George Krucik, MD, MBA
Apple cider vinegar is one of numerous remedies touted for multiple sclerosis. MS is a condition in which damage to myelin in your central nervous system interferes with nerve system transmissions. Some symptoms are long-lasting and some come and go. The condition affects everyone differently, with common symptoms ranging from coordination problems to pain, vision disturbances, and bowel and bladder problems. While apple cider vinegar may provide benefits if you suffer diabetes by lowering blood-glucose levels, according to a 2007 study in “BMC Gastroenterology,” any benefit for MS is based on shaky and unproven theory at best. Always consult a health care provider before trying a new dietary aid.
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Dietary treatments for MS tend to follow four theories. These are that MS is caused by nutritional deficiency or an excess of a food or nutrient, an allergic reaction to food, the toxic effect of a food or by ingesting an “MS agent,” according to “Multiple Sclerosis,” by Louis J. Rosner and Shelley Ross. A healthful diet is important if you have MS, but the numerous special MS diets advocated over the years have either proven ineffective in curing or slowing the disease or have failed to stand the test of time – something that does not happen with remedies that are effective, the authors note.
Apple cider vinegar is touted as a food that will boost your general health, which is important when you have MS, due to its vitamin and mineral content. It does have small amounts of potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese. However, 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar does not provide any significant amount of vitamins, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database. That tablespoon only has 1 mg calcium, magnesium and phosphorous, 0.037 mg manganese and 11 mg potassium.
Apple cider vinegar advocates like Paul Chappuis Bragg, author of “Apple Cider Miracle Health System,” say the vinegar is valuable for MS sufferers due to its potassium content. Brag claims potassium deficiency is a contributing cause of multiple sclerosis as well as many other diseases including arthritis, celiac disease, high blood pressure, ulcerative colitis, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, hypothyroidism and more. However, the recommended dietary intake of potassium is 4.7 g per day, or 4,700 mg, whereas 1 tbsp. vinegar gives you only 11 mg potassium. Also, since so many foods have potassium in them, a dietary deficiency is extremely rare, according to Medline Plus. A large drop in potassium levels can lead to some MS-like symptoms, including fatigue and muscle weakness, and can be life-threatening, but a small drop in potassium does not usually produce symptoms, note the experts at MedlinePlus.
Numerous case reports attribute an easing of MS symptoms to apple cider vinegar. However, no scientific studies, aside from those on the placebo effect, back this up. The placebo effect can be powerful. Even when a remedy does not create a true effect, the belief that it will is often powerful medicine, according to Scientific American magazine. Placebo responses are due to active processes in your brain. Subliminal mechanisms often control processes in your body you are not aware of consciously, leading to changes in immune responses and hormone release, for example. Reports confirm that sham treatments actually provide a benefit in nearly all areas of medicine including inflammatory disorders, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, depression, anxiety and pain, according to Scientific American.
A good diet will help you by keeping your weight down and promoting heart health, but it won’t cure your symptoms. Supplementing with vitamins and minerals also may boost health, but no studies show that supplements slow the disease or prevent attacks. Overdoing it with supplements actually can cause symptoms like weakness, loss of balance and numbness apart from your regular MS symptoms, note Rosner and Ross.