Written by Divinity Nutra, Updated on July 18, 2022
Home remedies often serve the purpose of healing digestive problems and are fairly effective most of the time. Among them, apple cider vinegar has been rapidly gaining popularity. Known for its role in treating diabetic conditions like neuropathy, and helping with weight loss, ACV may also be capable of dealing with gastrointestinal dysfunctions like acid reflux. But, does it work?
Apple Cider Vinegar for Acid Reflux
The form of vinegar produced by crushing, distilling, and fermenting apples is called apple cider vinegar. This low-calorie drink is high on acetic acid and is often credited for its numerous health benefits. ACV is considered an effective detox and cleanse solution for the body and is useful in the fields of skincare, haircare, weight loss, and as a potential natural remedy for gout and gallstones.
Are Acid Reflux, GERD, Heartburn the Same Thing?
Each time you research a digestive issue, you see terms like acid reflux, GERD, and heartburn all floating around in the same context. Possibly, you even think of them as a single digestive disease. However, these digestive diseases are different and should not be used interchangeably. (1)
To understand the relationship between apple cider vinegar and acid reflux, you must first be able to identify the differences in these conditions.
What is Acid Reflux?
The food you eat reaches the stomach through a muscular tube called the esophagus. It extends down the throat connecting to the stomach by a valve called the lower esophageal sphincter. The LES opens the passage for food and remains closed otherwise. Acid reflux occurs when it opens without need, causing the stomach contents (acids, digestive juices, food) to flow backward into the esophagus.
Acid Reflux vs Heartburn
If acid reflux is the disease, heartburn is the symptom. When stomach acid reaches up to the esophagus, the acid tends to irritate other body organs. As the esophagus separates from the chest by merely a thin line, stomach acids cause a burning sensation in the mid-chest, below the sternum. This is called heartburn.
Frequent heartburns indicate a possibility of acid reflux. Recurrence of the reflux, in turn, could progress to GERD. This is how the three terms tie together. (2)
Acid Reflux vs GERD
If the condition of acid reflux persists for a long time, it changes to the more serious gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). A frequently occurring acid reflux may cause inflammation in the esophagus, making it too weak to function. This causes heartburn, which is often a symptom of GERD. (3)
Acid Reflux vs Indigestion
Indigestion is no disease or symptom. It is a sign of a problem building up in your digestive system, like acid reflux or GERD. Indigestion causes a feeling of discomfort in the upper abdomen, sometimes accompanied by recurrent pain. Unless the pain is frequent and intolerable, simple changes in the diet can cure indigestion. (4)
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Is Apple Cider Vinegar Good for Acid Reflux?
There is not enough research and clinical analysis on whether apple cider vinegar works for treating acid reflux. No studies directly claim the advantage, and very few speak in favor of it with other gastrointestinal dysfunctions. (5)
However, one study aimed towards understanding gastrointestinal distress in patients with Parkinson’s disease found positive results. An ACV diet accompanied with deglycyrrhizinated licorice produced a 50% acid reflux improvement after five days. (6)
On the flip side, patients with GERD often experience a 10-33% delay in gastric emptying. A clinical trial aimed towards diabetic gastroparesis concluded an even larger delay in the gastric emptying rate when drinking ACV. Therefore, apple cider vinegar for GERD did not prove effective in this case. (7, 8)
A thesis presentation by a student of Arizona State University is one of the few pieces of evidence that demonstrates the positive effects of ACV on treating gastroesophageal reflux disease. While a student may not be as credentialed as some would like, the study was thorough and impressive nonetheless, indicating the need for further investigation. (9)
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ACV has a high acetic and malic acid quotient. It speeds up the breakdown of food in the stomach. In theory, this helps the food pass into the small intestine before it can cause digestive issues. This is the primary reason why people view apple cider vinegar for heartburn as an effective home remedy.
ACV also contains prebiotics from fermented apples. Pectin, a fiber found in fruits, plays a key role here. It helps preserve the bacteria in the gut which promotes healthy digestion. Thus, apple cider vinegar for indigestion is also commonly used.
The Bottom Line
Even if its benefits are largely anecdotal—if it others, it may help you. Science may not back up all the claims regarding ACV for acid reflux, but it does not condemn them either. It comes down to individual body needs, dietary habits, and knowing when to drink apple cider vinegar.
The acetic acid from the ACV is infamous for causing burning throats. If you frequently experience throat issues or an irritating food pipe, vinegar might be the worst possible choice. On the contrary, if you have previously consumed ACV, your body will likely not experience side effects if you’re familiar with drinking apple cider vinegar shots.
Safety Tips for an ACV Diet
If you have decided to take up ACV for acid reflux, make sure you do it the right way.
- A raw, unfiltered ACV is the way to go. Avoid store-bought drinks with added sugars and preservatives.
- Always consume a small ACV dosage at a time. A teaspoon or two a day is generally advisable.
- Always dilute the ACV with water before using it. Its high level of acidity is known to damage tooth enamel and irritate the throat with direct exposure.
- Only treat mild reflux with an ACV drink. Always report severe acid reflux, heartburn, or indigestion pain to a medical professional.
- Keep the ACV in your mouth for a few seconds before swallowing. This will accelerate the production of digestive acid from the saliva.
Apple Cider Vinegar for Acid Reflux Drink Recipe
Esteemed nutritionists and dieticians often suggest apple cider vinegar tonics as they are a great way to enjoy the vinegar in a diluted form. There are many ways to create a tonic, but a basic acid reflux drink recipe goes something like this:
- Choose your ingredients. You can always go for the sourness of lemon, the warm kick of turmeric, or a couple of healthy greens. Keep any possible food intolerances in mind.
- Choose your sweetener. Many people opt for artificial sweeteners to avoid weight gain, but honey is a healthier substitute for natural sugar.
- Take up an adequate amount of apple cider vinegar. Mix it with all your ingredients and water.
Alternatively, you can take ACV supplements in pill form if the taste of drinking vinegar is too much to handle. Even better, the recent market trend of apple cider vinegar gummies is an excellent way to avoid the harsh reality of drinking vinegar.
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Other Natural Remedies for Acid Reflux
You may be on the opposing side of the argument in this apple cider vinegar for acid reflux debate. That’s alright because we’ve got you covered with a few other natural home remedies. Try making these basic lifestyle changes as precautionary measures to avoid digestive discomfort.
- Quit Tobacco if you haven’t already. Studies show tobacco and smoking are some of the most prevalent factors contributing to acid reflux and GERD. (10)
- Avoid Trigger Foods. Many researchers have pointed out certain foods that ultimately contribute to acid reflux. Caffeine, meat, chocolates, and alcohol are good foods to avoid if you’re having stomach problems. (11)
- Change your food habits. Practice eating small amounts of food at a time and chewing each bite properly. Moreover, never lay down immediately after a large meal as it triggers the food to rise back from the esophagus.
- Position yourself high. As gravity can greatly help control reflux, laying down on elevated surfaces is suggested. Place a triangular wedge beneath the bed so that the esophagus always remains above the stomach. (12)
- Lose weight to achieve a healthy body. Excess body fat can pressurize the stomach to work twice as hard, which can easily lead to acid reflux.
Final Thoughts on ACV for Acid Reflux
To sum it up, apple cider vinegar and acid reflux have a complex relationship, but ACV can provide some benefits depending on the individual. Simply keep all the factors and side effects in mind and make a wise decision on whether or not you’d like to consume ACV to assist with your digestive problems.