Apple cider vinegar is one of the staples in my home. I use it to preserve freshly harvested herbs and add flavor to soups, stews, tofu (organic, of course!), and salad dressings. Swish some olive oil and a teaspoon of crushed chili and basil, I have an absolutely delicious instant bread dip.
There is a growing trend toward drinking apple cider vinegar for its weight loss, digestive and many other potential health benefits. But, is it actually safe to drink? Well, the short answer is “yes” and “no” depending on several factors.
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First, drinking apple cider vinegar straight out of the bottle without diluting it is not safe. While apple cider vinegar contains many beneficial microbes—both of the bacterial and yeast varieties—the natural sugars found in apples are converted by some of these microbes (acetobacter, to be specific) into acetic acid. That’s the chemical name of vinegar, which gives apple cider vinegar its distinctive taste, smell and of course, name.
The acidity of acetic acid is simply too strong for the delicate gastrointestinal (GI) tract with the delicate mucus membranes in the mouth and throughout. Once the acidity reaches the stomach, an organ that was designed to deal with potent acidity, the stomach can handle the acidity. But, prior to that, you can experience a burning sensation. It is simple to avoid: dilute no more than one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in 8 ounces of water before drinking it.
Second, drinking apple cider vinegar, even diluted, is not recommended for people suffering from ulcers or other gastrointestinal disorders, as it can inflame the GI tract.
Third, if you suffer from a diabetic condition known as gastroparesis (which is condition of the stomach in which the nerves do not properly work, resulting in food staying in the stomach for excessive periods) than you are better off not drinking apple cider vinegar. That’s because apple cider vinegar has been found in research in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition to delay the amount of time food sits in the stomach, which may aggravate gastroparesis. However, if you do not have diabetic gastroparesis but instead have weak digestion, this effect can be highly beneficial. That’s because the longer food sits in the digestive juices of the stomach, the more likely it is to be adequately digested by the time it leaves to move into the small intestines.
Now, that may sound like drinking apple cider vinegar is not safe at all, which is simply not the case. Provided you dilute it and do not have a condition that could be aggravated by the condiment, apple cider vinegar boasts many health benefits, including: regulating insulin sensitivity in diabetics or those suffering from metabolic syndrome, killing E. coli found on food, improving weight loss and helping with obesity and possibly even helping to balance blood chemistry in those with heart disease thanks to its chlorogenic acid content.
But, as with anything, it is best used responsibly. Drink a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar diluted in an 8-ounce glass of water about 10 minutes before eating meals to help boost digestion and reap its health benefits. And, if you’re not sure if apple cider vinegar is safe for you based on any health conditions you may have, check with your doctor first.
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Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the publisher of the free e-news World’s Healthiest News, the Cultured Cook, president of PureFood BC, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: The Cultured Cook: Delicious Fermented Foods with Probiotics to Knock Out Inflammation, Boost Gut Health, Lose Weight & Extend Your Life.