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Experts Are Urging People Not to Drink Apple Cider Vinegar
When it comes to home remedies, few products are as revered or as misunderstood as apple cider vinegar. It’s been hailed as a “cure” for everything from hiccups to acne and is believed by many to hold the ultimate key to weight loss.
Nobody can deny the power of this famously tart fermented liquid. It’s packed with enzymes, probiotics, and has even been shown to help regulate blood sugar. Heck, we’ve even used it in our hair! But as ACV’s popularity grows, more and more experts are warning consumers of the harmful side effects associated with drinking it.
Apple cider vinegar is made by combining apples with yeast.
The yeast then converts the sugar in the apples into alcohol. Bacteria are then added to the mixture, which ferment the alcohol into acetic acid.
Acetic acid makes up about 5–6% of apple cider vinegar. It is classified as a “weak acid,” but still has fairly strong acidic properties.
In addition to acetic acid, vinegar contains water and trace amounts of other acids, vitamins and minerals.
Since ACV is made with yeast, as its most active ingredient, if you have intestinal issues, such as Leaky Gut, Crohns, Celiac disease, absorption issue as gluten or less than three bowel movements a day, then you should never take ACV.
Delayed Stomach Emptying
Apple cider vinegar helps prevent high blood sugar spikes by reducing the rate at which food leaves the stomach and enters the lower digestive tract. This slows down its absorption into the bloodstream.
However, this effect may worsen symptoms of gastroparesis, a common condition in people with type 1 diabetes.
In gastroparesis, the nerves in the stomach don’t work properly, so food stays in the stomach too long and is not emptied at a normal rate.
Symptoms of gastroparesis include heartburn, bloating and nausea. For type 1 diabetics who have gastroparesis, timing insulin with meals is very challenging because it’s hard to predict how long it will take food to be digested and absorbed.
One controlled study looked at 100 patients with type 1 diabetes and gastroparesis.
Drinking water with 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of apple cider vinegar significantly increased the amount of time that food stayed in the stomach, compared to drinking plain water.
Digestive Side Effects
Apple cider vinegar may cause unpleasant digestive symptoms in some people.
Human and animal studies have found that apple cider vinegar and acetic acid may decrease appetite and promote feelings of fullness, leading to a natural reduction in calorie intake.
However, one controlled study suggests that in some cases, appetite and food intake may decrease due to indigestion.
The people who consumed a drink containing 25 grams (0.88 oz) of apple cider vinegar reported less appetite but also significantly greater feelings of nausea, especially when the vinegar was part of a drink.
Low Potassium Levels and Bone Loss
There are no controlled studies on apple cider vinegar’s effects on blood potassium levels and bone health at this time.
However, there are cases reported of low blood potassium and bone loss that was attributed to doses of apple cider vinegar taken.
A 28-year-old woman consumed 8 oz (250 ml) of apple cider vinegar diluted in water on a daily basis.
She was admitted to the hospital with low potassium levels and other abnormalities in blood chemistry.
What’s more, the woman was diagnosed with osteoporosis, a condition of brittle bones that is rarely seen in young people.
Doctors who treated the woman believe the daily doses of apple cider vinegar led to minerals being leached from her bones to buffer the acidity of her blood.
They also noted that high acid levels can reduce the formation of new bone.
Erosion of Tooth Enamel
Acidic foods and beverages have been shown to damage tooth enamel.
Soft drinks and fruit juices have been more widely studied, but some research shows the acetic acid in vinegar may also damage tooth enamel.
In one lab study, enamel from wisdom teeth was immersed in different vinegars with pH levels ranging from 2.7–3.95. The vinegars led to a 1–20% loss of minerals from the teeth after four hours.
Nevertheless, there’s some evidence that large amounts of vinegar may cause dental erosion.
A case study also concluded that a 15-year-old girl’s severe dental decay was caused by consuming one cup (237 ml) of apple cider vinegar per day as a weight loss aid.
Apple cider vinegar has the potential to cause esophageal (throat) burns.
A review of harmful liquids accidentally swallowed by children found acetic acid from vinegar was the most common acid that caused throat burns.
Researchers recommended vinegar be considered a “potent caustic substance” and kept in childproof containers.
However, one case report found that an apple cider vinegar tablet caused burns after becoming lodged in a woman’s throat. The woman said she experienced pain and difficulty swallowing for six months after the incident.
Esophageal throat burns can not be felt until it is too late to reverse the ulcerated area. Usually the saliva in your mouth will coat the esophagus and small throat burns will not be detected.
Due to its strongly acidic nature, apple cider vinegar may also cause burns when applied to the skin.
In one case, a 14-year-old girl developed erosions on her nose after applying several drops of apple cider vinegar to remove two moles, based on a protocol she’d seen on the internet.
In another, a 6-year-old boy with multiple health problems developed leg burns after his mother treated his leg infection with apple cider vinegar.
There are also several anecdotal reports online of burns caused by applying apple cider vinegar to the skin.
A few medications interact with apple cider vinegar:
Diabetes medication: People who take insulin or insulin-stimulating medications such as metformin or Glucophage and vinegar may experience dangerously low blood sugar or potassium levels.
Digoxin (Lanoxin),or any cardiac medication: These medication lowers your blood potassium levels along with your magnesium levels causing problems with all your electrolytes.
Certain diuretic drugs: Some diuretic medications cause the body to excrete potassium. To prevent potassium levels from dropping too low, these drugs shouldn’t be consumed with AC vinegar.
Heartburn medications: Prilosec, Zantac, Nexium are just examples of some of the over the counter medications that will cause irreversible damage to your colon.
Supplements and Vitamins: If you are taking any of these supplements of vitamins please stay away from ACV. Vitamin C, all Vitamin Ds’, B vitamins and B complex. Zinc, iodine, fish oil, vitamin E. There may be a few more that in groupings will cause adverse reactions.
There are many more prescription drugs that could be put on this list. Please always check with your health care provider before adding acid to your regiment.
As registered dietitian and Food Network personality Ellie Krieger advised in The Washington Post, beneficial or not, apple cider vinegar is still an acid, and you should handle it with care. “It is a potent acid that can be dangerous if aspirated, may cause burns to the tender tissue of the mouth and esophagus, and can lead to tooth erosion,” Krieger advised.
ACV can also cause nausea and other gastrointestinal symptoms in already sensitive stomachs, so use common sense. If you’re experiencing discomfort, it might be time to cut back.
If you still want to use it, cook with it. Better yet, use it in your salad dressing!
“I say incorporate vinegars, like apple cider and red wine vinegar, into your diet by tossing them with veggies,” Keri Glassman, MS, RD, founder of Nutritious Life, told Woman’s Day. “The fiber and water volume of the veggies will help keep you full and hydrated, which naturally aids in digestion and weight maintenance. Plus, vinegar contains close to zero calories—as opposed to creamy bottled salad dressings.
Health and Wellness Associates
Dir P Carrothers
Director of Personalized Healthcare
Preventative and Restorative Medicine