What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar is mostly apple juice, but adding yeast turns the sugar in the juice into alcohol. This is a process called fermentation. Bacteria turn the alcohol into acetic acid. That’s what gives vinegar its sour taste and strong smell.
Apple cider vinegar has a long history as a home remedy, used to treat things like sore throat and varicose veins. There isn’t much science to support the claims. But in recent years, some researchers have been taking a closer look at apple cider vinegar and its possible benefits.
Some people say the “mother”, the cloud of yeast and bacteria you might see in a bottle of apple cider vinegar, is what makes it healthy. These things are probiotic, meaning they might give your digestive system a boost, but there isn’t enough research to back up the other claims.
The Best Time to Drink Apple Cider Vinegar
Sip your apple cider vinegar drink first thing in the morning or right before a meal. Taken before a meal, the vinegar drink can help you feel full faster, which can aid in weight loss.
How Much Should You Drink per Day?
For Blood Sugar Management
Apple cider vinegar is often recommended as a natural way to control blood sugar levels, especially for people with insulin resistance.
When taken before a high-carb meal, vinegar slows the rate of stomach emptying and prevents large blood sugar spikes (1Trusted Source).
It also improves insulin sensitivity, which helps your body move more glucose out of the bloodstream and into your cells, thus lowering blood sugar levels (2Trusted Source).
Interestingly, only a small amount of apple cider vinegar is needed to have these effects.
Four teaspoons (20 ml) of apple cider vinegar before meals have been shown to significantly reduce blood sugar levels after eating (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).
It should be mixed with a few ounces of water and consumed right before a high-carb meal (2Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source).
Apple cider vinegar does not significantly lower blood sugar when taken before a low-carb or high-fiber meal (6Trusted Source).
Drinking four teaspoons (20 ml) of apple cider vinegar diluted in water immediately before a high-carb meal can reduce blood sugar spikes.
For Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition associated with abnormal menstrual cycles, high levels of androgen hormones, ovarian cysts and insulin resistance (7Trusted Source).
One three-month study found that women with PCOS who drank one tablespoon (15 ml) of apple cider vinegar with 100 ml or about 7 ounces of water immediately after dinner had improved hormone levels and experienced more regular periods (8Trusted Source).
While further research is needed to confirm these results, one tablespoon (15 ml) each day appears to be an effective dose for improving PCOS symptoms.
Regularly drinking one tablespoon (15 ml) of apple cider vinegar with 100 ml or about 7 ounces of water after dinner may improve symptoms of PCOS.
For Weight Loss
Vinegar may help people lose weight by increasing feelings of fullness and reducing the amount of food eaten throughout the day (9Trusted Source).
In one study, one or two tablespoons (15 or 30 ml) of apple cider vinegar daily for three months helped overweight adults lose an average of 2.6 and 3.7 pounds (1.2 and 1.7 kg), respectively (10Trusted Source).
Two tablespoons each day have also been found to help dieters lose nearly twice as much weight in three months compared to people who didn’t consume apple cider vinegar (11).
You can stir it into a glass of water and drink it before meals or mix it with oil to make a salad dressing.
Apple cider vinegar is more likely to aid weight loss when combined with other diet and lifestyle changes.
Drinking 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 ml) of apple cider vinegar each day for several months may increase weight loss in people who are overweight.
For Improved Digestion
Many people take apple cider vinegar before protein-heavy meals to improve digestion.
The theory is that apple cider vinegar increases the acidity of your stomach, which helps your body create more pepsin, the enzyme that breaks down protein (12Trusted Source).
While there is no research to support the use of vinegar for digestion, other acidic supplements, such as betaine HCL, can significantly increase the acidity of the stomach (13Trusted Source).
Acidic foods like apple cider vinegar may have similar effects, but more research is needed.
Those who take apple cider vinegar for digestion typically drink one to two tablespoons (15–30 ml) with a glass of water immediately before meals, but there is currently no evidence to support this dose.
Some claim to drink one to two tablespoons (15–30 ml) of apple cider vinegar before meals can aid digestion. However, there is currently no research to support this practice.
For General Wellness
Other popular reasons for taking apple cider vinegar include protecting against heart disease, reducing the risk of cancer and fighting infection.
There is limited scientific evidence to support these claims, and no recommended dosages for humans are available.
Animal and test-tube studies suggest that vinegar may reduce the risk of heart disease, fight cancer and slow the growth of bacteria, but no studies have been performed in humans (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).
Several studies have found that people who regularly eat salads with vinegar-based dressings tend to have a lower risk of heart disease and less belly fat, but this could be due to other factors (11, 17Trusted Source).
More human research is needed to understand the best dose of apple cider vinegar for general health and wellness.
There is no evidence that apple cider vinegar can protect against heart disease, cancer or infection in humans, so no dosage recommendations can be made.
Caution when drinking apple cider vinegar
Take it straight
If you’re thinking about downing some apple cider vinegar and then quickly eating or drinking something else to mask the bitter taste, you may want to think twice. While there are many ACV health benefits, drinking it this way may be more harmful than helpful. “Due to the [acidic] nature of ACV, you risk the ACV severely irritating and causing damage to the esophagus and stomach,” advises Matt Weik, a kinesiologist and owner of Weik Fitness, LLC. “Do yourself a huge favor and always dilute your ACV in a liquid.” Water is probably the way to dilute the apple cider vinegar, which can help protect your throat and stomach from the acid and make it more palatable.
Drink it right after eating
If you’re in the habit of drinking apple cider vinegar after a meal, you might want to amend your routine. Elizabeth Abel, a licensed functional nutritionist with First State Integrative Health Center in Wilmington, Delaware, explains that taking apple cider vinegar on an empty stomach may yield health benefits. “Many people, especially as they age, tend to experience a decrease in their gastric juices which can help break down the food they eat,” she says. “Consuming a little bit of ACV right before eating can help substitute for these lost gastric juices, allowing food to digest more easily.” The end result is that you may experience less bloating or indigestion after eating. She also suggests trying it as part of a salad dressing, which she says is another way to reap its benefits. If you like the idea of enjoying ACV with your meal, try these 12 delicious apple cider vinegar recipes.
Breathe it in
“ACV can cause an unpleasant reaction in the nose or eyes, so it’s best not to take a strong whiff,” advises Abel. Remember, it’s vinegar, and vinegar gives off a potent smell that can act as in irritant. Be careful not to inhale, or at least not deeply, as you drink it. Instead, Abel suggests diluting ACV with some water to your preferred taste to help diminish the strong vinegar smell. She adds that this dilution is also important for “the protection of your teeth and esophagus.” Her suggestion? “Even 2 – 4 ounces of water mixed with 1 – 3 teaspoons of ACV is a good ratio for many people.”
Take swigs of it
Even when it’s diluted, apple cider vinegar is still an extremely acidic substance. Caitlin Hoff, a health and safety investigator for ConsumerSafety.org, says that ACV is highly acidic and as such, can damage tooth enamel. So, if you’re wondering how to take apple cider vinegar, don’t just sip it or swig it from a glass (even diluted). Instead, try drinking it through a straw so that it comes into as little contact as possible with your choppers. Abel recommends avoiding brushing your teeth for at least 30 minutes after taking apple cider vinegar.
Start by drinking lots of it
Apple cider vinegar is good for you; here are the 11 things that happen to your body when you drink apple cider vinegar every day. So, the more the better, right? Wrong. Too much of a good thing is usually a problem—and apple cider vinegar is no exception. Especially if you’re new to ACV, you should make sure you’re not taking too much of it. “It’s a good idea to ease into it,” says Abel. This will help you gauge how your body reacts to it. “If it gives you an upset stomach or a burning feeling, reduce the amount until there’s no sensation,” Abel suggests. Plus, starting small and working your way up to a larger amount will allow you to adjust to the taste. Even if all goes smoothly and you experience no issues, you should never go beyond two tablespoons at a time. “Even when you dilute it in water, limit your intake to two tablespoons to protect yourself against harmful or uncomfortable side effects,” Hoff advises.
Drink it right before bed
While taking apple cider vinegar before you eat is a good idea, taking it before you sleep is not. “Taking ACV immediately before bed is not advised because of the potential for it to creep back up the esophagus,” says Laura C. Stix, a naturopathic doctor and clinical hypnotherapist. Even if the ACV is diluted, it can still harm your esophagus if the acid comes into contact with it while you’re lying down. “Regardless of the time of day, people should remain upright for 30 minutes after taking it to ensure there is no reflux and irritation to the esophagus,” Stix adds. She recommends drinking ACV at least half an hour before you hit the hay.
Take it if you have H. pylori
While apple cider vinegar can, for the most part, boost your digestive health, there are some stomach conditions that this acidic substance will only make worse. One example is if you have Helicobacter pylori, the type of bacteria linked to ulcers. Unfortunately, apple cider vinegar (and the acid it contains) can cause even more irritation, warns Abel. If you have any doubts about drinking ACV—regardless of the reason—consult your doctor beforehand. Be sure to also look out for these 11 myths about apple cider vinegar you need to stop believing.
Put it directly on your skin
Taking apple cider vinegar for your skin doesn’t always involve drinking. You can use ACV for its beauty benefits. It may help banish acne and dandruff or even ease a sunburn. But there’s a right and a wrong way to use ACV on your skin. “Whether you’re using ACV as a toner, to remove blemishes, or to treat infections, it’s crucial that you dilute it and minimize the contact with your skin,” says New York City resident Caleb Backe, a certified personal trainer and a health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics. “Prolonged exposure to the highly acidic vinegar can actually kill skin cells, erode your skin, and even leave you with semi-permanent chemical burns.” Again, sticking to one part vinegar to eight or ten parts of water is the recommended amount.
Though apple cider vinegar may offer various benefits, such as weight loss, blood sugar control, and antibacterial effects, studies on drinking it right before bed are lacking.
What’s more, consuming it can cause nausea, indigestion, erosion of your tooth enamel, and interactions with certain medications.
Aside from potentially lowering fasting blood sugar, drinking apple cider vinegar right before bed doesn’t appear to make much of a difference in terms of its health benefits.
To prevent adverse effects, it’s best to enjoy it diluted or in a dressing and at least 30 minutes before laying down.
If you want to give apple cider vinegar a try, you can buy it locally or online.