I Hear Apple Cider Vinegar Helps Digestion. True?
Expert Advice from Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD
While studies suggest vinegar has potential cholesterol-lowering effects, there aren’t human trials to support this finding
Apple cider vinegar
has a long history of folk medicine use and continues to enjoy popularity today as a natural remedy for indigestion and heartburn
, and other conditions. Despite that, it hasn’t been well studied, and the majority of apple cider vinegar research is in mice and rats. While these animal studies suggest potential cholesterol-lowering effects, there aren’t human trials to support this finding. The few studies on vinegar’s blood sugar effects are mixed and add up to weak support for any specific benefits.
Consider the big picture
Vinegar is created through fermentation, and since certain fermented foods, such as kim-chi, are thought to bestow some health benefits to the gut, perhaps some of that reputation has rubbed off on apple cider vinegar as well. However, given the lack of evidence, before you take apple cider vinegar, consider your particular health concerns and make an informed decision.
- Examine alternatives. If digestive improvement is what you’re seeking, consider tried-and-true options, such as fiber supplements and fluids, prebiotics (fructo-oligosaccharides, inulin) and probiotics.
- Avoid the burn. Apple cider vinegar tablets may burn the esophagus, and one study found quality and amount of active ingredients in these supplements vary widely.
- Protect your teeth. Apple cider vinegar is acidic, and may weaken tooth enamel. If you take vinegar, rinse well with water after. Some dental experts also suggest waiting 30 minutes before brushing; the combination of the acid with brushing may further worsen enamel erosion.
- Use topically with caution. Some people have reported “chemical burns” after applying apple cider vinegar to the skin.
- Avoid mixing with meds. Do not take apple cider vinegar with medications or dietary supplements. Medication interactions with vinegar are documented, and vinegar may alter how your body absorbs and processes vitamins and minerals.
- Bone up. Avoid this remedy if you have concerns about bone density, osteopenia (mild to moderate bone loss) or osteoporosis (severe bone loss); some health experts note vinegar may decrease bone density
- Ponder potassium. Apple cider vinegar may lower potassium levels, and if you take diuretics or other heart medications, this effect could cause serious harm to health.
Finally, for those with type 1 diabetes, apple cider vinegar may do more harm than good. One trial found that for those with type 1 diabetes and delayed stomach emptying (diabetic gastroparesis), taking 30 ml of apple cider vinegar in water appeared to reduce stomach emptying rate further. This could worsen blood sugar control and increase complications associated with gastroparesis.
Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.