Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits for Acid Reflux

Chest pain, burning in the throat and other symptoms of acid reflux can make it hard to enjoy your meals. People worldwide use apple cider vinegar for acid reflux and digestive distress, saying that it provides instant relief. These claims are based on anecdotal evidence, though.

Many sufferers use apple cider vinegar for heartburn and acid reflux. (Image: vonEisenstein/iStock/GettyImages)

What Causes Acid Reflux?

About 60 million people in the U.S. alone experience heartburn at least once a week. Contrary to popular belief, heartburn isn't a condition in itself, but a symptom of acid reflux, according to England's National Health Service (NHS) It's characterized by a burning sensation in the chest, which typically occurs after you eat.

Occasional acid reflux is normal. If you experience this problem more than twice a week, you may have GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. To put it simply, GERD is a more serious form of acid reflux. Both conditions may cause major discomfort and take the joy out of eating.

In addition to heartburn, you may notice a bitter taste in your mouth, bad breath, chest pain or difficulty swallowing. Common triggers include spicy and fatty foods, alcohol, coffee, citrus fruits and juices, chocolate, carbonated beverages and garlic, points out the Cleveland Clinic.

Certain lifestyle factors, such as stress and cigarette smoking, may increase your risk of acid reflux and GERD, reports the NHS. Also, pregnant women and overweight or obese individuals are more likely to experience these issues.

Apple Cider Vinegar for Heartburn

Many sufferers use apple cider vinegar for heartburn and acid reflux. Proponents say that this remedy balances the gut flora due to its high content of pectin and enzymes. Pectin is a carbohydrate that occurs naturally in the skin and core of apples, pears and other fruits.

Another theory says that heartburn and GERD are due to low stomach acid. According to anecdotal evidence, apple cider vinegar helps increase acidity in the digestive tract. Additionally, it may destroy harmful gut bacteria due to its antimicrobial properties.

Unfortunately, there isn't enough scientific proof to validate these claims. While it's true that apple cider vinegar has antimicrobial effects, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's effective against bad gut bacteria.

Furthermore, GERD occurs when the esophageal lining is exposed to acidic stomach juice repeatedly or for a long time, according to the Intestinal Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. Therefore, it has nothing to do with low stomach acid.

The experts at Harvard Health Publishing advise against using apple cider vinegar for heartburn. Its safety and efficacy in this area are not supported by science. In fact, most claims surrounding this home remedy lack evidence.

How to Relieve Acid Reflux

Apple cider vinegar is unlikely to relieve heartburn and acid reflux, but there are other things you can do to feel better. The American College of Gastroenterology, for example, recommends avoiding tomato products, coffee, chocolate and other foods that may trigger that burning sensation in the chest. If you're obese or overweight, try to lose a few pounds. Tobacco increases the production of stomach acid, so it's a good idea to stop smoking.

Harvard Health emphasizes the importance of eating small, frequent meals rather than three big meals daily. Also, limit or avoid cola, sparkling water, energy drinks and other carbonated beverages. Eat dinner at least three hours before bedtime to prevent stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus while you sleep.

Be aware that many otherwise healthy foods may worsen heartburn and GERD. The Cleveland Clinic recommends limiting or cutting out whole milk, avocado, peanut and almond butter, olives, citrus fruits, tomato soup, nuts, onions, vinegar and caffeinated tea.

Don't fret, though. There are still plenty of foods and beverages you can enjoy on a daily basis. Low-fat milk and dairy, vegetable soups, baked potatoes, fish, lean meat, seafood, mayo, soy milk and decaf coffee are all considered safe. Just remember to enjoy them in moderation and avoid large meals.

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