It might sound contradictory, because we all know that spicy foods are not what you want to be eating when you have indigestion, but believe it or not there is something special about mustard (regular American mustard, Dijon mustard – even the kinds with the little mustard seeds in it).
To understand why this works we need to understand what causes heart burn.
Causes of Indigestion
Heartburn, or indigestion, is caused when the stomach produces acids as a result of digesting food, and these acids start to irritate the gullet, or the portion of the digestive track above the stomach. It can cause wind and bloating as well.
Acid indigestion affects different people differently, and the best link we have managed to find is to blood type. People with different blood types will metabolise the acids in certain foods differently, so while beer might give you heartburn, it might be spicy foods that do it for other people.
In severe cases, where the muscle that closes off the stomach is not strong enough to hold back even normal acid reactions, this is called Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or Acid Reflux. This should be treated by a doctor, as it can lead to permanent damage to the esophagus and vocal chords.
What’s in Mustard That Cures Indigestion?
Your first guess is that there is some kind of magical ingredient in mustard, unknown to Western Science but kept a secret by Oriental medicinal gurus for thousands of years. As exciting as that would be, it’s not the case. It’s not the sodium (salt) in the mustard, nor any ingredient in the mustard seeds.
It’s the vinegar.
How Does Vinegar Help Heartburn?
The vinegar in mustard is a very weak acid, which actually makes mustard one of the least acidic foods you can eat. It doesn’t cause your stomach to produce any extra acid, and the acid in the vinegar helps to lower the overall pH level of your stomach acid.
When combined with an antacid, a little spoonful of mustard or a generous squeeze of it onto a hot dog can help to cure indigestion instantly – well, almost.
What Else Can I Take?
There are many over the counter antacids available, but modern medicine has come up with a few new tricks to handle acid indigestion. New medicines called H-2 receptor blockers prevent your stomach from producing acid, or limit its production, so that no matter what you eat your body still only produces the normal amount of acid.