Apple Cider Vinegar and Heartburn: What To Know

Heartburn is a common occurrence that almost everyone will experience from time to time. 

If you’d rather avoid over-the-counter medications for heartburn like antacids, or prescription medications like proton pump inhibitors (Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid, etc.), you’re probably interested in more natural heartburn treatments.

Taking vinegar for heartburn probably sounds counterintuitive. Yet it’s a proposed natural remedy for treating reflux.

Is it safe, and can it be effective? We’ll answer those questions in this article.

What is heartburn?

Heartburn is the burning sensation in your chest when stomach acid flows into your esophagus. Heartburn is a common occurrence and generally isn’t a cause for concern, though it can become problematic when it’s chronic.

During digestion, food goes down your esophagus into your stomach, where it’s broken down by hydrochloric acid secreted by your stomach lining. The lower esophageal sphincter is the opening at the bottom of your esophagus. It typically stays closed to keep stomach acid from coming back up your esophagus.

With heartburn (also called gastroesophageal reflux or acid reflux), the lower esophageal sphincter is looser than it should be. This can allow stomach acid to travel back up your esophagus, thus causing pain and a burning sensation.

Your esophagus isn’t designed to handle the presence of stomach acid. Chronic heartburn can damage your esophagus and lead to other health problems, like an increased risk for esophageal cancer.

Heartburn is usually associated with the presence of acid in your esophagus. Functional heartburn is when you have heartburn but don’t have any evidence of acid exposure in your esophagus. The cause of functional heartburn is poorly understood (1).

heartburn

What is apple cider vinegar?

Apple cider vinegar (also called ACV) is essentially fermented apple juice. Fermentation occurs when yeast ferments sugar (in this case, juice) which then produces alcohol. Bacteria then turn the alcohol into acetic acid, which gives apple cider vinegar its strong and unique taste.

Apple cider vinegar is sold both plain and with the “mother,” which is a combination of yeast and bacteria that form during fermentation of the sugars in the apples. The “mother” usually appears in white strands and can be used to make future batches of vinegar. 

You can take apple cider vinegar orally or in supplements, such as apple cider vinegar gummies and capsules.

Is apple cider vinegar good for heartburn?

Acidic foods typically aren’t recommended for heartburn, which is why using apple cider vinegar seems counterintuitive.

There aren’t any studies confirming that apple cider vinegar is effective for heartburn. Most cases of using apple cider vinegar for heartburn are anecdotal, meaning many people have successfully used vinegar to treat their heartburn.

The main theory behind why apple cider vinegar might help heartburn has to do with stomach acid production. Some doctors theorize that having low levels of stomach acid can reduce the pressure in your esophageal sphincter and lead to heartburn.

Because apple cider is acidic, the theory is that it helps increase the acidity of your stomach and helps tighten your esophageal sphincter. If the esophageal sphincter is closed, stomach acid can’t come back up the esophagus.

apple cider vinegar

How much apple cider vinegar should I drink for heartburn?

According to scientific studies, taking anywhere from one teaspoon to two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar daily seems to be a reasonable amount. Taking large amounts of apple cider vinegar might lead to issues like low blood potassium levels and dental problems. 

If you’re just starting out using apple cider vinegar (ACV) for heartburn, start with taking no more than one tablespoon of vinegar diluted in water at a time. You might want to try taking it after a meal in case it causes heartburn.

How fast does apple cider vinegar work on heartburn?

Because there aren’t any studies on apple cider vinegar for heartburn, it’s difficult to know how quickly it might work to improve your heartburn symptoms.

If the theory of increasing stomach acid to reduce heartburn is accurate, it might take several weeks to notice any changes. If you haven’t noticed a difference after several weeks of taking ACV for heartburn, it isn’t likely to be beneficial if you continue taking it.

Is it safe to use apple cider vinegar for acid reflux?

Apple cider vinegar is safe to take orally. However, you should take some precautions, so it doesn’t potentially worsen your heartburn or cause other issues.

Make sure to use diluted apple cider vinegar instead of straight apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is highly acidic, which can damage your tooth enamel. 

You should also avoid brushing your teeth soon after drinking apple cider vinegar because that can wear down the enamel of your teeth.

It’s generally safe to try apple cider vinegar, but it’s not necessarily a miracle cure. Apple cider vinegar might help reduce your symptoms, or it might not help your heartburn at all. Some people might have worsened heartburn symptoms while taking apple cider vinegar. 

apple cider vinegar weight loss

Possible side effects of apple cider vinegar

  • Upset stomach: Apple cider vinegar is acidic, which bothers some people’s stomachs.
  • Lower blood sugar levels: According to studies, apple cider vinegar reduced blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes (2). If you’re taking insulin or other diabetes drugs that lower your blood sugar, you should take caution when taking apple cider vinegar because it might lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
  • Heartburn: Because apple cider vinegar is acidic, it might cause heartburn in some people.

Does vinegar cause heartburn?

Vinegar, especially undiluted vinegar, can cause heartburn in some people. Acidic foods can irritate the lining of your esophagus and cause pain and heartburn symptoms.

If you notice worsening heartburn symptoms while taking apple cider vinegar, you should discontinue its use.

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10 home remedies for acid reflux

Chew gum

Chewing gum can stimulate saliva flow and help you swallow the acid in your esophagus. Sugar-free gum is ideal because it won’t increase your risk of cavities (3).

Identify your trigger foods

Trigger foods are foods (or drinks) that cause heartburn. Everyone’s trigger foods for heartburn are different, but some common trigger foods include fatty foods, spicy foods, and foods made with tomato-based sauces.

Following a diet for heartburn may help reduce your symptoms while allowing you to discover your trigger foods. 

bladder irritants

Weight management

Carrying extra weight can increase the pressure on your stomach and lead to heartburn. If you’re considered overweight or obese, losing weight might help improve your heartburn. 

Making sustainable lifestyle changes to promote weight loss and modifying your diet to avoid heartburn can be beneficial.

Eat small meals

You might notice an improvement in your heartburn symptoms by spreading your food intake among small meals and snacks. Eating small meals throughout the day helps keep the pressure in your stomach lower than eating large meals, which might lead to heartburn by increasing the pressure in your stomach.

Don’t smoke

The nicotine in tobacco smoke relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter and can increase the burning sensation from acid reflux. 

smoking-and-diabetes

Be mindful of your alcohol intake

Alcohol can cause the esophageal sphincter to open and trigger heartburn symptoms. If you drink alcohol, aim for moderation, which is no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men.

Elevate the head of your bed

Elevating the head of your bed by 4-6 inches allows gravity to help prevent stomach acid from coming back up your esophagus. 

Using extra pillows to prop your head won’t provide the same results. So be sure to prop your bed or get a wedged mattress.

Don’t drink liquids with meals

Drinking liquids with your meals increases the pressure within your stomach, which can push stomach acid up into your esophagus. Try to drink liquids between meals to stay hydrated while helping prevent heartburn.

bph-guidelines

Avoid eating meals close to bedtime

When you lie down after eating, gravity can no longer help promote digestion to lower the pressure in your stomach. Stand, go for a walk, or sit upright a few hours after eating. 

If you can’t eat your last meal several hours before you sleep, try to make your main meal earlier in the day.

Wear loose-fitting clothing

Tightly fitting clothes can increase the pressure on your stomach, which can exert pressure and push acid up your esophagus. Wear loose-fitting clothing that isn’t restrictive, especially after eating and drinking.

Conclusion

There aren’t any scientific studies proving that apple cider vinegar could be beneficial for reducing heartburn symptoms. 

The main theory behind why ACV could help heartburn has to do with improving the stomach’s acidity levels, therefore (theoretically) tightening the lower esophageal sphincter and reducing heartburn symptoms.

Whether or not ACV will help your heartburn is a bit of a gamble, but it’s likely safe to try when you take certain precautions, such as diluting the vinegar and not exceeding the recommended two tablespoons of ACV per day.

You might have better results taking ACV for heartburn if you also practice other lifestyle habits like eating a healthy diet, not smoking, eating small meals and snacks, and staying at a healthy weight.

Explore More

acid reflux diet

Acid Reflux Diet: Foods To Eat And Foods To Avoid.

Sources

  1. Fass R. Functional heartburn. Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). 2014. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4080874/
  2. Gheflati A, Bashiri R, Ghadiri-Anari A, Reza JZ, Kord MT, Nadjarzadeh A. The effect of apple vinegar consumption on glycemic indices, blood pressure, oxidative stress, and homocysteine in patients with type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Clin Nutr ESPEN. 2019. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31451249/ 
  3. Moazzez R, Bartlett D, Anggiansah A. The effect of chewing sugar-free gum on gastro-esophageal reflux. J Dent Res. 2005. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16246942/

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