Is Apple Cider Vinegar Good For IBS?

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It’s often difficult to find something that can treat irritable bowel syndrome. You try everything and you look everywhere and still can’t find that perfect elixir. 

So you’ve decided to try apple cider vinegar – but you’ve heard so many things. Is it any good? Will it work? What does it do to your gut? What exactly is apple cider vinegar?!

It’s okay – we’ll answer all these questions and more to try and give you a well rounded picture of apple cider vinegar. 

What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?

Apple cider vinegar is the result of crushed apples after which the juices are then fermented. Effectively, it begins as apple juice but then has yeast thrown into the mix.

This alters the product into an alcohol and as bacteria counts grow – that changes the alcohol to acetic acid. Ever noticed the strong, often unpleasant smell? That’s why! 

It isn’t clear in the US what constitutes apple cider vinegar, as the product’s ingredients differ from brand to brand. Having said that, it mostly is citric acid and acetic acids.

Apple cider vinegar can be packed full of vitamins such as vitamin C and vitamin B but not always.

Sometimes it contains small traces of potassium (usually found in bananas) and amino acids. Additionally, the liquid often contains a fiber called pectin which is soluble. 

How Is It Taken?

It is far too acidic to consume as it comes from the store, so anybody thinking of buying it needs to read the label and ensure they dilute the vinegar with water before drinking it or using it in cooking.

If you want to drink it – you should mix about 1 or 2 tablespoons of the vinegar in a big glass of water. Or you might decide to use it in cooking!

One of the most popular ways to do this is by mixing the vinegar in your sauces, such as a steak marinade. Another use is mixing it with the water in a pan to boil and poach eggs. Or why not use it in a salad dressing?

Some have also opted to mix it in their tea or coffee with something to sweeten the taste such as honey or jelly. Unleash your inner chef and be creative!

There are also pills in some health stores available. Usually, this is reserved for consumers who want to take apple cider vinegar but do not like the taste or smell.

The pills are recommended with water – always remember to speak to a professional before taking any pills!

How Does Apple Cider Vinegar Work? 

The product alters the way your food is absorbed from the gut.

It’s still debated by scientists exactly how apple cider vinegar works, but the general consensus is that it can increase your stomach acid and improves the way in which your enzymes within the digestive system are secreted. 

In theory, this should improve your digestion. Some people have reported that apple cider vinegar has helped with digestive problems such as diarrhea, vomiting and constipation.

Some scientists say that the vinegar contains a whole load of heath aiding benefits such as antioxidants and antimicrobial effects. 

It has been said that apple cider vinegar has been known to kill harmful bacterias and even prevent the growth of E. coli in foods, as it can act as an antibiotic. 

So, Is It Any Good For IBS? Should I Be Using It?

There is currently very little research to verify if apple cider vinegar will aid irritable bowel syndrome. However, many consumers have said it has helped their gut problems.

This could be down to the fact that apple cider vinegar acts as a prebiotic food. This can be a great way to balance the bacterias in our gut and promote healthy digestion, but as previously stated – there’s no concrete evidence to support this claim.

Additionally, some medical professionals have said that if this is the case, it is due to smaller usage of apple cider vinegar and warned of the potential adverse effects of too much – but we’ll get to that! 

What Is Apple Cider Vinegar Good For?

As there is no solid evidence to support the use of apple cider vinegar for irritable bowel syndrome, that doesn’t mean the vinegar is totally useless. These uses might surprise you!

You can use it as a preservative for your foods at home (remember, it is a vinegar!). It can also be used as a home cleaner due to its antibacterial properties. Some have taken it outside and used the non-diluted vinegar as a weed killer. 

These uses might be scary to hear when you’re considering drinking it! But apple cider vinegar definitely has a huge variety of uses.

We’re gonna list some of the other health concerns people have used the vinegar for, but please bear in mind that all of these need further research and, much like the use for IBS, there is no conclusive evidence… at least not yet anyway.

The benefits reported are:

  1. Promoting weight loss – It has been said that apple cider vinegar can make you feel full or fuller. As a result, you may not opt for your usual high calorie meal or snack. Furthermore, some studies suggest that it can reduce your level of body fat. 
  2. A reduction of blood sugar level – research has suggested that apple cider vinegar can increase the consumer’s sensitivity to insulin. This comes down to its antiglycemic properties resulting in a reduction in the starch levels post-meal. Scientists have theorized that this may assist people living with diabetes.
  3. A reduction in cholesterol – A study suggested that the fats found in our blood (triglycerides and cholesterol) can be reduced by the consumption of apple cider vinegar.
  4. Acne – the antifungal property of the acetic acids has been known to clean up your zits!

The Bad Apples 

There are potential negative effects of using apple cider vinegar which could potentially make irritable bowel syndrome symptoms worse.

Here are a few reasons you might want to think about other treatments:

  1. Changes in the stomach – Too much apple cider vinegar can potentially slow down the rate of emptying your stomach into the lower digestive system.
  2. Unhealthy weight loss – It’s great to lose weight in a controlled way, but losing too much and too quickly can be dangerous. 
  3. Severe indigestion – this can be incredibly painful.
  4. Bad teeth – Due to its acidity, the vinegar over time can erode your tooth enamel. 
  5. Burns – Some people have reported burns on the skin after contact with the vinegar, or even in the mouth/throat after taking the pill form.

The Bottom Line 

Irritable bowel syndrome is a complex condition and it is always worth seeking out your doctor to recommend the treatments available to you.

Although there have been reports of the fantastic benefits that apple cider vinegar has had on some people – we are all different. 

Currently there is no concrete evidence to tell us that apple cider vinegar definitely helps with IBS and there are some effects that could potentially make symptoms worse.

However, the choice is always yours! If you are set on buying the vinegar, ensure you read the label and any potential adverse effects listed. 

For more articles about IBS and diet:

Written and Medically Reviewed By

  • Kelly Chow

    Kelly first experienced IBS symptoms at the age of 24 with major-to-severe symptoms. She underwent all types of tests and experimented with many treatments before finally finding ways to manage her symptoms. Kelly has written and shared ebooks and Gluten-Free diet plans that she has used to live life like she did before IBS.

  • Julie Guider, M.D.

    Dr. Julie Guider earned her medical degree from Louisiana State University School of Medicine. She completed residency in internal medicine at the University of Virginia. She completed her general gastroenterology and advanced endoscopy fellowships at University of Texas-Houston. She is a member of several national GI societies including the AGA, ACG, and ASGE as well as state and local medical societies.

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