Dealing with that fiery burn in your chest from acid reflux is no fun at all. Whether you suffer from chronic heartburn or it only comes on from eating a heavy meal, most of us will have to deal with acid reflux at some point in our lives. But before you go popping tums or maalox, consider that long term use of these medications can lead to nutrient deficiencies and increased risk of stomach infections (1). Not to mention all the excess sugars!
But when it comes to natural remedies I’ve got you covered and today I’ll share how you can use apple cider vinegar to help with your acid reflux. But first, what is acid reflux and why do you get it?
On the way down to your stomach there is a little circle of muscle. It’s got a fun little name called the esophageal sphincter. When everything is working like it’s supposed to this sphincter closes as soon as you eat, keeping food in your stomach where it gets broken down by hydrochloric acid. But if for some reason that valve doesn’t close properly, acid can rise up into your esophagus, causing the painful burning in your chest known as heartburn or acid reflux (2).
Some people experience acid reflux and other symptoms more than two times a week. In that case usually doctors diagnose this as a chronic acid reflux disease or GERD.
Symptoms of acid reflux disease include a constant burning feeling or pain located in the chest, accompanied by excess belching, nausea before or after eating and a sour taste that rises up to the back of the throat. If this goes on for too long the throat can actually become narrowed or restricted due to constant inflammation. This is a condition known as dysphagia.
What Causes People to Get Acid Reflux?
- Obesity. When a person is overweight, it puts excess pressure on the stomach and esophagus.
- Over-eating. Most people will experience some kind of acid reflux around the holidays. Eating a heavy meal and then laying down to watch something on TV is a recipe for reflux.
- It could also be what you’re eating. Consuming a lot of fatty, spicy, or other acid forming foods can also cause reflux.
- Being pregnant. Most women will experience some reflux with pregnancy, as baby can compress your stomach and push it up towards your esophagus. This could also relax the esophageal sphincter.
- A lesser known cause of GERD is medications. Taking things like ibuprofen, muscle relaxers or other pain medications over a long period of time can also create problems with acid reflux.
If you see yourself in any of these causes or symptoms, try starting with some basic lifestyle changes to prevent acid reflux. Before using apple cider vinegar try eating smaller meals throughout the day and remain sitting for about thirty minutes after you eat instead of laying down.
Another great preventative measure is to cut out common irritants like excess caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods. If these don’t help, then apple cider vinegar may give you the relief you’re looking for without the nasty side effects of some other over the counter medications.
Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits
Raw apple cider vinegar is often raved about as a kind of cure-all for anything that ails you. This is because it is such a multipurpose ingredient. You can tell if the apple cider vinegar is organic, raw, unprocessed and unfiltered because it will be cloudy, with a bit of sediment on the bottom, known as the “mother.” This is the best option.
Apple cider vinegar is high in acetic acids, but the raw unfiltered kind is also packed with enzymes and other friendly bacteria. Store apple cider vinegar in a cool cabinet out of the sunlight to get all the benefits.
What Can You Do With Apple Cider Vinegar? (3)
- Clean Your House. Most likely, before household cleaning products came along, your grandmother used vinegar. The reason for this is the acetic acid, a main ingredient in vinegar that kills bacteria and helps keep them from multiplying. It has even been used a food preservative.
- Regulate Blood Sugar Levels. Apple cider vinegar can improve insulin sensitivity or even lower blood sugar after eating high carbohydrate meals. One study showed a blood sugar decrease of 31% in subjects after eating white bread (4).
- Improve Weight Loss. Obviously diet and exercise comes first, but try adding a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to your food. It’s a tasty acid base for salad dressing or even as a quick shot before eating (diluted in water of course!) The secret behind it’s weight loss power is that it can help you feel full sooner, leading to less calorie consumption.
- Support your Heart Health. While this hasn’t yet been totally proven in humans yet, apple cider vinegar lowered blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides in animals. These are all risk factors for heart disease, which is a leading cause of premature death.
I’ll save the in-depth explanations of the wonders of apple cider vinegar for another time, but basically it’s a superstar to have around.
Apple Cider Vinegar and Acid Reflux
In order to explain what apple cider vinegar has to do with acid reflux, I need to revisit the cause. Most people assume that acid reflux or heartburn happens because of an excess of stomach acid. But that’s not necessarily the case.
Remember it has more to do with the valve keeping acid down than the acid itself. Over the counter antacids work to bring the acidity down, which can bring temporary relief. But over time the stomach will have to produce more acid to overcompensate, causing more acid reflux.
The same goes for H2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors, both of which block hydrochloric acid production. While this may help the esophagus to heal from inflammation, it’s not helpful over time. This is because we need our stomach acid and enzymes to remain intact so we can break down proteins and kill off any harmful bacteria that may be in our food. Blocking stomach acid is not the answer.
Another working theory is that if your stomach acid levels are too low, this leads to a relaxation of your esophageal sphincter. This causes acid to move from your stomach into your esophagus, therefore, acid reflux (5). Here’s where apple cider vinegar comes in.
You can take apple cider vinegar when you have acid reflux if there is not enough hydrochloric acid in your stomach to break down food. If you are low in digestive enzymes ACV is also helpful. This is a really common cause of heartburn because when your stomach doesn’t have the acid and enzymes it needs for digestion, acids can move up into your esophageal sphincter. Not fun.
How much apple cider vinegar should you take for acid reflux, you ask? For prevention, a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar mixed in water about 20 minutes before food should do the trick. How much water depends on how palatable the vinegar is for you. Try and see!
You can try this twice a day to work at encouraging hydrochloric acid production in your stomach and add in acetic acids to kill off any harmful pathogens that could irritate your stomach.
If you’ve eaten a heavy meal and are already feeling the burn, try adding a tablespoon into a little water and drinking it after a meal. You’ll know if apple cider vinegar is helping with acid reflux because hopefully you’ll feel some quick relief! The immediate effects of using apple cider vinegar for acid reflux are your stomach receiving the acids and digestive enzymes it needs to break down food.
Perks of Using Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar to Help with Reflux
- You can use apple cider vinegar for acid reflux long term because adding small amounts of this natural food into your diet and lifestyle is generally safe as long as it is diluted.
- It contains probiotics, which support gut health and the functioning of your digestive system over all.
- While there is no research proving this, generally it is safe for pregnant women to use apple cider vinegar for pregnancy related reflux as long as it is pasteurized. This rules out any potential risks for bacteria-related illness (6).
Risks When Using Apple Cider Vinegar for Reflux
- Lemons, vinegar, and any other highly acidic food should be a little diluted before consumption. This is because it can start to wear on your tooth enamel.
- It can also potentially interfere with certain medications like diuretics or heart medicines. If you’re taking these, try checking with your health care provider before adding apple cider vinegar to your diet.
- Apple cider vinegar can further irritate a stomach ulcer so if you have one, avoid it! Or if you notice stomach pain after ingesting it, talk to your doctor.
Other Natural Remedies for Acid Reflux
Along with apple cider vinegar, here are some other ideas to try if you’re looking for acid reflux relief (7).
- Slow down, chew and eat smaller meals. Portion sizes here in America are pretty insane compared to other countries and most of us overeat without even realizing it. This puts pressure on the esophageal sphincter which can lead to acid reflux. So slow down to enjoy your meal and make sure to chew properly. Chewing is a big part of digestion! If you try these two things you’ll probably notice yourself feeling full sooner too.
- Drink bone Broth. Acid reflux could be a sign of bigger digestive system issues. And a whole system approach at healing is always the way to go. Bone broth is an ancient superfood packed with tons of benefits. It contains glycine, which stimulates stomach acid, therefore making it an all-star food for anyone suffering from acid reflux. Read more about a bone broth diet here.
- Quit caffeine, alcohol and smoking. People hate it when you tell them to give up those bad habits, but if you’re struggling with acid reflux it’s worth it. Here’s why. Smoking, caffeine and alcohol are all acid forming in the body. They can also impair muscle reflexes and remember the esophageal sphincter is a muscle that keeps acid down in the stomach where it belongs. It needs to be working properly!
- Try digestive enzymes. Remember how sometimes low stomach acid can be the cause of acid reflux? Well, besides apple cider vinegar, chewing well and eating smaller meals, adding a quality digestive enzyme into your routine is a great idea for acid reflux. You can find a great one on our supplements page.
Okay we’ve covered a lot of ground, but to wrap this up, there are many reasons to try apple cider vinegar for reflux. It’s natural, readily available, non-habit forming and shouldn’t have any negative side effects as long as its diluted and used in moderation. It can stimulate stomach acid production, as well as support digestion with enzymes and probiotics.
I’d love to know what you think about apple cider vinegar for acid reflux, have you tried it? Are there any other secret recipes you’d like to share with us? If so, leave a comment because we’d love to hear from you!
- Everyday Health (2018). Are Heartburn Medications Safe for Long-Term Use? Retrieved from: https://www.everydayhealth.com/digestive-health/experts-are-heartburn-medications-safe.aspx
- WebMd (2018) What is Acid Reflux Disease? Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/guide/what-is-acid-reflux-disease#1-3
- Healthline (2018). 6 Proven Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-proven-health-benefits-of-apple-cider-vinegar#section5
- Brigehenti, F. Castellani, G. Benini, L. Casiraghi, MC. Leopardi, E. Crovetti, R. Testolin, G. Effect of Neutralized and Native Vinegar on Blood Glucose and Acetate Response to a Mixed Meal in Healthy Subjects. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7796781
- Harvard Health Blog (2018). Apple Cider Vinegar… for Heartburn? Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/apple-cider-vinegar-for-heartburn-2018032813530
- Healthline (2018). Is It Safe to Drink Apple Cider Vinegar While Pregnant? Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/apple-cider-vinegar#benefits
- Dr. Axe (2018). Acid Reflux Symptoms, Causes and Natural Treatments. Retrieved from: https://draxe.com/acid-reflux-symptoms/