If you have a case of constipation, you're probably hoping for a quick fix. But a swig of apple cider vinegar isn't the way to go. Sure, it feels "natural" to sip a pantry staple in the hopes that it'll clear your system, but drinking ACV for constipation hasn't been proven effective.
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Your best bet? Stick to the tried and true recommendations from the medical experts as you work to soothe uncomfortable or infrequent bowel movements.
Here's everything you need to know about what apple cider vinegar does for constipation and better remedies to try.
Should You Use Apple Cider Vinegar to Treat Constipation?
People often turn to natural remedies for constipation when treating gastrointestinal issues, which is why you may have heard that apple cider vinegar is good for constipation. But does apple cider vinegar make you poop, really? In this particular case, it's best to skip the ACV.
"Some people do promote its use as a home remedy, claiming that it contains pectin, pro-digestive acids and magnesium, which purportedly aid with bowel function," says Steven Naymagon, MD, a board-certified gastroenterologist and internal medicine physician in New York City.
But unfortunately, these vinegar and constipation theories don't hold water. "I don't advise apple cider vinegar to treat constipation," he says.
In fact, the health benefits behind this seemingly innocent home remedy "have never been tested or confirmed in the medical literature," Dr. Naymagon says.
And while apple cider vinegar has been touted for its ability to support weight loss, lower glucose levels and a decreased risk for heart disease, a review of more than 400 studies on these benefits didn't turn up anything definitive, according to September 2020 research in the European Journal of Nutrition.
The takeaway: While some people claim that apple cider vinegar does help with constipation, there's little scientific evidence to back it up, so you're better off trying other, safer remedies (more on that soon).
Does Apple Cider Vinegar Cause Constipation?
Just as there's no evidence to support the use of apple cider vinegar for constipation and bloating, there's also no science to suggest that ACV commonly leads to constipation.
Side Effects of Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has its benefits, and eating small amounts of it in recipes like salad dressings or marinades is typically safe.
But if you guzzle larger doses of acidic ACV (along with similar substances, like white vinegar) for constipation, it can lead to the following side effects, Dr. Naymagon says:
- Injury to the esophagus
- Tooth decay
- Electrolyte imbalances
- Bone loss
Apple cider vinegar can also interact with certain medications like insulin and diuretics, according to the Cleveland Clinic. If you're taking either of these medicines, talk to your doctor about whether any amount of ACV is safe for you.
Common Causes of Constipation
Constipation occurs when bowel movements become less frequent or more difficult to pass, and can lead to symptoms like nausea, stomach pain and bloating, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Temporary constipation can be the result of:
- A change in your diet
- A change in your routine, such as travel
- Not eating enough fiber, which helps support regular bowel movements
Chronic constipation, however, can be the result of blockages or tears in the color or rectum, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Certain types of cancer — like colon, rectal or abdominal cancer — can lead to this problem. Nerve or muscle damage from other conditions like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease or a spinal cord injury can also make passing stool more difficult, per the Mayo Clinic.
How Much Fiber Should You Eat?
Expert-Backed Remedies for Constipation
Even though using apple cider vinegar as a laxative isn't the solution for your blocked-up bowels, there are other natural remedies to try.
Instead of drinking ACV for constipation, here are some of Dr. Naymagon's recommendations for safe and effective fixes:
For an occasional mild case of constipation, look to good ol' prunes, oats or flaxseed for quick relief. And if these interventions don't do the trick, "supplementing the diet with over-the-counter fiber supplements is a reasonable next step," Dr. Naymagon says.
Talk to your doctor before trying any supplement, as the FDA doesn't require these products to be proven safe or effective before they're sold, so there’s no guarantee that what you take is safe, contains the ingredients it says it does or produces the effects it claims.
When to See a Doctor for Constipation
Even though drinking ACV for constipation isn't a proven fix, that doesn't mean you have to put up with the discomfort of constipation, especially if it becomes more frequent or severe, Dr. Naymagon says.
"Speak with the doctor if you haven't had the urge to go for many consecutive days or you can't evacuate your bowels when you do want to go," he says. They can help you determine the best treatment for your digestive discomfort.
And if other symptoms accompany constipation, like stomach pain, blood in the stool or a swollen belly, get help right away.
- Cleveland Clinic: "Constipation - Symptoms, Causes, Treatment & Prevention"
- Mayo Clinic: "Constipation - Symptoms and Causes"
- European Journal of Nutrition: "Safety and side effects of apple vinegar intake and its effect on metabolic parameters and body weight: a systematic review"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Exploring the Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans"
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: “FDA 101: Dietary Supplements”
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.