you or your (pet). Seek professional medical advice and treatment if you have any questions or concerns.