apples and a bottle of apple cider vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar for Digestion. What’s the Deal?

Doug Cook, RD

Written by: Doug Cook, RD

Updated: November 23rd, 2022

Apple cider vinegar is VERY popular in the ‘alternative’ and natural health community.

It seems like there’s no shortage of health claims. These claims include everything from promoting weight loss and detox to boosting energy and banishing bad breath.

Using food and plants as medicine is nothing new. We’ve been doing it for thousands of years before the era of pharmaceutical medications. Hey, I’m all for it if there’s good quality research to back up those claims since several, everyday foods have healing properties. When it comes to gut health specifically, apple cider vinegar is enjoying lot of press lately as the tonic du jour.

Should you take apple cider vinegar for gut health?

Before I answer that, I need to briefly explain how apple cider vinegar is made.

It starts by taking crushed apple juice (apple cider – loosely strained) and fermenting it with yeast to produce alcohol. After this, bacteria is added to the apple alcohol solution which is further fermented by the bacteria. The conversion of alcohol to acetic acid is how vinegar is produced (the same thing that happens to wine when it is ‘off’).

Because the cider is not ultra-filtered, other components of the apple will be present such as protein, enzymes, and the bacteria themselves that made the vinegar in the first place. For this reason, unpasteurized, non-filtered apple cider vinegar will be murky AND contain some probiotic bacteria.

Bloating and Digestion

Apple cider vinegar has long been promoted to help with bloating. One problem is that the exact cause of bloating isn’t straightforward. Therefore addressing this common gut complaint needs a little nutritional detective work. Bloating can be due to low stomach acid or constipation or it could be due to something else. Many believe that the acetic acid in apple cider vinegar will help with the digestion of protein-rich foods. The stomach produces acid for this reason but as we age, we make less of it. Bloating is a legit consequence of low stomach acid but to date, there isn’t any robust research showing that apple cider vinegar will do the trick.

Having said that, anecdotally I’ve had clients benefit from taking some apple cider vinegar diluted in water with meals when it came to relieving some post-meal ‘heaviness’. This was suggested after a proper assessment was done and other causes of digestive issues were ruled out and addressed. Don’t use vinegar as self-treatment first. If you’re having troubling digestive and gut issues, seek professional help.

Heartburn. Could It Really Be Due To LOW Stomach Acid?

Reflux

For many, reflux is due to low stomach acid production, not from an excess. Most automatically think that any regurgitation and pain is from having too much stomach acid. But, even those on acid-reducing medications will feel burning with reflux. This is because the esophagus doesn’t have a protective layer of mucous-like the stomach does so don’t let burning fool you into thinking you have too much acid. If you have persistent acid reflux, you may have Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) and should speak to your doctor. Untreated GERD can lead to Barrett’s esophagus, and if left untreated, can develop further into esophageal cancer.

A lack of adequate stomach acid can result in altered digestion, food fermentation, and gas production. Supporting the stomach with additional acid from apple cider vinegar seems counter-intuitive but again, there isn’t a ton of research.

Anti-bacterial

This one is true. That is if you’re looking for a non-toxic, ‘natural’ antibacterial cleaning agent. Acetic acid, the organic acid found in all vinegar DOES have antimicrobial properties. However, when it comes to your internal environment, apple cider vinegar is no match for the antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties of your own stomach and bile acids. Vinegar of any kind won’t make a dent in your fight against pathogens.

Gut Inflammation

Some of the claims for this claim is that apple cider vinegar will ease inflammation by supporting the digestion of problematic foods. As well, by helping to prevent the overgrowth of bad bacteria, apple cider vinegar will prevent and/or reduce gut inflammation.

If only it was that simple. This just isn’t true.

Functional Properties of Vinegar

Safety

Did I mention it’s highly acidic? Drinking a lot of apple cider vinegar can:

FUN FACT: as with any vinegar, apple cider vinegar DOES NOT cause ulcers but may make symptoms worse if you do have an existing ulcer.

Should you include apple cider vinegar?

In short, apple cider vinegar probably won’t hurt you. Enjoy it in your diet because it’s calorie-free, adds lots of flavor to food, and anecdotal evidence suggests it might be helpful. But it’s not a miracle cure

Here are some other ways to add apple cider vinegar to your day:

  1. Make a hot ‘tea’. Add 1 to 2 tsp of apple cider vinegar to 1 cup of hot water. Add 1 tsp of lemon juice (optional). Sweeten with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup.
  2. Dilute some in water. add 1 to 2 tsp to 1 cup of water and take with meals.
  3. Use on a salad. it makes an excellent salad dressing. For a quick and easy dressing, blend 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add a dash of ground pepper.
  4. Quick ‘pickles’. Growing up my mother would put onions and cucumber slices in white vinegar to ‘pickle’ them. Substitute apple cider vinegar for a twist.

Doug Cook RDN is a Toronto based integrative and functional nutritionist and dietitian with a focus on digestive, gut, and mental health.  Follow him on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Related Articles:

View all News & Articles

low fodmap diet on a phone

Understanding the low FODMAP Diet

Women speaking online on computer with a registered dietitian

Online Nutrition Courses from Registered Dietitians

Family eating healthy meal

Family Friendly Snack Ideas

Yoga for Digestion

5 Strategies for Living Gluten-Free

salad with apple beets and chickpeas

Increase Your Fibre Intake

Types of Berries

The Power of Berries- Colourful and Kick-Ass Nutrition

Porrdge

Creamy, High Protein Breakfast Porridge

Bowl of Slaw

Crack Slaw Stir-fry

Grocery shopping with list

Make your Weekly Grocery Shop a Breeze: Amanda’s Top 5 Tips

Peppermint

Peppermint Fixes More Than Just Bad Breath

Spoons full of different prebiotics

Gut Health and Prebiotics

Family smiling into camera

5 Nutrition Tips for You and Your Family this Summer

Does Hot Weather Affect Digestion?

Women looking at labels in the grocer store

Understanding Fibre Nutrition Claims

Beginning frame of Understanding Fibre Animation

Understanding Fibre Animation

Fibre Benefits

Fibre & Its Benefits

Hand squeezing a grapefruit

Diets Used for IBS

friends smiling in kitchen

7 Day Gluten-Free Diet Plan

Women and male bathroom stall

Managing your Digestive Health in the Workplace Webinar

Taking a photo of food

Diet & Lifestyle Changes for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Cutting up meat and vegetables in the kitchen

Eating for 1 Trillion

Women laughing in yoga pose

Wait… My Gut Affects My Mental Health?

heart shaped bowls filled with fruits

10 Ways to Strengthen Your Microbiome

Kefir

What is Kefir and is it Good for You?

Women holding a salad

Busting Gut Health Buzz Words

Exercising and drinking water

Trying to Eat Healthier? Make it a Habit!

Bowl of healthy salad and tofu

Mental Health and Nutrition

Turkey pesto meatballs

Turkey Pesto Meatballs

Person on computer at home working

Staying Healthy at Home!

Man drinking water

Pre and Post Surgery Nutrition and Lifestyle Strategies to Optimize your Recovery

Brown bag of groceries spilling out of bag

How to Manage Stress Eating and Snack Smart at Home

Drinking water side eye pink background

The Importance of Staying Hydrated: General Hydration and Virus Recovery

Egg and leeks

How to Stay Fuller Longer

Pregnant women in pink shirt smiling down at stonach

Prenatal Health and Your Baby

woman comforting elderly man

Preventing GI Disorders in Adults and the Elderly

Candy

Trick or Treating Safely with Digestive Conditions

CDHF Talks: The Role of Nutrition/Diet in a Healthy Gut Microbiota

Bone broth

Is Bone Broth Healthy?

Leafy greens on purple background

Gut Bacteria and Leafy Greens

CDHF Partners with Metro and their Wellness Program Catered to Digestive Health Issues

World Digestive Health Day: Obesity

Person grocery cart shopping

Help with Choosing Healthy Grocery Products

Senior and adult cooking in the kitchen

Diet & Nutrition Tips for Seniors and their Caregivers

Dietary Fibre vs Prebiotics: Animation

CDHF Talks: Protein and Fibre

peaches

Tips for Eating Well with Rising Food Costs

man holding takeout box and clutching stomach

What is a Food Intolerance?

meal planning sheet

Two Day Meal Plan with Lactose Intolerance

Gatepkeeper of your health

How Nutrition Can Support Gut Health and the Immune System

Common food allergies o blue background

What is a Food Allergy?

The Power of Oats: Can They Play a Role in the Gluten Free Diet?

Feeding your Microbiota Fibre, Prebiotics, and Probiotics

Women drinking wine with pink microbe background

Alcohol and IBS

Digestive Health 101 Webinar

healthy foods

Diet & Lifestyle Changes for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Clipboard that says diet plan surrounded by healthy smoothies and vegetables

Diet Plan for Gastroparesis

healthy food at dinner table

Nutrition Tips for Aging Well

Astro yogurt on a kitchen counter

Lactalis Canada Introduces Astro® PROTEIN & FIBRE Yogourt

The Cultured Coconut bottle on a kitchen counter

The Cultured Coconut – CDHF Certified Product

apples and a bottle of apple cider vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar for Digestion. What’s the Deal?