Apple Cider vinegar: benefits for the stomach
You might've already heard about apple cider vinegar, that kind of cloudy, amber-coloured vinegar that has appeared on the shelves of your local supermarket.
The health benefits of apple cider vinegar are vast, with some using it to support their immune system and others taking apple cider vinegar as a supplement to boost their nutrient levels.
But, whilst the popularity of apple cider vinegar has grown in recent years, apple cider vinegar has, in fact, been used for thousands of years as a natural remedy.
And just one of those uses has been to use apple cider vinegar for a range of stomach concerns, like bloating and even supporting weight loss.
If you're interested to learn more about how apple cider vinegar (ACV) could help your stomach and gut, keep reading as we'll give you the low-down on everything you need to know.
In this article:
- What is apple cider vinegar?
- The benefits of apple cider vinegar for your stomach
- Apple cider vinegar for bloating
- Apple cider vinegar and digestion
- Apple cider vinegar and blood sugar levels
- Apple cider vinegar for gas relief
- Apple cider vinegar and weight loss
- How to take apple cider vinegar for your stomach
- Potential side effects of apple cider vinegar
- The final say
Not to be confused with the type of vinegar you add to your fish and chips, apple cider vinegar is made as a result of the apple cider fermentation process.
This fermentation process uses bacteria - also known as the mother - and yeast to ferment the naturally occurring sugars in apples. After a while, the cider will turn into alcohol and, after further processing, into the apple cider vinegar we know and love.
You might notice two kinds of ACV: apple cider vinegar with 'mother' and apple cider vinegar without.
All this means is that apple cider vinegar with 'mother' is full of good bacteria used in the fermentation process as it is not filtered out after production.
The 'mother' is made up of strains of friendly bacteria that are important for keeping our digestive system working as it should.
It's the mother that helps to ferment the alcohol into acetic acid, and you'll notice it in your vinegar as a floating, cloudy substance.
Even though apple cider vinegar without the mother has been filtered, it doesn't mean it loses all its properties. But if you wish to make the most of your apple cider vinegar, choosing a bottle with the mother means you get even more of the good stuff.
Packed full of good bacteria, this naturally acidic vinegar is thought to have many health benefits, especially regarding your stomach and gut.
Your gut health is so essential for your overall health, with evidence even showing links between your gut and your mental health.
It's thought that your brain and your gut are connected, so if your gut or mental health is affected somehow, it can affect the other. Like when you feel butterflies in your stomach when you're nervous! Your brain and your gut will respond to each other and can trigger different symptoms.1
Supporting the health of your gut can be beneficial for your health and well-being in many ways.
But can apple cider vinegar help?
We'll discuss some of the ways that taking apple cider vinegar may help your stomach.
Bloating is an entirely normal process that happens in our stomach and is often due to a build-up of gas. You'll likely notice when you're bloated as you may feel pressure in your stomach or lower abdomen.
Bloating can happen when you eat too much, eat too fast, or eat foods that your body struggles to digest.
In fact, research suggests that concerns like constipation and irritable bowel syndrome can create more gasses, leading to more bloating.2
Sometimes, excess bacteria in your stomach can release gasses and cause bloating.
The bacterial content of apple cider vinegar means it is packed full of gut-friendly bacteria that help to support the microbiome that is your gut. These properties are thought to help balance the bacteria in your stomach, keeping harmful bacteria at bay.
As a result, some believe that taking apple cider vinegar may help balance your gut bacteria and keep bloating to a minimum.3
However, it is important to understand that bloating can result from many different things. So, you should always check with a medical professional if you have any concerns, as they can help you figure out the cause.
Many people who take apple cider vinegar believe its acetic acid content can help your body digest food, particularly foods rich in protein.
If your body is struggling to digest food, you might notice that you feel sluggish, experience more gas and bloating and even constipation or heartburn.4
Your stomach will naturally produce the acid it needs to digest food, but sometimes, your stomach acid levels are lower. This happens naturally as we age but can also be because of high stress levels, smoking and drinking or as an effect from some types of medication.5
Supporting your stomach acid levels is a great way to help your body make the most of the food you consume through digestion.
If your stomach acid levels are low, increasing the level of acid in your stomach could allow your body to better digest your food, encouraging your digestive system to work more efficiently.
While there is very little research to prove that apple cider vinegar may help with your digestion, some think that the naturally acidic ACV does help by helping to raise acid levels in your stomach.
Some also believe that apple cider vinegar's ability to support your body in digestion can also be used to help stabilise your body's blood sugar levels after eating.
It is thought that taking apple cider vinegar before a meal can help to control and slow stomach emptying.6
By slowing down the emptying of the stomach, the rate at which your body absorbs your food is controlled better, and as a result, it can help to stabilise your blood sugar levels.7
However, more scientific research is needed to prove this theory definitively. It is worth noting that one study found that slowing down the emptying of your stomach actually created more gas and bloating in some participants.8
If you have any concerns about your blood sugar, always consult a doctor before taking apple cider vinegar. They will be able to advise you on suitable support.
Whether apple cider vinegar can help to relieve gas is most likely similar to its potential for helping with digestion and bloating.
Gas is an entirely normal part of day-to-day life. It is a result of eating food and your body digesting this food.
When gas builds up, it'll usually pass through the body, but sometimes if too much is produced, it can become trapped and cause discomfort - resulting in bloating.
Unfortunately, there is no specific evidence to show that apple cider vinegar can relieve gas, only anecdotal suggestions from those who have tried it.
Apple cider vinegar for weight loss has long been a talked-about topic, with celebrities and wellness experts worldwide claiming apple cider vinegar is the new weight loss saviour.
Research suggests that apple cider vinegar can influence weight loss alongside a healthy lifestyle of eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly.11
In combination with ACV helping to aid digestion and stabilise blood sugar levels, there have been suggestions that it can help keep you fuller for longer.
Whether or not ACV is a good natural laxative is yet to be proven, but research has shown that apple cider vinegar can help you feel fuller for longer after eating a meal.12
Related article: Apple cider vinegar & weight loss: how it works
There are many ways to take apple cider vinegar in, from using it in salad dressings to drinking apple cider vinegar with warm water and lemon juice or taking it as a supplement, like an apple cider vinegar gummy.
It is advised to never drink apple cider vinegar straight as it can damage your tooth enamel and the lining of your throat. Instead, it would be best if you always diluted apple cider vinegar first, whether this is mixed into salad dressings with other ingredients or stirred into an existing drink or glass of water.
As a rule, you should not take more than 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar per day, and you should always start with less and work your way up to 2 tablespoons over time.
Instead, start with 1 tablespoon (or even less) and see how you get on.
It is generally safe to drink apple cider vinegar every day but always check with a doctor first to see if it is suitable for you and your needs.
For an easy, fuss-free way to take apple cider vinegar, why not try apple cider vinegar supplements? These pre-measured, handy tablets mean you can get your ACV fix every day without measuring out quantities.
As a bonus, apple cider vinegar supplements tend to contain other vitamins and minerals too!
Recommended article: Is it safe to drink apple cider vinegar every day?
Whilst small amounts of ACV are considered safe for most people, consuming apple cider vinegar in large amounts has been linked to a few side effects.
These include the erosion of tooth enamel, interference with medication, a decrease in potassium levels, an allergic reaction and damage to the lining of the throat.
Erosion of tooth enamel:
The high acid content in apple cider vinegar could erode the enamel on your teeth over time.
Try drinking apple cider vinegar through a straw to avoid contact with your teeth, and always make sure it is diluted.
Decreased potassium levels:
Those that saw a decrease in their potassium were found also to be taking certain medications for their heart and sometimes taking common diuretics.13
Allergies are common, and you might not be aware that you have an allergy to ACV if it is not already part of your diet.
If you experience any signs of an allergic reaction after taking apple cider vinegar in any form, such as a rash, trouble breathing or swollen eyes and throat, contact your doctor immediately.
Damage to your throat:
Similarly, to the potential to erode your tooth enamel, the high acid content of ACV can cause damage to your throat.14
Always dilute your apple cider vinegar before drinking.
Interfering with medication:
Like any supplement, it is always best to check with a doctor before taking it to ensure you are safe and not taking something that may affect any medication.
While many believe that apple cider vinegar has some great benefits for your stomach, more evidence is needed regarding whether it is beneficial for the stomach.
Apple cider vinegar has the potential to be a great inclusion in many people's diets and routines. From its acid content to its friendly bacteria, there are signs that it could be a versatile and beneficial product.
It would be best if you always take any supplement alongside a healthy lifestyle and apple cider vinegar is no different. Make sure you eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly instead of relying on apple cider vinegar alone.
Unfortunately, there is no miracle cure for any health concern, and no supplement should be viewed as one. Whilst it has the potential to help with some concerns, some people may find notice no changes or may even experience some side effects.
But don't despair. If you've bought yourself a bottle of apple cider vinegar but aren't sure whether to consume it, you could try mixing it into some of your favourite recipes when cooking.
If you find yourself experiencing discomfort or experience any symptoms that you are unsure about, you should always check with a medical professional.