Drinking 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before a meal when diluted in water or juice is generally safe, according to Consumer Reports. The ingredient is also safe to use in foods such as dressings and marinades. However, there are a few mild apple cider vinegar side effects.
What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?
The word vinegar means "sour wine" and is derived from the French "vin aigre." Vinegar, of which there are many varieties, can be made from any liquid from a plant food such as whole grains, potatoes or fruit. Apple cider vinegar is made from the liquid of crushed apples, through a two-step fermentation process.
During the first step, yeast feeds on the sugars in the crushed apple liquid and turns them into alcohol. Then, acetobacter bacteria ferments the alcohol into acetic acid, which is responsible for many of the health benefits of vinegar. Acetic acid is also what gives vinegar its sour flavor.
Bragg is just one brand of apple cider vinegar. It is made from organic apples and contains 5 percent acetic acid. The rest is mostly water, along with trace amounts of potassium, amino acids and polyphenols. One tablespoon of Bragg apple cider vinegar contains zero calories and no sodium or fat according to its nutritional label.
Bragg apple cider vinegar is sold with the "mother" inside, which is a combination of the yeast and bacteria formed during fermentation. If you look inside the bottle, you might see hazy strands of the mother floating around.
Apple Cider Vinegar Uses
Apple cider vinegar uses described on the internet are countless; a new one seems to pop up daily. Drinking the liquid has been touted to cure everything from gout, to bodily toxicity, to cancer. Though these claims are not backed by scientific research, oral intake of apple cider vinegar does have several proven health benefits according to the University of Chicago Medical Center. It can help with blood sugar control, aid in weight loss and serve as an antimicrobial.
When applied topically, apple cider vinegar also serves as an antimicrobial. It has been shown to inhibit growth of E. coli, Candida albicans and Staphylococcus aureus. According to the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, records show that vinegar was used as an antibacterial balm for wound healing in early China, Greece and the Middle East.
Apple Cider Vinegar Side Effects
Apple cider vinegar side effects are generally mild, but it is important to be aware of them before use. One side effect is that it can erode both skin and tooth enamel, which is the protective surface of your teeth. This protective barrier can be damaged by foods with a pH lower than 5.5.
The lower the pH level of a food, the higher its acidity. Bragg apple cider vinegar has a pH level between 3.2 and 3.5. This makes it very acidic.
A May 2014 study published in the journal Clinical Laboratory tested five different types of vinegars and found that each eroded tooth enamel to some degree. Enamel erosion is dangerous because it can make your teeth more susceptible to decay, pain and sensitivity.
Prevent enamel erosion by drinking vinegar only when diluted with another liquid and only at mealtimes. Also, do not swish the vinegar around in your mouth before swallowing, as this will increase the duration of the acid attack on your teeth. In general, to prevent inflaming your throat, esophagus and stomach, do not take shots of full-strength vinegar, and do not drink undiluted vinegar.
Besides eroding tooth enamel, apple cider vinegar has also been shown to cause skin erosion, or chemical burns. In a case study published in the June 2015 issue of the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, a 14-year-old girl got two chemical burns after applying apple cider vinegar directly to moles on her face. Do not apply undiluted apple cider vinegar to skin to prevent damaging your skin.
Apple Cider Vinegar and Digestion
You might be thinking, "I drank apple cider vinegar and now I feel sick." You are not alone. According to Consumer Reports, vinegar's high acidity can cause digestive issues such as acid reflux, delayed digestion and nausea.
In a May 2014 International Journal of Obesity study, researchers found that drinking vinegar increased feelings of fullness, but mainly because it made study participants feel nauseated. Because of this, the researchers do not promote oral intake of vinegar as an appetite suppressant.
If you have gastritis — a condition in which your stomach lining is inflamed, swollen or damaged — steer clear of drinking apple cider vinegar. This illness causes you to have less protection from the naturally occurring acid in your stomach as well as from the acid in foods, such as apple cider vinegar. The best way to heal gastritis is to decrease the amount of acid in the stomach.
Other Risks and Considerations
If you have chronic kidney disease, your body might have a difficult time excreting the acetic acid in vinegar, according to Harvard Health. Individuals with this condition need to keep their total fluid intake low in general, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. Therefore, those with chronic kidney disease should steer clear of drinking even diluted apple cider vinegar.
If you are considering adding Bragg apple cider vinegar to your diet for medicinal purposes, speak with a health care professional first to see if it could be of benefit for your medical condition or concern. Do not use apple cider vinegar in place of medication prescribed by your doctor before consulting him or her.
And remember, apple cider vinegar is generally safe to drink and apply topically. Simply be sure to consume it in small quantities and dilute it in water or juice before you ingest or rub it on skin.
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Vinegar"
- Consumer Reports: "Is Vinegar Good for You?"
- University of Chicago Medical Center: "Debunking the Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar"
- Bragg: "Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar"
- Bragg: "Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar - FAQ"
- Oral Health Foundation: "Dental Erosion"
- Clinical Laboratory: "In Vitro Study on Dental Erosion Caused by Different Vinegar Varieties Using an Electron Microprobe."
- International Journal of Obesity: "Influence of the Tolerability of Vinegar as an Oral Source of Short-Chain Fatty Acids on Appetite Control and Food Intake"
- Scientific Reports: "Antimicrobial Activity of Apple Cider Vinegar Against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans; Downregulating Cytokine and Microbial Protein Expression"
- Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology: "Chemical Burn From Vinegar Following an Internet-Based Protocol for Self-Removal of Nevi"
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Gastritis"
- National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Nutrition for Advanced Chronic Kidney Disease in Adults"