Apple cider vinegar is among the supplements touted by some practitioners of alternative medicine as a way to treat a variety of ailments, from warts to digestive difficulty. However, there's no scientific evidence to support the majority of claims regarding the substance. For instance, apple cider vinegar doesn't contain digestive enzymes that your body can use.
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Apple Cider Vinegar
Vinegar is a byproduct of fermentation; it forms any time a source of sugar is allowed to ferment in the presence of bacteria and yeast. While the fermentation process turns the sugars into acetic acid -- the sour molecule that is common to all vinegars -- it doesn't affect many of the flavoring molecules in the original food, which is why vinegars from different foods taste distinct from one another. Apple cider vinegar, for instance, has a relatively mild, "full-bodied" flavor.
The human body relies upon digestive enzymes to help break down the nutrient molecules in food. You produce digestive enzymes from many of the cells in your digestive tract and in the organs that assist in digestive function. While you can find digestive enzyme supplements in health food stores, most are both unnecessary and ineffective; true digestive enzyme deficiencies are quite rare. The exception to this is lactose intolerance, which results from insufficient production of the lactase enzyme, explain Drs. Reginald Garrett and Charles Grisham in their book "Biochemistry."
Apple Cider Vinegar for Digestion
There are several reasons you can't get help with digestion from apple cider vinegar. First, apple cider vinegar doesn't contain the types of enzymes that your digestive tract uses to break down foods. More importantly, however, your stomach is more than 100 times as acidic as apple cider vinegar. Enzymes are very sensitive to acidity, explain Drs. Mary Campbell and Shawn Farrell in their book "Biochemistry," and exposure to the acidic interior of the stomach renders non-stomach enzymes inactive.
If you're concerned about your ability to digest food -- you have gas and bloating after eating, for instance -- talk to your doctor. Your physician can evaluate you for a true enzyme deficiency, and make recommendations as to how you should deal with it. Despite the claims of some alternative health practitioners, however, digestive enzyme deficiencies aren't to blame for systemic health problems such as excess body weight, diabetes and arthritis. If you are concerned about any systemic condition, see your doctor.
- Biochemistry; Reginald Garrett, Ph.D. and Charles Grisham, Ph.D.
- Biochemistry; Mary Campbell, Ph.D. and Shawn Farrell, Ph.D.