People do a lot of things in hopes of improving health — drinking vinegar is one. Claims abound on the benefits of downing vinegar, one of which is that apple cider vinegar is a probiotic. As a fermented food, it is a probiotic, but it is unknown if it is as effective as other probiotic foods.
Apple cider is fermented and is therefore considered a source of probiotics.
Apple Cider Vinegar for Probiotics
A well-sanitized environment is prized in today's society in which bacteria-killing cleaning products, soaps and hand gels are ubiquitous. But bacteria isn't all bad. In fact, some bacteria is crucial for human health.
Probiotics are microorganisms, often referred to as "good bacteria," that live in the gastrointestinal tract and have a variety of potential benefits for overall health as well as for specific health concerns. According to the National Institutes of Health, there is some evidence that probiotics may be helpful in the treatment of:
- Atopic dermatitis
- Pediatric acute infectious diarrhea
- Antibiotic-associated diarrhea
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- High cholesterol
Fermented foods are one source of these helpful bacteria. During fermentation, bacteria feed on sugars and starches in foods — apples, in the case of apple cider vinegar. This causes the bacteria to grow and multiply.
Not all apple cider vinegar is the same, however. Unpasteurized, unfiltered apple cider vinegar still contains the "mother." According to UChicago Medicine, this dark, cloudy substance you can sometimes see at the bottom of the bottle is the collection of bacteria and yeast created during fermentation. So far, there isn't solid evidence that products retaining the mother are better sources of probiotics, but you will see many manufacturers of raw, unpasteurized and unfiltered apple cider vinegars make this claim.
Problems and Solutions
With or without the mother, it's unclear just how many bacteria and what strains apple cider vinegar contains. According to a research review published in the journal Microorganisms in September 2017, Acetobacter sp., Komagataeibacter sp. and Gluconobacter sp. are the most abundant strains. Other strains, including Lactobacillus sp. and Oenococcus sp. are also commonly found but in lower amounts.
The researchers note that there are myriad variations involved in the process of fermenting apples that can affect the types and amounts of bacteria in the finished product. According to NIH, fermented foods do contain live cultures, but usually do not include proven probiotic organisms.
So what's a consumer to do? Apple cider vinegar may provide probiotics and potentially aid certain health conditions, but, according to UChicago Medicine, it's not "pixie dust." However, in moderate amounts, there's no danger in consuming the liquid, either. If you want to include it in your diet, either as a daily shot or in your meals, go right ahead; just don't expect miracles.
Some individuals may find that drinking apple cider vinegar for probiotics doesn't agree with them. Acidic foods can exacerbate acid reflux and lead to indigestion and an upset stomach. UChicago Medicine also warns that the kidneys of people with chronic kidney disease may not be able to process the excessive acid in larger amounts of apple cider vinegar. Additionally, the acid in vinegar can erode tooth enamel, so always rinse your mouth out well after taking it.
If you're not a fan of vinegar, there are other ways to reap the benefits of probiotics, and they may be a more reliable source of the healthy bacteria. The NIH says that yogurt is a particularly good source of legitimate probiotics. It's a lot more palatable, too.
Read more: The Best-Rated Probiotics