Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a digestive disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. The symptoms of acid reflux can include heartburn, regurgitation, and a bitter taste in the mouth. While over-the-counter and prescription medications are commonly used to treat acid reflux, many people are turning to natural remedies like apple cider vinegar for relief.
What Is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is a type of digestive condition that occurs when gastric acid flows back up into the esophagus. (1) The esophagus is the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. When hydrochloric acid flows back into the esophagus, it can cause irritation and inflammation, which may cause a variety of symptoms.
Common symptoms of acid reflux include:
- Regurgitation of stomach acid or food
- Bitter or sour taste in the mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
- Chest pain
- Hoarseness or sore throat
Acid reflux is caused by a weakened lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is a ring of muscle that exists between the stomach and esophagus. When the LES is weak or over-relaxed, it may cause stomach acid to flow back up into the esophagus. (1)
There are a number of factors that can contribute to a weakened LES, including:
- Hiatal Hernia
- Certain Foods
- Certain Medications
These may either put pressure on the stomach or may weaken the LES, which can lead to acid reflux.
What is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a type of vinegar that is made from fermented apples. ACV has been used for centuries as a remedy for a variety of health issues. ACV is high in acetic acid, which is what gives it its sour taste and pungent smell. It also contains other beneficial compounds like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. (2)
How Can Apple Cider Vinegar Help with Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux occurs when the contents of the stomach, including stomach acid, flow back into the esophagus. The stomach acid entering the esophagus can irritate the lining of the esophagus, causing heartburn and other symptoms. Apple cider vinegar has commonly been used as a natural remedy for acid reflux, though scientific research to support its use is lacking. Apple cider vinegar may potentially help with acid reflux in several ways:
- Acidic Properties: Despite being acidic, apple cider vinegar is said to have an alkalizing effect on the body. This may help balance the pH levels in the stomach, reducing the amount of acid that flows back into the esophagus. However, there is not enough scientific research to verify this claim.
- Digestive Aid: Apple cider vinegar, being acidic, may also aid digestion by increasing stomach acid production. This can help break down food more effectively and reduce the likelihood of acid reflux. However, research on this claim is also lacking.
- Anti-inflammatory Properties: Some research suggests that apple cider vinegar may have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce the inflammation and irritation in the esophagus caused by acid reflux. (2)
How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar for Acid Reflux?
While apple cider vinegar may be beneficial for acid reflux, it's essential to use it properly to avoid any potential side effects. Here are some tips for using apple cider vinegar for acid reflux:
- Dilute it: Undiluted apple cider vinegar can be harsh on the stomach and esophagus. To avoid irritation, dilute 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water before drinking.
- Drink before meals: Drinking apple cider vinegar before meals may help prevent acid reflux symptoms. It's best to drink it 20-30 minutes before eating.
- Start with small doses: If you're new to using apple cider vinegar, start with small doses and gradually increase the amount over time. Too much apple cider vinegar can cause side effects like tooth enamel erosion, throat irritation, and low potassium levels.
- Use a straw: To protect your teeth from the acid in the apple cider vinegar, drink it through a straw.
Apple Cider Vinegar Recipe for Acid Reflux
Here's a simple recipe for using apple cider vinegar for acid reflux:
- 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
- 8 oz of water
- Honey (optional)
- Add 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to 8 oz of water.
- Mix well.
- Add honey to taste, if desired.
- Drink 20-30 minutes before meals.
Is Apple Cider Vinegar Good for Acid Reflux?
While there is limited scientific evidence to support the use of ACV for acid reflux, many people have reported relief from their symptoms. However, it's essential to use it properly and in moderation to avoid any potential side effects.
It is also recommended to purchase an apple cider vinegar that is raw and unpasteurized, containing living enzymes. You can often find ACV that has "the mother" which is an organic mass of enzymes that contains many of the beneficial properties found in ACV.
Apple Cider Vinegar for Acid Reflux Side Effects
While ACV is generally considered safe, there are a few potential side effects to be aware of. These can include:
- Tooth enamel erosion
- Throat irritation
- Low potassium levels
- Digestive issues, such as nausea and diarrhea
If you experience any of these side effects, it's best to stop using apple cider vinegar for acid reflux and speak with a healthcare provider.
Why is Apple Cider Vinegar Good for Acid Reflux?
The exact mechanisms behind why apple cider vinegar is good for acid reflux are not entirely understood. However, some research suggests that it may help balance the pH levels in the stomach and increase stomach acid production, both of which can reduce the likelihood of acid reflux. Additionally, the anti-inflammatory properties of apple cider vinegar may help reduce inflammation and irritation in the esophagus caused by acid reflux.
Can I Drink Apple Cider Vinegar for Acid Reflux?
Yes, you can drink apple cider vinegar for acid reflux. However, it’s essential to use it properly and in moderation to avoid any potential side effects. Always dilute apple cider vinegar in water before drinking and start with small doses. If you experience any side effects, stop using it and speak with a healthcare provider.
Additional Ways to Help Manage Acid Reflux
While apple cider vinegar may be helpful for managing acid reflux, there are many other natural ways of managing acid reflux. Some additional ways to help manage acid reflux include:
1. Lifestyle Changes
Lifestyle changes can be an effective way to manage acid reflux symptoms. Losing weight, for example, can reduce the pressure on the stomach, reducing the likelihood of stomach acid flowing back up into the esophagus. Avoiding trigger foods and drinks like spicy or fatty foods and alcohol can also help reduce symptoms. It is also recommended to quit smoking, as smoking can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and may increase the likelihood of acid reflux. It may also help to eat smaller, more frequent meals. This may help reduce symptoms by preventing the stomach from becoming too full.
Over-the-counter and prescription medications are often used to help treat acid reflux. Antacids like Tums and Rolaids can neutralize stomach acid and provide quick relief from symptoms. H2 blockers like Pepcid and Zantac can reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) like Nexium and Prilosec can also reduce stomach acid production and are often prescribed for more severe cases of acid reflux. (3)
However, these may also come with their own side effects, and rather than treating acid reflux, merely suppress it for as long as you are taking the medications. A more holistic approach is to find the root of what is causing your acid reflux and addressing the problem there so as to prevent acid reflux from occurring in the first place.
3. Elevating the Head of the Bed
Elevating the head of your bed by several inches may help prevent stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus while sleeping. This can be achieved by placing blocks under the head of the bed or by using a wedge pillow.
4. Stress Reduction
Stress can worsen acid reflux symptoms, so practicing stress-reduction techniques like meditation, deep breathing, and yoga may help. Reducing stress can also help improve sleep quality, which can also help reduce acid reflux symptoms.
5. Alternative Therapies
Some alternative therapies may be helpful for managing acid reflux symptoms. Acupuncture, for example, has been shown to reduce symptoms in some people. Chiropractic care may also be helpful, as adjustments can help improve nerve function and reduce symptoms. Certain herbal remedies like ginger and chamomile may also help reduce symptoms, but more research is needed to determine their effectiveness.
It's important to note that if you experience frequent or severe acid reflux symptoms, it's best to speak with a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment. They can help determine the underlying cause of your symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment options.
While there is limited scientific evidence to support the use of apple cider vinegar for acid reflux, many people have reported relief from their symptoms. If you're considering using apple cider vinegar for acid reflux, be sure to use it properly and in moderation, and speak with a healthcare provider if you have any concerns.