Yes, improved digestion lands on the very long list of potential apple cider vinegar benefits. But is taking a shot of ACV any better for your gut than say a probiotic-rich yoghurt or preventing heartburn by limiting food triggers?
According to Dr. Nadia Khan, MD, internal medicine at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, "Apple cider vinegar may help with digestion and gut issues," but remember that keyword: may.
To understand why it's touted as a digestive aid by many, you should know what apple cider vinegar really is.
"It is a vinegar formed from apple cider and yeast through a fermentation process," Dr. Khan said. "Because it is fermented, there are good bacteria and enzymes in it. Therefore, if you have irritable bowel syndrome, gas or constipation issues, or reflux disease, it can help to promote more efficient digestion and alleviate a lot of these symptoms."
However, Dr. Khan said you can also achieve similar results with probiotic foods.
ACV's acidic nature also comes into play with digestive health. "Ingesting diluted apple cider vinegar will therefore temporarily increase the acidity of the stomach contents and help with breakdown of food particles," Dr. Khan said. "This allows the intestines to more efficiently process the food molecules, thereby reducing gas and bloating."
But since digestion issues, like indigestion, can be caused by many different factors, Dr. Khan explained that apple cider vinegar isn't necessarily a guarantee that you'll get the digestion boost you're hoping for.
Perhaps you have one friend, though, that absolutely swears by apple cider vinegar for a myriad of reasons — just know that these benefits haven't been scientifically proven.
Overall, Dr. Khan said that if a patient is dealing with intestinal issues and dietary changes aren't working, trying apple cider vinegar can be an option. But, you'll need to do so safely. For starters, reach out to your doctor before adding ACV into your diet to ensure it's right for you and to get clear instructions. Dr. Khan said it is "relatively" safe when taken under the proper directions.
Another important safety note: "You need to be careful, however, not to cause yourself more harm by ingesting too much, or ingesting it straight without dilution, as this can be too harsh on your stomach and potentially cause electrolyte problems," Dr. Khan said.
Again, that's why always getting your doctor's stamp of approval and guidelines is key.
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