Apple cider vinegar benefits your kidneys — or at least that's what its proponents say. This food ingredient has emerged as a natural remedy for kidney stones, liver disease, high cholesterol and diabetes. Although it's not a cure-all, it may improve kidney health and prevent stone formation.
Kidney Disease at a Glance
Approximately 37 million Americans have undiagnosed kidney disease, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Most symptoms are nonspecific and occur in late stages when treatment options are limited. Sufferers may experience difficulty sleeping, fatigue and low energy, dry skin, poor appetite and muscle cramps.
Kidney disease can result from a variety of causes, from high blood pressure to recurrent kidney infections. Smokers, obese people and seniors are at greater risk. Genetics and certain disorders, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes, may increase your risk, too.
Currently, there is no treatment for chronic kidney disease, points out the Mayo Clinic. The best thing you can do is to prevent it in the first place.
Natural remedies, such as dandelion tea, ginger and apple cider vinegar (ACV), are prized for their healing power. Alternative medicine practitioners claim that apple cider vinegar benefits the liver and kidneys. This so-called superfood is widely used for kidney cleansing, liver detox, weight loss and everything in between. Although it's likely safe when used in moderation, its health benefits are controversial.
Read more: Apple Cider Vinegar Detox Diet
Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits
Kidney stones are a major risk factor for chronic kidney disease. They're painful and can reach the size of a golf ball. Fever, chills and cloudy or bloody urine are common symptoms. Most stones result from calcium buildup in the body, excessive uric acid or high cystine levels, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Apple cider vinegar is said to dissolve kidney stones and make them easier to pass. Furthermore, anecdotal evidence suggests that it may prevent this condition and improve kidney function. Traditionally, ACV is mixed with water or lemon water and cranberry juice, then consumed several times a day to dissolve the stones.
According to Fernando Cabrera, MD at the Cleveland Clinic, this mixture may help, but it has its limitations. Vinegar makes the urine less acidic, which, in turn, may dissolve kidney stones. Cranberry juice has no proven benefits for kidney function, though. Lemons and their juice are high in citrate, a naturally occurring acid that may prevent stone formation and suppress kidney stone growth.
As Cabrera points out, apple cider vinegar may work in some cases, but not all. Instead, he recommends drinking plenty of water and cutting down on sodium, animal protein and foods rich in oxalates, such as spinach, rhubarb, almonds, peanuts and rice bran. Dietary changes can go a long way toward kidney health.
What Does the Science Say?
Current evidence does confirm that apple cider vinegar benefits the kidneys. For example, a large-scale study published in BJU International in February 2017 suggests that fermented vinegar may reduce the formation of kidney stones. As its name suggests, apple cider vinegar is produced from fermented apple juice, so it falls into this category.
A more recent review featured in EBioMedicine in July 2019 linked daily vinegar consumption to a lower risk of kidney stones and reduced stone recurrence. Researchers attribute these benefits to citrate and acetate, two active compounds in vinegar. Citrate inhibits stone formation, while acetate increases calcium excretion and may protect against kidney damage.
However, using apple cider vinegar for kidney stones is a hit or miss. Your overall diet matters most. The National Kidney Foundation recommends drinking plenty of water and avoiding hot yoga, intense exercise and other activities that promote fluid loss. Rather than limiting oxalate-rich foods, pair them with high-calcium foods, and limit your sodium intake to prevent kidney stones. Fill up on citrus fruits, lemonade, lemon water and other foods and beverages that contain citric acid.
Read more: What Vegetables Should Help Kidney Stones?
- National Kidney Foundation: "10 Signs You May Have Kidney Disease"
- Mayo Clinic: "Chronic Kidney Disease"
- Mayo Clinic: "Chronic Kidney Disease - Diagnosis and Treatment"
- Harvard.edu: "Does Apple Cider Vinegar Have Any Proven Health Benefits?"
- National Kidney Foundation: "Kidney Stones"
- Harvard.edu: "What Causes Kidney Stones (and What to Do)"
- Mayo Clinic: "Kidney Stones Treatment Options"
- PubChem: "Citrate"
- The University of Chicago: "How to Eat a Low Oxalate Diet"
- BJU International: "Prevalence of Kidney Stones in China: An Ultrasonography Based Cross‐Sectional Study"
- NCBI: "Microorganisms in Fermented Apple Beverages: Current Knowledge and Future Directions"
- EBioMedicine: "Dietary Vinegar Prevents Kidney Stone Recurrence via Epigenetic Regulations"
- National Kidney Foundation: "6 Easy Ways to Prevent Kidney Stones"