Apple Cider Vinegar Hurts My Stomach

Apple cider vinegar uses range from heartburn relief to blood sugar control and weight loss. What you may not know is that this home remedy can hurt your stomach due to its acidic nature. It also slows digestion, affects your electrolyte balance and damages the tooth enamel.

Apple cider vinegar may be too acidic for your stomach. (Image: alicjane/iStock/GettyImages)

Popular Apple Cider Vinegar Uses

This natural cure has been used in folk medicine for centuries. Proponents say that it helps with weight loss, reduces cholesterol levels, destroys acne-causing bacteria and more. Some even claim that it may protect against cancer and heart disease.

Unfortunately, there isn't enough evidence to validate its safety and efficacy, points out Harvard Health Publishing. Most clinical trials have been conducted on mice, so their findings may not be relevant to humans. Furthermore, apple cider vinegar (ACV) may pose health risks, such as tooth erosion and low potassium levels.

A January 2018 study published in Scientific Reports found that ACV suppressed bacteria growth in vitro (a lab-controlled environment). It appears to be particularly effective against E. coli, Candida albicans and S. aureus due to its antimicrobial properties. Additionally, it may reduce inflammatory cytokines. Since the study was conducted in vitro, more research is needed to determine how its findings apply to human subjects, however.

External application of apple cider vinegar may help treat yeast infections, according to a December 2017 case report in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. This natural remedy has been shown effective against vaginal Candida infection. However, it was applied topically, not ingested. In another study, subjects who applied ACV on their legs respond better to the treatment prescribed for varicose veins. These results were published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in January 2016.

ACV May Affect Digestive Health

Apple cider vinegar may be effective for certain conditions when applied topically, but its internal use for disease prevention and treatment is a whole different story.

Like any other type of vinegar, ACV is highly acidic. The experts at Harvard Health recommend diluting it to reduce its harmful effects on the tooth enamel. A December 2012 case report featured in the journal Nederlands Tijdschrift Voor Tandheelkunde points out that drinking just one glass of apple cider vinegar per day may cause tooth erosion.

This natural cure may also irritate your throat and stomach because of its acidity, warns the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation. If you have a stomach ulcer, it may worsen your symptoms.

You've probably heard that apple cider vinegar improves glycemic control by delaying stomach emptying. This claim appears to be true, according to the University of Chicago Medicine. The downside is that it slows the rate at which food is digested, which may be detrimental to people with type 1 diabetes, gastroparesis or both, as reported in a February 2016 review published in Pharmacy Today.

Gastroparesis is a digestive disorder that affects stomach muscle contractions, causing delayed gastric emptying. To put it simply, your stomach cannot digest and break down solid food the way it should. This condition tends to occur in people with diabetes, but it may also result from eating disorders, mental diseases, hypothyroidism or gastric surgery, among other factors. Apple cider vinegar further slows digestion, making things worse.

How to Use ACV Safely

Apple cider vinegar uses are controversial. This product is by no means a cure-all or a magic bullet for weight loss, emphasizes Harvard Health. In fact, its side effects may outweigh any potential benefits.

Adding a few drops of ACV to salads and cooked meals is unlikely to cause any harm. However, it's one thing to use it for cooking and another to take it on an empty stomach or between meals.

To stay safe, dilute it in water and consume it with food, recommends the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation. You can also mix it with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, spices and other natural ingredients for a delicious, healthy salad dressing. Use it in small doses, such as 1 or 2 teaspoons per day.

If you've never used apple cider vinegar, start with a small amount and increase it gradually. Stop using it if your stomach hurts. Lemon or lime juice, white wine, red wine and tamarind paste all are excellent alternatives to vinegar. They're less acidic and have none of its side effects.

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