Can Apple Cider Vinegar Relieve Heartburn?

Apple cider vinegar
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Apple cider vinegar has a large fan base that claims it can do everything from reducing dandruff to helping weight loss. Some people have reported that natural apple cider vinegar helps relieve their heartburn. Is there any evidence beyond personal testimonials to support this claim? The short answer is no. There are no published medical trials that support using apple cider vinegar for acid reflux.

What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?

Apple cider vinegar is made by fermenting pressed apples through the action of bacteria and yeast. Apples and apple juice themselves have little risk of triggering acid reflux and are often listed as a safe food in that regard. However, the vinegar produced has a high concentration of acetic acid, as do all types of vinegar.

How Could Acidic Vinegar Help Acid Reflux?

Fans of apple cider vinegar theorize that heartburn occurs because there isn't enough stomach acid, and taking apple cider vinegar brings the stomach acid level up, allowing the stomach to digest food properly and causing heartburn to subside.

However, other people state that lower stomach acid is not the cause of heartburn. In fact, just the opposite. Doctors recommend taking antacids to reduce stomach acid and control acid reflux symptoms. Medications for acid reflux are aimed to reduce acid production in the stomach.

These include H-2-receptor blockers such as cimetidine and ranitidine and proton pump inhibitors such as Prevacid and Prilosec.

While some people use apple cider vinegar to treat their heartburn, it's important to note that there haven't been any published clinical trials to support this. One master's degree thesis by an Arizona State University graduate student in 2016 tested apple cider vinegar in a placebo-controlled, double-blind cross-over study and found no difference in using the vinegar or a placebo for heartburn.

Could Apple Cider Vinegar Cause Harm?

Taking apple cider vinegar undiluted could irritate your mouth and esophagus as it is very acidic. It can also erode tooth enamel if taken undiluted. For this reason, it is wise to dilute it in water if you plan to use it. Add from one to three teaspoons of vinegar to a cup of water.

 Vinegar may interact with other medications you are taking at the same time. Instead of relieving heartburn, the vinegar may actually make it worse. If you are considering using apple cider vinegar as a treatment for heartburn, it is important that you talk to your doctor first.

Eating Strategies to Relieve Heartburn

You can also alleviate heartburn by making wise choices in the foods you eat. One of the leading triggers of heartburn is the food you eat. Medical authorities list the following tips that can help you.

  • Avoid foods and beverages that weaken the LES muscleThese foods include chocolate, peppermint, caffeinated beverages, alcohol, fatty foods, and greasy or fried foods.
  • Avoid foods and beverages that may irritate the esophagus: These include citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes and tomato-based products, chili peppers, and black pepper.
  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals: Eating large meals increases pressure in the stomach and against the LES muscle. Eating five or six small meals instead of three larger ones is better. And remember not to eat too quickly. Putting your fork or spoon down between bites can help you do this.
  • Don't drink alcohol: Drinking alcohol before, during, or after meals can worsen heartburn because alcohol weakens the LES muscle.

Sources:

GERD Lifestyle and Home Remedies. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gerd/basics/lifestyle-home-remedies/con-20025201.

Heartburn and GERD: Treatment options for GERD. National Center for Biotechnology Information. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072436/. Published November 18, 2015.

Treatment for GER & GERD. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults/treatment.

Yeh, Z. Is Apple Cider Vinegar Effective for Reducing Heartburn Symptoms Related to Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease? Arizona State University. August 2015.

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