Is drinking vinegar a cure-all for what ails your urinary tract? Not necessarily. In fact, medical experts warn that drinking vinegar might actually irritate your bladder.
Causes of Frequent Urination
If you're experiencing frequent urination (peeing more than usual) or urgent urination (a sudden and strong need to pee, whether at night or during the day), any number of causes might be to blame. The U.S. National Library of Medicine lists the more common culprits, which range from a urinary tract infection to drinking caffeine, nerve problems, and swelling and infection of the urethra.
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Men might also experience these symptoms because of an enlarged prostate, and women might experience them because of vaginitis — swelling or discharge from the vulva and vagina. There are a number of less-common causes that might be behind your urinary issues too. These include drinking alcohol, anxiety disorders, taking diuretics, pregnancy, poorly controlled diabetes — and in rare cases cancer, tumors or other growths in the pelvis.
That wide range of possible causes — from mild to life-threatening — is the most convincing argument for never taking a one-size-fits-all approach to any urination issues you may experience. Visiting a doctor for an accurate diagnosis is the first step toward relieving your discomfort.
Vinegar as a Folk Remedy
But there are so many stories out there about using vinegar — and particularly apple cider vinegar, in recent years — as a cure-all. So does it work? As Harvard Health Publishing notes, there is little medical evidence to support any of that advice.
They add that most research around apple cider vinegar uses has been on weight loss and appetite suppression — nothing to do with urinary conditions. And if you drink undiluted apple cider vinegar, side effects could include damage to your tooth enamel.
But there's an even more convincing reason why vinegar might actually worsen your urinary symptoms instead of making them better: It's on the extensive list of potentially bladder-irritating foods that the Cleveland Clinic recommends eliminating entirely if you have bladder problems.
They stress that not all foods will irritate everybody, and advise that once you've gotten relief from your bladder problems, you can gradually reintroduce foods from their list to determine what amounts, if any, you can tolerate. But in the meantime, it bears repeating: Your best hope for relief from bladder problems is seeing a qualified medical professional.
Looking for Scientific Proof
With that said, there have been a few studies that confirm the antimicrobial potential of vinegar — but they still aren't proof that drinking vinegar will help your symptoms.
The results of a laboratory test published in a 2018 issue of Science Reports showed that apple cider vinegar does demonstrate antimicrobial effects against some of the bacteria strains that can cause urinary problems. However, this involved direct administration of apple cider vinegar to the bacteria — so the authors couldn't draw conclusions any stronger than that more research is warranted.
Another small but noteworthy study was published in the July 2012 issue of Biological Research for Nursing. There, the authors documented a trial of 60 subjects with long-term catheters, half of whom received 100 milliliters of diluted rice vinegar every day for four weeks, while the other half received 100 milliliters of water as a control.
The subjects' urine was analyzed weekly, and researchers concluded there was a significant difference in the urinary pH, bacterial titer and turbidity. They concluded that the vinegar might be decreasing the risk of symptomatic urinary tract infections. However, this still isn't conclusive proof; they also noted that more study and a larger sample size are both necessary to determine the effects of long-term vinegar ingestion.
Read more: What Are the Dangers of Drinking Vinegar?
- Cleveland Clinic: "Bladder Irritating Foods"
- Scientific Reports: "Antimicrobial Activity of Apple Cider Vinegar Against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans; Downregulating Cytokine and Microbial Protein Expression"
- Biological Research for Nursing: "Vinegar for Decreasing Catheter-Associated Bacteriuria in Long-Term Catheterized Patients: A Randomized Controlled Trial"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Does Apple Cider Vinegar Have Any Proven Health Benefits?"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Frequent or Urgent Urination"
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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.