Apple cider vinegar, a fermented vinegar that people make from crushed apples, is a popular natural remedy for acid reflux and heartburn.
Some people claim that apple cider vinegar can relieve these symptoms. For others, however, it may make acid reflux worse.
In this article, we look into the research on using apple cider vinegar for acid reflux and detail potential side effects of its use.
Acid reflux occurs when acid from the stomach flows upward. This causes a sour taste in the mouth and a burning sensation in the chest.
There are many anecdotal stories on the Internet to suggest that apple cider vinegar is an effective cure for acid reflux. Proponents say that the acidity of the tonic as well as the beneficial bacteria within can improve digestion and alleviate reflux.
One theory is that many people with acid reflux have too little stomach acid in a condition called hypochlorhydria. People can develop this condition from taking proton pump inhibitors.
These are common medications for acid reflux that can reduce stomach acid to very low levels. So, drinking apple cider vinegar may help these people increase the acidity of the stomach.
However, scientists have not carried out enough research into the effects of apple cider vinegar on the gut to support these claims.
In fact, there are no studies in medical journals that investigate the effects of apple cider vinegar on reflux and heartburn.
In general, the risk of using apple cider vinegar for acid reflux is minimal. Many people drink it daily for blood sugar control, weight loss, and more without experiencing adverse effects. That said, no research confirms that it is safe to use in the long-term.
For some people, apple cider vinegar makes heartburn worse. Those who have a very irritated food pipe may experience further burning and irritation after drinking vinegar.
People who wish to try apple cider vinegar for mild reflux can mix between a teaspoon and a tablespoon of the vinegar into a glass of water. Taking this before or after meals may reduce acid reflux symptoms in some people.
It is not advisable to drink apple cider vinegar for moderate to severe acid reflux, heartburn, or GERD.
Aside from the risk of making heartburn worse, apple cider vinegar has the potential to erode tooth enamel. To protect the teeth, always dilute the vinegar and take it with a meal. Follow up apple cider vinegar tonics with a mouth rinse or use a straw.
Apple cider vinegar may interact with medications such as diuretics and insulin. People who take any medications or supplements should consult their doctor before regularly drinking apple cider vinegar.
In many cases of mild to moderate reflux, home remedies and lifestyle modifications provide significant symptom relief.
Lifestyle changes that can help people reduce acid reflux symptoms include:
- Achieving a healthy weight. People who are overweight or obese are at greater risk of acid reflux, according to the findings of several studies. This may be due to the extra pressure on the stomach, which may push acid up into the food pipe.
- Avoiding tobacco use. According to a 2016 review paper, smoking contributes to acid reflux by relaxing the muscle between the esophagus and stomach. This allows acid to rise.
- Elevating the head of the bed. The International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders recommend that people with acid reflux use blocks or wedges to raise up the head of their beds. Gravity can help control reflux.
- Wearing loose clothing. Tight clothing, especially around the stomach area, can push acid from the stomach into the food pipe.
- Practice good eating habits. Practice portion control and eat slowly to encourage healthy digestion. Avoid lying down while eating or within 3 hours of mealtimes.
Avoiding certain foods and drinks may improve the symptoms of acid reflux. Although food triggers vary from one person to another, some foods and drinks that may cause reflux include:
- citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruit
- fried or fatty foods
- garlic and onions
- spicy foods
- tomatoes and tomato-based products, including pasta sauces and soups
If acid reflux continues after removing these foods from the diet, people can try keeping a food diary to track their food intake and symptoms. This can help a person identify their individual reflux triggers.
People with severe acid reflux, especially reflux that does not get better with home remedies, may need to take medications. In rare cases, they may require surgery.
A person should see a doctor if acid reflux continues for more than a few weeks, or if it gets worse. A person should seek prompt medical treatment if they experience reflux along with:
- black or red stool
- chest pain during activities
- difficulty swallowing or eating
- vomiting of blood or granules that resemble coffee grounds
- weight loss
Apple cider vinegar is a popular natural remedy for acid reflux and heartburn. Many people claim that it relieves their symptoms.
However, there are currently no scientific studies to say that apple cider vinegar is effective for acid reflux. There is also no research to suggest that drinking apple cider vinegar is safe.
For these reasons, it may be best to try some proven home remedies for acid reflux, such as avoiding food triggers, maintaining a healthy weight, and changing the position of the bed.
People who have continuing or severe reflux or heartburn should see their doctor to discuss medications or other treatments that can relieve symptoms.