Some people swear by apple cider vinegar for heartburn as a home remedy, but for others, it makes their acid reflux worse. If you want to see if apple cider vinegar is likely to work for you, there is one simple test you can do at home, but there are some important things you must know before you take apple cider vinegar for heartburn. We’ll give you the tips you need for relief of your heartburn symptoms using apple cider vinegar.
What causes heartburn?
Acid reflux occurs when your lower esophageal sphincter allows the acidic contents of your stomach acid back up into your esophagus.
Your lower esophageal sphincter muscle is supposed to stop acid refluxing from your stomach back into your esophagus or food pipe, but sometimes this doesn’t happen due to:
- Too much pressure on your stomach due to obesity, pregnancy, big meals, tight clothing or gas in your stomach.
- Loosening of your lower esophageal sphincter due to alcohol, smoking, certain foods and medications
- Too much stomach acid or not enough stomach acid
If acid reflux occurs frequently, it can cause inflammation and corrosion in your digestive tract. The effect of acid moving over damaged areas of your esophagus causes the burning sensation you feel may feel in your chest. This is referred to as heartburn.
Over time, frequent heartburn can lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease, Barrett’s esophagus, and in rare cases, esophageal cancer.
Depending on the severity of your heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), your symptoms may include:
- acid reflux
- burning sensation in your chest
- bad breath
- sour taste in your mouth
- sore stomach
- gas or bloating
How does apple cider vinegar for heartburn work?
Apple cider vinegar is made from fermented apple juice.
Your stomach has an ideal acidity level. Maintaining this balance helps your digestive system work properly. Since your stomach may not be producing enough gastric acid, apple cider vinegar may help to regain the optimum pH level.
Some people that suffer from acid reflux have low levels of acidity in their stomach. This can cause food to not be digested properly, which the leads to a range of problems including acid reflux. Likely causes of low stomach acidity include:
- eating too many processed carbohydrates like bread, pasta, rice and baked goods
- nutrient deficiencies
- excess alcohol consumption
It is thought that low levels of stomach acid cause your lower esophageal sphincter to loosen and this lets acid reflux from your stomach back into your food pipe.
How does apple cider vinegar help heartburn?
Apple cider vinegar has a high acidity level. A small amount of apple cider vinegar, taken regularly, may help increase acidity when there isn’t enough acid.
Proton pump inhibitors, which are available as over-the-counter and prescription medications, are commonly used to treat heartburn by reducing stomach acid production. ACV may help increase acidity.
Apple cider vinegar contains a small amount of acetic acid and malic acid which helps the contents of your stomach be digested quickly. In theory, this should give you less digestive issues.
Malic acid and acetic acid also contributes to the sour taste of ACV.
While there is no scientific evidence that apple cider vinegar for heartburn works, anecdotal evidence suggests ACV is a popular natural home remedy that has given many people heartburn relief. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work for everyone. The only way to know if it will work for you is to try it.
Apple cider vinegar is generally accepted as safe to consume in small amounts when diluted in a cup of water. Dilution is important due to the acidic nature of ACV. If not diluted, apple cider vinegar could cause more damage to your digestive system.
Will apple cider vinegar for heartburn work for me?
People who don’t have enough stomach acid are most likely to benefit from taking ACV for heartburn.
There is a simple test you can do at home to see whether you have low levels of acid in your stomach. Whilst it’s not a definitive test, it should give you a reasonable indication.
Baking soda test for low stomach acid
The way this simple test works is the baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) mixes with your stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) to create carbon dioxide. This gas causes you to burp. If you burp within 5 minutes, you probably have about the right amount of stomach acid. It you take longer than 5 minutes to burp, or don’t burp at all, you may have low or no stomach acid.
To get the most accurate results, do the test on an empty stomach, when you wake up, for 3 days in a row.
- Mix 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda (this is bicarb soda, NOT baking powder) with 1/2 cup of cold water.
- Drink the mixture.
- Time how long it takes to burp.
The best apple cider vinegar for heartburn relief
While the brand doesn’t seem to matter, it’s best to use organic unpasteurized and raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar. This is the best option because it contains beneficial bacteria and has no synthetic additives. There are also nutritional benefits associated with using organic ACV.
Raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar also contains nutrients that help your digestion and overall health. The “mother”, which is the cobweb-like substance at the bottom of the bottle is rich in digestive enzymes, amino acids and pectin.
You can also buy pasteurized apple cider vinegar which doesn’t have a cloudy appearance. The pasteurization process involves a heat treatment that kills off digestive enzymes and doesn’t have the same nutritional benefits as raw unpasteurized ACV.
How much apple cider vinegar should I have?
Depending on what works for you, the usual dosage can vary from 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar diluted in 1 glass of water (8 ounces of water).
You’ll need to work out your ideal dosage with trial and error. Too little won’t have any effect, and too much will only worsen your acid reflux. Start out with one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and work your way up each day until you find relief.
One dose of apple cider vinegar isn’t likely to cure your acid reflux. Over time, you may find you can go a few days between doses.
Due to it’s acidity, if taken regularly, ACV can erode tooth enamel, so you should consider drinking through a straw.
Overconsumption of vinegar can result in damage to your digestive tract. So if 2 tablespoons of ACV diluted in water isn’t working for you, stop using it.
When should I take apple cider vinegar for heartburn?
Some people take apple cider vinegar before meals, for others, it works best after meals. If you suffer heartburn at night, you may find it most beneficial to take ACV before bed time.
The video below describes one person’s year long experiment using ACV to cure their apple cider vinegar. He started drinking apple cider vinegar twice a day, then after one month, reduced his consumption, and 12 months later, he can take apple cider vinegar once every 3 to 4 days for continual heartburn relief. If you’re serious about trying apple cider vinegar for heartburn, then this will be a helpful video to watch.
Alternative ways to consume apple cider vinegar
Some people just don’t get used to the taste of apple cider vinegar and water. To improve the taste, you can stir in a teaspoon of honey with the water. Interestingly, you can also add lemon juice to this mix and, even though it is another acid, it seems to neutralize the acidic taste of the vinegar and make for a more refreshing drink.
If you mix this with soda water you have a sparkling version which is sometimes easier to drink than the still water version. However, be mindful that fizzy drinks are a big cause of acid reflux, so give this one a miss if carbonated drinks bring on acid reflux or gas for you. You could even try half tap water and half carbonated water.
Or you could try the recipe from the video above, courtesy of seriousketo.com. This recipe makes 2 quarts (2 liters) and can be refrigerated for a few days. Simply mix the ingredients together.
1/3 cup (80 ml) lemon juice
2/3 cup (160 ml) apple cider vinegar (with “the mother”)
1/3 teaspoon powdered ginger
2/3 teaspoon cinnamon
6-8 grinds of pink Himalayan sea salt
sweetener to taste (I do 6 squirts of liquid stevia)
water to fill the rest of the pitcher
Another way to consume vinegar is to add it to your food. When mixed with olive oil, it forms a lovely salad dressing. You could add a little honey and mustard to the dressing for extra flavour.
If you really don’t like the sour taste of the liquid form, you could also try ACV pills instead. ACV pills are simply dehydrated apple cider vinegar and offer the same benefits.
Benefits of taking ACV pills include:
- no erosion of tooth enamel
- avoid the burning sensation
- no bitter taste
- ACV pills are not regulated by the FDA, so quality and pH level may vary
Possible side effects and warnings for ACV
If you have certain medical conditions or take certain medication, you should not take apple cider vinegar for heartburn relief. If in doubt, consult your health care provider.
- erosion of tooth enamel due to high acidity – drink through a straw
- may interfere with medications – diuretics, laxatives, heart disease medication
- may aggravate ulcers
- blood thinning
- irritate your throat
- may reduce potassium levels
Apple cider vinegar is best for treating mild cases of acid reflux. ACV kind of burns to start with but the burning sensation should go away in a few days. If you have severe acid reflux or ACV really stings when you drink it, you should probably avoid this home remedy.
Other ways to increase acidity in your stomach and reduce heartburn
There are a few ways to increase stomach acid naturally. Apart from apple cider vinegar, you can try:
- chew your food thoroughly to stimulate digestive enzymes
- drink a glass of warm or room temperature lemon water upon waking (squeeze half or one lemon into a glass of water)
- limit processed foods
- eat fermented foods such as sauerkraut, pickles and kimchi
- eat foods with digestive enzymes eg. honey, avocado, sauerkraut, mango and papaya
- try digestive bitters
Other natural heartburn remedies
Whether or not apple cider vinegar for heartburn works for you, you may want to try other natural remedies and take a wholistic approach to treating your heartburn or GERD.
- avoid your acid reflux trigger foods
- eat small frequent meals
- try probiotics
- allow 2-3 hours after eating/drinking before you lie down
- elevate your head and torso when sleeping
- try to reduce stress by trying yoga or meditation
- do exercises that don’t aggravate your heartburn most days
- avoid alcohol, or drink moderate amounts of alcohol that doesn’t cause heartburn
- quit smoking
- try these natural home remedies for heartburn