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Is Apple Cider Vinegar Good For Gut Health? Meh.

If you’re looking for a natural remedy to improve your gut health, you may have stumbled upon apple cider vinegar. This amber-colored liquid has been praised for its numerous health benefits, including its potential to improve digestion and gut health. 

But is apple cider vinegar actually good for your gut?

The short answer: maybe. There are some reported benefits of apple cider vinegar for gut health, but they are modest, at best. We certainly don’t have enough conclusive evidence to suggest it is the miracle cure some would make it out to be. 

So the answer is complicated, and one we’ll try to unpack. 

 But first, let’s talk about what apple cider vinegar is and then determine just how credible these health claims truly are. 

Three apples and a bottle of apple cider vinegar
Does apple cider vinegar improve gut health?

What is Apple Cider Vinegar?

Apple cider vinegar is a type of vinegar made from fermented apple juice. It’s a popular ingredient in cooking, salad dressings, and marinades. 

The fermentation process involves adding yeast to the apple juice, which converts the natural sugars in the juice into alcohol. Bacteria then convert the alcohol into acetic acid, which gives vinegar its sour taste and pungent smell.

Apple cider vinegar contains a variety of nutrients, including acetic acid, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Because of that, a lot of people out there believe that apple cider vinegar has big health benefits, including improving gut health, aiding in weight loss, and reducing the risk of chronic diseases.

There are several types of apple cider vinegar available, including raw, unfiltered, and pasteurized. Raw and unfiltered apple cider vinegar contains a substance called “the mother,” which is a combination of bacteria and enzymes that are thought to have all those health benefits. (It’s that weird, cloudy, stringy-looking goop at the bottom of the bottle.)

Pasteurized apple cider vinegar has been heated to kill bacteria and enzymes, which may reduce its potential health benefits.

What Does The Research Say?

As we just mentioned, acetic acid is the main active component in ACV, and it is believed to have several health benefits.

One of the most commonly claimed benefits of ACV is that it can improve gut health. 

Some people believe that ACV can help with digestion, reduce inflammation, and promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. However, there is limited scientific evidence to support these claims.

Cleveland Clinic referenced a few small studies that have suggested that ACV may have some beneficial effects on gut health, but there were no links to said studies, so I’m going to that those with a grain of salt and a shrug. (You probably should, too.)

Here’s what I did find.

One study in 2016 found that ACV could help reduce inflammation in the gut and improve symptoms of ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease. 

Another study found that ACV could help improve the balance of gut bacteria in rats. 

However, more research is needed. We don’t have scientific consensus on the benefits of ACV for gut health in humans, despite what some supplement folks might tell you. 

A woman holds a small image of the small and large intestines in her hands
Does ACV help your gut?

The Downsides of Apple Cider Vinegar for Gut Health

It’s also important to note that ACV can have some potential downsides for gut health. 

ACV is highly acidic, and consuming too much of it can irritate the stomach lining and lead to digestive issues such as heartburn, bloating, and diarrhea – all the things it’s supposed to help guard against. 

I’m admittedly one of those folks. I tested taking diluted ACV before meals for about a week and didn’t experience any digestive benefits. I did, however, feel like my throat was on fire. 

Additionally, ACV can interact with certain medications, such as diuretics and insulin, so it’s important to talk to your doctor before taking ACV if you are on any medications.

Apple Cider Vinegar and Gut Health: The Claims

Let’s take a look at additional health claims of apple cider vinegar and gut health.

1. Can Help Control Blood Sugar

A small study in 2004 suggested that ACV might be helpful in regulating blood sugar. In this study participants were given a meal of a bagel, butter, and orange juice. 

Afterwards, some participants received 20 grams of ACV and others received a placebo. Researchers then checked blood glucose levels 30 minutes and 60 minutes after participants had eaten. 

Participants who received ACV had significantly lower blood glucose levels than those in the placebo group. 

So there is some indication that ACV can moderately lower blood glucose levels. Is it going to replace medication? 

No. 

In fact, if you’re taking diabetes medication, it’s important to check with your doctor before adding ACV into your lifestyle regimen (remember those potential interactions?). 

2. Might Promote Healthy Bacteria in the Gut (But Not In The Way You’ve Heard)

ACV is a prebiotic, so it does have the potential to introduce healthy bacteria in the gut, like many other fermented products. 

Here’s where a lot of people go wrong, though. While it’s true that the acetic acid in ACV contains antibacterial properties, that doesn’t mean it can actually stand up to the antibacterial properties of your own stomach. 

There are some articles that claim ACV’s antimicrobial effects can work inside of the body, but they are misinterpreting the results of this study when making such claims. 

The study conducted tests outside of a living organism and there is no reason to believe the findings would translate directly to “in vivo” situations (inside the body). 

Translation? Use raw ACV as a natural, non-toxic cleaning agent for your countertops. Hell, there’s even suggestions that adding it in your salads can function as an added layer of safety against salmonella on your lettuce. 

Just don’t expect it to clean up your gut in the same way. 

3. Might Aid in Digestion (But Not Likely)

ACV might improve digestion by increasing the acidity of your stomach. I say “might” because digestion problems are often complex and multi-layered. 

If you experience bloating due to low stomach acid, ACV might help you because it can help increase stomach acid. 

There are anecdotal reports of ACV helping alleviate that post-meal “heaviness” but again, that’s anecdotal. 

In terms of scientific evidence that ACV helps with gas and bloating? There’s just not a lot out there that points to yes. 

How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar for Gut Health

If you’re interested in experimenting with apple cider vinegar for gut health, there are a few things you should know. Here are some tips on how to use apple cider vinegar for gut health:

Dosage Recommendations

First, start with a small dosage and gradually increase it over time. The recommended dosage is 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar mixed with water, taken before meals. You can also dilute it in a larger amount of water and sip it throughout the day.

Make sure you’re using a raw, unfiltered brand with “the mother.” Shake up the bottle to distribute the mother before measuring out your tablespoon. 

It’s important to note that taking too much apple cider vinegar can be harmful to your health. Excessive consumption can lead to low potassium levels, which can cause muscle weakness, cramping, and even heart problems.

So, make sure to follow the recommended dosage (don’t go overboard) and speak to your doctor if you have any concerns.

Apple Cider Vinegar Recipes

If you’re not a fan of the taste of apple cider vinegar (which is most of us, right?), there are many recipes that can help make it more palatable. Here are a few ideas:

  • Apple cider vinegar tonic: Mix 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with 8 ounces of water, 1 teaspoon of honey, and a squeeze of lemon juice. This refreshing drink is perfect for sipping throughout the day. I’ve had this when trying to fight off congestion and it seemed to “cut through the crud” pretty well.
  • Apple cider vinegar salad dressing: Mix 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, and a pinch of salt and pepper. This tangy dressing is perfect for drizzling over salads. Plus, as we mentioned earlier, it may have the added benefit of protecting you from harmful bacteria on lettuce (not guaranteed, however).

Potential Risks and Side Effects of Apple Cider Vinegar

It’s important to be aware of the potential risks and side effects associated with too much ACV. Here are some of the most common risks and side effects you should know about:

Acid Reflux Risk

Apple cider vinegar is highly acidic, which can cause or worsen acid reflux in some people. If you experience heartburn or other symptoms of acid reflux after consuming apple cider vinegar, it may be best to avoid it or talk to your doctor about alternative remedies.

Tooth Enamel Erosion

The high acidity of apple cider vinegar can also erode tooth enamel over time. To minimize this risk, it is recommended to dilute apple cider vinegar with water or drink it through a straw. 

Additionally, it is important to wait at least 30 minutes after consuming apple cider vinegar before brushing your teeth to avoid further damage to the enamel.

Other potential side effects of consuming apple cider vinegar in large amounts include digestive issues (ironically), low potassium levels, and interactions with certain medications. 

Conclusion

Bottom line – there’s not a lot of scientific evidence to show that apple cider vinegar improves gut health in any significant way. 

That being said, it’s generally safe and if you feel like it helps you feel better after a meal, why not? 

Just make sure you connect with your doctor, especially if you have a history of ulcers, acid reflux, are taking certain medications, or experience chronic gut problems. 

And if you’re interested in exploring gut health further, there are a number of companies out there offering gut health tests these days.

I recently took a gut health test with Viome (affiliate link) and got my results back. I haven’t had enough time to implement the recommendations and see if they’ve helped or not, but once I do, I’ll add that information here as well.

Interested in trying a test yourself? You can get $110 dollars off any test using the coupon code SOBERISH. Visit the Viome site to learn more!

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