Does Apple Cider Vinegar Actually Help With Digestion? Here’s What a G.I. Doc Has To Say

Photo: Stocksy/Nadine Greef
If you know someone who was into wellness before it was "cool," there's a very good chance they have a bottle of apple cider vinegar hanging around in their pantry. The ingredient has long been used for everything from treating bug bites to sunburn relief. Many people also profess that downing a shot of it every day (mixed in a cup of water) helps keep cholesterol levels under control, prevents diabetes, and aids with digestion. That's a pretty impressive resume—despite tasting... well, terrible.

Any habit you plan on integrating into your life on a regular basis in the name of wellness should be vetted by a doctor first—especially when it isn't the most enjoyable experience. In terms of using apple cider vinegar for digestion, gastroenterologist and Touro College of Medicine faculty member Niket Sonpal, MD, has some thoughts.

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His verdict: There are some situations when it may help. One such situation: to help treat bloating and gas. "Although there has not been conclusive scientific data to affirm its use, many doctors and patients alike feel it is an effective holistic option," Dr. Sonpal says. If you're experiencing bloating or gas on a regular basis and want to see if ACV can help, Dr. Sonpal says to go ahead and give it a try. The best way to do this, he says, is by mixing one to two tablespoons of the vinegar into a full glass of water and drinking it before you eat.

Watch the video below to see what a registered dietitian thinks of apple cider vinegar:

Dr. Sonpal says ACV's potential impact on digestion could also be used to help stabilize blood sugar levels after a meal. "When apple cider vinegar is taken prior to a high-carb meal, vinegar can control and slow the rate at which the stomach empties," he says. This slowing can help control the rate at which food (including carbohydrates) makes it to the small intestine for final digestion and absorption by your body—thus controlling how much sugar hits your bloodstream at once. But he emphasizes that more scientific evidence needs to be done to truly call this connection a fact.

While drinking ACV is largely safe (if not the best-tasting experience), there are some people who Dr. Sonpal says should definitely not give apple cider vinegar for digestion a try. If you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), for example, he says you should avoid drinking ACV, likely because the acidity of the ACV might worsen your symptoms. He also says people with low potassium levels should skip out on this, as there's some evidence ACV can lower potassium levels in the body. And while apple cider vinegar's potential for helping with diabetes is promising, if you have diabetes, he says it's best to talk to a doctor first before trying. (And it's certainly no replacement for existing diabetes medication or treatment you're already taking.)

Plus, since more long-term studies on apple cider vinegar need to be done, Dr. Sonpal says moderation—for everyone—is also key.

With all of this in mind, it turns out that there are some potential gut-healthy benefits to drinking apple cider vinegar, primarily with helping with gas and bloating. But if you can't stand the taste, no need to force yourself. There are other (better tasting) ways to get the same benefits, like sipping on fennel tea instead. Consider this one shot you don't have to take.

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