Apple cider vinegar is often used as a tonic and a way to promote health benefits, including weight loss.
The appeal of doing so is easy to see, especially as some research does support health benefits, including the potential to improve insulin sensitivity, reduce fasting blood sugars and perhaps even reduce heart disease risk (1,2,3,4).
More research into these fields is needed but that hasn’t stopped apple cider vinegar from becoming popular.
This begs the question, what about the side effects of drinking apple cider vinegar?
So, with this post, we’re taking a look at the side effects of drinking apple cider vinegar and what you can do to avoid them. Realistically, apple cider vinegar is something that you have to take carefully because consuming too much can have side effects.
1. Digestive Issues
Some people do find that drinking apple cider vinegar can cause indigestion and nausea (6). This is especially common in cases where the vinegar is included in a drink that doesn’t taste good.
In some cases, it’s possible that poor digestion is one of the side effects of drinking apple cider vinegar because of its harsh nature. That is likely to be particularly significant for people who have not consumed this type of vinegar before or are starting off with a fairly high dose.
2. Delayed Emptying of the Stomach
One of the appealing outcomes of apple cider vinegar is the potential to reduce spikes in blood sugar. This occurs because apple cider vinegar helps to slow down the rate that food leaves the stomach (9,10).
However, this can be a bad thing for people with gastroparesis, which is a digestive disorder where food cannot move through the digestive system effectively.
There are a number of possible causes for this condition, including uncontrolled diabetes, some medications and multiple sclerosis (14).
This condition is especially concerning because if food stays in the stomach too long it can result in undesirable bacterial growth or the formation of solid masses.
Some of the symptoms of gastroparesis include the following:
- Abdominal bloating
- Vomiting undigested food
- Poor blood sugar control
- Feeling full quickly
Because of the connection between apple cider vinegar and gastroparesis, you should avoid apple cider vinegar at all if you have the condition. Additionally, it’s worth talking to a doctor if you have any of the symptoms – before you start taking apple cider vinegar.
3. Loss of Potassium
There haven’t been many studies directly looking at supplementing with apple cider vinegar. However, there are some indications that apple cider vinegar may have impacts on potassium levels in the blood, decreasing them considerably.
There is one case study where this did occur and the pattern was believed to cause osteoporosis because of the apple cider vinegar leaching minerals from the bones (15).
In this particular case, the amount of apple cider vinegar consumed was excessive (around 250 ml or 8.5 fl oz), which is much more than anybody should be drinking in a day. Furthermore, the patient had been consuming apple cider vinegar at that level for around 6 years.
As such, the health issues experienced aren’t likely to happen if you’re just consuming a couple of tablespoons of apple cider vinegar per day.
Nevertheless, the potential impact of apple cider vinegar on potassium levels is something to be aware of, especially if your potassium levels are likely to be low for any other reason.
4. Damage to Teeth
It shouldn’t come as a surprise but too much apple cider vinegar has been linked to eroding the enamel on teeth. This pattern is actually true for acidic food and drink in general as well (16).
However, the effects of apple cider vinegar on teeth are particularly significant because people often consume it directly and can drink a considerable amount at a time.
For example, in one reported case a teenager was consuming a glass of apple cider vinegar (undiluted) each day, in an effort to lose weight.
That behavior resulted in significant damage to her teeth (17).
Research has also indicated that vinegar can lead to a loss of minerals in teeth, which could contribute to tooth decay (18).
Now, this issue is likely to be most significant when you’re drinking the apple cider vinegar straight, especially as vinegar is acidic and fairly harsh on the body.
5. Burns to the Throat
A related issue is that apple cider vinegar can burn the throat. Again, this is most common if you are drinking the vinegar straight.
The issue is significant enough that the acetic acid in vinegar can be considered a ‘caustic substance’ and can cause throat burns when children accidentally swallow it (19).
Now, similar effects haven’t been found with apple cider vinegar itself but the potential is there.
So, it’s important to be careful with apple cider vinegar, especially if you are drinking it straight.
6. Potential Drug Interactions
If you’re on medication, it’s always important to be careful about what you consume as there is the potential for interactions with drugs.
This is true for prescription medication and also for anything you take over the counter.
In the case of apple cider vinegar, this may occur for cases where the effects of the apple cider vinegar are similar.
Likewise, you should avoid apple cider vinegar if you’re on any medication that lowers potassium levels. This includes medications that do some directly (like Digoxin), along with diuretics, which can cause an excretion of potassium,
Avoiding the Side Effects of Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar
In most cases, the side effects of drinking apple cider vinegar are either connected to the concentration of the vinegar or to the sheer amount that people drink.
As such, one way around these side effects is to change the way that you consume the vinegar. For example, apple cider vinegar can be included as an ingredient in a smoothie or a drink, along with ingredients like cinnamon and honey.
Methods like this serve to dilute the apple cider vinegar, meaning that it won’t have such a dramatic impact on your body.
You can also reduce the impacts by drinking through a straw and washing your mouth out afterward.
Additionally, you should limit your intake. In most cases, you should probably be having, at most, around 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar per day – and certainly never as much as a cup.
It’s also best to start small and work up to that point. Doing so gives your body more time to adjust and can decrease any side effects of drinking apple cider vinegar.
But, the side effects of drinking apple cider vinegar don’t need to be a reason to avoid it. After all, apple cider vinegar offers some health benefits and there is even a connection between apple cider vinegar and weight loss.
There are also many good ways to have apple cider vinegar regularly. For example, the site Paleo Hacks offers 33 different options. The side David Wolfe also highlights many of the benefits that apple cider vinegar offers.
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Have you tried apple cider vinegar? What benefits do you get from it?