Apple Cider Vinegar A Surprising Cure For a Common Ailment
In attempts to cure acid reflux, adding more acid into your system sounds like the last thing you want to do. The surprising fact is, many people experience heartburn from low stomach acid, not high stomach acid. Taking antacids only makes the situation worse, but treating reflux with apple cider vinegar can help.
Roles of Stomach Acid
According to the Paleo Nurse, stomach acid has various crucial functions.
- It breaks down proteins into a more digestible form.
- Stomach acid also activates pepsin. Pepsin is an enzyme that helps you digest proteins.
- Stomach acid helps to kill bacteria entering your body with food. It helps to combat infection, including food poisoning.
- Stomach acid allows you to adequately absorb vitamins and minerals from your food. It also lets the body know when to release the food from the stomach and move it into the small intestine.
How Low Stomach Acid Causes Acid Reflux And Heartburn
To understand what causes heartburn and to figure out how to treat acid reflux, you must understand how the digestive system works. According to A Better Way To Health, digestion starts in your brain. As soon as you start thinking about food, your digestive system begins to swing into gear.
Before anything touches your tongue, your body begins to secrete substances to help digest the food you eat. You begin to salivate. That saliva will help kill some bacteria and break down starches.
Your stomach begins to secrete gastrin. Gastrin stimulates the release of hydrochloric acid. That stomach acid will help break down food.
This process continues all the way through your digestive tract. The senses of sight, smell and touch help initiate this process. When you see food, smell its aroma and feel its texture, your parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated to begin to release these digestive chemicals.
If you don’t take time to focus on your food before it enters your mouth, you may slow down the digestive process before it begins. If you’re stressed out, your fight or flight response intensifies. This involves your sympathetic nervous system and directs blood flow away from the digestive organs.
When you put food in your mouth without preparing your parasympathetic nervous system, you don’t release the chemicals necessary to digest it. This leaves you with lower stomach acid.
Your stomach undergoes a churning action to mash up the food as it further breaks it down with stomach acid. If you haven’t released enough stomach acid for digestion, the muscles work harder. The churning action can push some food back into your esophagus, causing heartburn or gastro-esophageal reflux.
Low hydrochloric acid also delays the signal telling your stomach to release the food into the small intestine. Your stomach stays full, and this food begins to ferment. If you have eaten carbohydrates, which are plentiful in the Western diet, this fermentation is intensified.
Eventually, pressure builds up in the stomach. If the lack of stomach acid hasn’t been able to process the food to reach the necessary pH to stimulate its release, there is only one way to release the pressure.
The sphincter at the base of the esophagus opens, and gas and acid will go up into that area. Your esophagus is not designed to handle hydrochloric acid. That’s why the stomach acid makes it burn and feel painful.
Over time, the esophageal sphincter can weaken. A weak sphincter makes you more susceptible to heartburn, because it doesn’t seal the stomach shut properly.
Why Antacids Make Heartburn Worse
According to Dr. Jonathan Wright, author of the book Why Stomach Acid is Good For You, 90 percent of Americans have low stomach acid. If heartburn is caused by low stomach acid, lowering it further with medication will make the reflux worse.
This Natural News article explains the calcium bicarbonate in antacids can cause the stomach to produce more acid once the medication has worn off. If acid is produced without food in the stomach, you may experience painful reflux.
Using antacids for heartburn is like applying a bandage to a broken leg. The pressure might ease the swelling and make you feel better, but you must heal from the inside.
Initially, antacids can neutralize the stomach acid that has entered the esophagus. This can provide instant relief. However, it treats the symptoms of acid reflux disease instead of the root cause of the condition.
What Are The Symptoms of Low Stomach Acid?
Understanding the ways in which low stomach acid can cause heartburn can help you determine if apple cider vinegar treatment is for you.
According to The Root of Health, some symptoms of low stomach acid include:
- Feeling extremely full after eating
- Excessive belching and flatulence
- A burning sensation in the esophagus
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Skin conditions
- Vitamin deficiencies due to malabsorption
Consuming Apple Cider Vinegar Can Help Cure Heartburn
Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid. It’s a strong acid that can make your eyes water just by smelling it. How can that acid help your heartburn?
Many experts recommend consuming apple cider vinegar with a glass of water before meals to help with heartburn. According to Natural News, your body doesn’t need to produce much of its own stomach acid to digest apple cider vinegar.
Therefore, drinking the vinegar actually makes your stomach more alkaline. However, the introduction of more acid into the stomach can help you digest your food. That means that your food passes through the stomach more quickly and effectively without leaving you with extra stomach acid. This makes apple cider vinegar one of the best natural remedies for acid reflux.
Drink apple cider vinegar before a meal to help stimulate your body’s own enzymatic secretions that will help digest the food. According to Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits, this acid reflux remedy can help maintain an acidic environment in the stomach that’s not too high or too low. For this reason, drinking an unfiltered apple cider vinegar like Bragg’s apple cider vinegar can help people with high or low stomach acid.
Is Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar Safe?
Drinking apple cider vinegar causes fewer side effects than taking many antacid and reflux medications. Consuming a small amount with water is generally considered safe.
Drinking apple cider vinegar without diluting it can harm your mucus membranes, however. Although some people prefer to take a shot of straight vinegar to curtail the process, straight vinegar can burn the mouth and esophagus.
People with lesions in their mouth or esophagus may want to avoid using apple cider vinegar as a reflux treatment until the sores have healed.
According to Healthline, long-term apple cider vinegar consumption has also been linked to decreased potassium levels in the body. It can erode tooth enamel and may have a blood thinning effect.
To safely use apple cider vinegar, follow these guidelines:
- Begin taking it gradually and work up to consuming 2 tablespoons a day in water.
- Drink it through straw to prevent tooth erosion.
- Rinse your mouth with clean water and avoid brushing your teeth for half an hour after drinking the vinegar.
- Check with you doctor before consuming apple cider vinegar if you have ulcers or sores in your mouth, throat, esophagus or stomach.
- Take a break. Drinking too much vinegar every day over the long term can cause more side effects. Consume the vinegar for a few weeks at a time and then discontinue use for a few weeks.
Drinking apple cider vinegar has other health benefits that may offset the side effects. According to Dr. Axe, apple cider vinegar consumption can:
- Help lower cholesterol
- Reduce blood sugar levels
- Lower high blood pressure
- Aid in weight loss
What Kind Of Vinegar Should You Use For Heartburn?
Raw apple cider vinegar contains the “mother,” a cloudy collection of friendly bacteria that initiates the fermentation. These probiotics can help with digestion. Raw apple cider vinegar with the “mother” also contains digestive enzymes that encourage digestion.
This type of apple cider vinegar typically tastes sweeter than other types of vinegar. Some people make tea with honey, lemon and warm water to make it more palatable.
How To Take Apple Cider Vinegar
To use apple cider vinegar for heartburn, dilute up to 1 to 2 tablespoons of vinegar in 8 ounces of water. Drink the beverage 15 to 30 minutes before a meal or when you feel the acid reflux symptoms.
You can add a teaspoon of honey or maple syrup to the beverage to reduce the sour flavor. You can also make a tea using honey, lemon, water and vinegar.
To make tea, place a teaspoon of honey in a mug. Squeeze half of a lemon over the honey. Add a tablespoon of vinegar and stir.
Heat water to just below boiling point. Allow it to cool off for five minutes after boiling it, then pour it over the mixture in the mug and stir.
Heating the vinegar can destroy some of the beneficial nutrients and enzymes. However, it can produce a tasty beverage that helps with heartburn.
There are no specific studies proving that organic apple cider vinegar is an effective treatment for acid reflux. Most of the benefits are theoretical.
But still, you can go for natural remedies like ACV to cure the symptoms and fix the real issue that causes this health condition before resulting to taking over-the-counter medications.
However, there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence supporting its use. A quick internet search will lead you to many testimonials from people who have found heartburn relief from drinking apple cider vinegar.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can also help with acid reflux. Certain foods, like chocolate, peppermint and coffee, relax the esophageal sphincter regardless of stomach acid levels. Fatty and spicy foods can contribute to heartburn.
Because your stomach secretes most of the acid at the beginning of a meal, you should eat foods that are harder to digest first. If you eat a salad before a large piece of protein, more of the acid will go to digesting the vegetables, and you might experience difficulty digesting the protein.
You can also improve digestion by focusing on eating. Many people live a hurried lifestyle, and they eat when they’re busy or stressed. Focusing on the meal even before you eat it and chewing your food enough can help your body process the food more efficiently and reduce heartburn.