9 Incredible Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

9 Incredible Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

Have you seen or heard about apple cider vinegar and wondered what the hoopla was all about?  Could it really be all that its cracked up to be?

It seems to be popping up more and more in the news and on store shelves -including my local Costco!

I first started using apple cider vinegar last fall when I randomly (hopefully the first and last time) had a bout of shingles.  I did an extensive search for natural treatments and apple cider vinegar was hands down the most often recommended natural remedy as it had many raving endorsements in the blog post comment sections.

I used it for two weeks both topically and by drinking a small amount mixed with water and first noticed a major difference in just 2 days.

I understand it can be challenging to buy into simple or all natural remedies such as this without understanding exactly why they are beneficial.  I was skeptical but I have to say that I used ibuprofen and Aleve for 3 days feeling no relief (at which point I discontinued their use) and noticed a drastic improvement with apple cider vinegar almost immediately.  The apple cider vinegar allowed me to discontinue NSAIDs as well as avoid using one of several traditional shingles medications such as Acyclovir which according to is accompanied by such potential side effects such as:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Fluid retention
  • Hair loss

When treating a physician colleague of mine, I told her how I came down with shingles a few weeks prior and how it.  She asked why I didn’t just call her as she would of been happy to write a prescription for Acyclovir.  I said, “If I can treat it with a natural remedy without any side effects, why would I take a medication with a laundry list of side effects that may also be harmful to my liver and kidneys?”

She threw her hands in the air and laughed and said I was being ridiculous.

The traditional medical community has a hard time dealing with natural remedies and not understanding why people want to skip out on potentially harmful medications.  To each his own BUT let’s not forget that many of us are living in the US, AKA the most medicated country on earth and also one of least healthy of any industrialized country.

Makes perfect sense to follow the recommendations of traditional medicine. Or not…

Now, nearly a year after my first experience, I have come to appreciate ACV to be the liquid form of duct tape- a natural remedy that seems to help just about everything.  So, curiosity gets the best of the cat and therefore it’s time to examine the magic behind the health benefits of apple cider vinegar.

The History of Apple Cider Vinegar

Very often the simplest of changes and modifications to our lifestyle are the best.  The little things can really add up.

Interestingly, many “simple” changes or supplements we use are actually very old and have withstood the test of time. While science may not always have a great understanding of these strategies, they simply work.  Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is no different.  Since the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates first used it to fight wound infection over 2000 years ago; apple cider vinegar has been a folk-medicine staple, offering a natural, safe way of treating a surprisingly wide range of health issues [1].  

Now scientists are starting to prove our grandmother knew a thing or two when it came to good nutrition. Some say the secret’s in the amino acid, raw enzymes, and minerals occurring naturally in apple cider vinegar.  Regardless, athletes today are using this humble but surprisingly effective ingredient to improve performance and reduce recovery times.

So whether you’re working out, or just trying to work out how to keep healthy in an unhealthy world, here are nine of the most amazing health benefits of apple cider vinegar. You will see there are good reasons why a daily dose of raw ACV might be just what you need to maintain optimum health and athletic performance.

9 Incredible Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

1. Apple Cider Vinegar Helps Promote Healthy Gut Bacteria

Probiotic Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

Cases of unexplained fatigue and digestive problems are on the rise.  Junk-food, antibiotics, stress, and present-day diseases all play a role in upsetting the delicate balance of gut flora [2]. 

The community of micro-organisms that live in the human body is made up of bacteria, fungi, and archaea. Scientists refer to this collection of organisms as the microbiome, and it is estimated that the average human has around ten times more gut microbes than they have human cells [3]. So yes -you’re more made up of more bacteria than you are human cells.  It’s no surprise then, that when the microbiome is knocked off balance it can lead to feelings of exhaustion and poor mental as well as physical health. 

How Does This Affect Me?

Until now, your attitude towards food might have been that home-cooked food is too time-consuming and not worth the hassle.  Or, we may have to be honest with ourselves and admit if our diet consists of too much fast food, processed meals, and loads of processed bread and pasta.

Acetic Acid in Apple Cider Vinegar Helps Endurance

Acetic acid in ACV may help improve muscular oxidation and endurance.

If you’re one of the many people who has started to suffer from digestive problems, general fatigue, and longer recovery times after a workout, this could be a sign that you’re suffering from dysbiosis – where an imbalance between good and bad gut bacteria is causing nasty physical symptoms that just won’t go away.

How can ACV Help? 

If you have the wrong balance of gut bacteria then the safest way of putting things back into balance is to do so by eating a healthy, balanced diet, including prebiotic and probiotic foods.  Prebiotics are the soluble fibers found in plant-based foods, which create the right environment for a healthy microbiome.  Probiotics are substances which actually contain living friendly bacteria.

Scientists have found friendly bacteria in apple cider vinegar, making it a good probiotic [4].

So a daily dose is one simple way to restore a healthy balance of bacteria to promote optimum health.

2. ACV Helps Maintain Appropriate Blood Sugar 

If you experience sudden bouts of fatigue and cravings for food between mealtimes, this could be a sign that your blood sugar levels are out of control. As well as leaving you feeling drained and exhausted, this could be a warning that you’re well on the way to a diagnosis of type-2 diabetes.

The good news is that more and more studies are recognizing that one of the many health benefits of apple cider vinegar is its ability to help regulate blood sugar levels [5].

A recent study by scientists in Sweden showed that the acetic acid which gives apple cider vinegar its tart taste and smell, can help break down starchy foods and prevent the blood sugar “spike” often experienced after eating a high-carb meal [6].

Avoiding this spike means you’re less likely to crave sugary snacks and junk food so you stay in control of those urges to reach for the wrong things to eat.

3. ACV Can Increase Satiety: Helping You Feel Full Longer

A significant number of adults find that they can eat clean and healthy during the day, but then just can’t stop eating as they relax in the evening.  If this sounds like you, then perhaps apple cider vinegar might be your new best friend.

It’s been found that those who consumed vinegar with a bread-based meal felt full sooner than those in a control group who ate bread without added vinegar [7]. 

In another study, participants who had been given vinegar with a high Glycemic Index meal were found to have consumed 200-275 fewer calories daily than a control group [8]. 

We definitely are not encouraging eating high gluten or high glycemic meals but the research certainly proves a point- ACV is powerful and may be able to help us in a variety of ways.

4. ACV Improves Athletic Performance

Whether you’re keen on running, weight training, or just wanting to keep your body performing at optimum levels, the ability of ACV to help keep blood sugar levels constant and improve endurance capacity is pretty appealing. 

We now know that the acetic acid in ACV helps the body make acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter which helps improve muscle function.  Additionally, it may significantly help the oxidative abilities of muscle (The ability of muscles to use oxygen to convert fats and carbohydrates into energy such as ATP).

In a 2015 study examining the endurance capacity of mice, intake of acetic acid significantly increased endurance capacity.  Furthermore, a decrease in visceral adipose deposits was identified (who wouldn’t mind having a little less fat!?).  The changes may be partially due to fatty acids and urea nitrogen levels being reduced the acetic acid-fed mice.  This occurred due to the stimulation of muscles to create more of an enzyme involved in the “oxidation and glycolytic-to-oxidative fiber-type transformation” [18].

Long story short, the acetic acid in apple cider vinegar may serve as an ergogenic aid in improving the oxidative ability of muscles to create energy.  

Furthermore, when the gut bacteria is improved and better balanced, food is broken down more efficiently and absorbed.  When food is better absorbed, your body can more readily use it for repair and recovery.  Athletes with gut issues or those who eat foods which may contribute to bacterial imbalance and/or a leaky gut, often have severe difficulty recovering from training.

If your muscles can’t use the food you ingest, you won’t be able to recover properly. This can severely impair performance as well as reaching peak potential.

ACV has the potential to assist with improving digestion as well as restoring balance of healthy bacteria in the gut AKA gut symbiosis.

With improved gut bacteria and digestion along with the addition of acetylcholine, ACV can be a major element in helping maintain performance or reach new levels success.

Athletes who take a daily dose often find they experience less fatigue and for centuries many individuals have claimed that a daily dose helps reduce the effects of inflammation.

5. ACV May Help Cramping

Whether you experience cramps after exercising or are kept awake at night by pains shooting down your legs, the well-known anti-cramping properties are another apple cider vinegar health claim.

The causes of cramping are varied and complex and include over exhaustion of the muscles, potassium deficiency, and dehydration to name a few [20].  Apple cider vinegar contains high levels of naturally occurring potassium, minerals, and other enzymes which some athletes who take a daily dose have reported experiencing fewer cramps and shorter recovery times.  

If you experience severe leg cramps, a few solutions to consider may include mixing ACV with manuka honey in water (see exact dosage later in post) or soaking a cloth in a mix of warm water and ACV and wrapping this around the affected area. You may also try pouring a couple of cups into a warm bath that includes Epsom Salts (Epsom salts are high in magnesium which has been shown to help with muscle relaxation) [21, 22, 23, 24].

Remember, there are a countless number of things that can cause cramps.  If cramping is a chronic problem for you, please seek professional evaluation.

6. ACV Helps Fight Type-2 Diabetes

Unfortunately, type 2 diabetes is more and more prevalent in the modern world.  It’s been calculated that 1 in 7 healthcare dollars spent in the U.S. will go towards treating this disease and its complications.  Unfortunately, this trend is on the rise and most worryingly amongst the younger generation [9].  High sugar, carb-laden diets, and sedentary lifestyles are all to blame.

Athletes are not spared from this disease as many consume high fructose corn syrup laden beverages and snacks in high quantities, even when not practicing.  This done in addition to too much cereal, bread, and pasta can have extremely negative consequences.  Few athletes are training at a high enough volume to consistently utilize such intake. This leaves many at risk for developing diabetes later in life if these habits are not changed.

If you’re among the millions who suffer from diabetes or among the many told they have “pre-diabetes” (this is really just a polite way of saying you have diabetes, welcome to the club!), then making radical changes to your diet and exercise regimen (maybe subscribing to our blog as well ;), and adding a daily dose of ACV will help limit the disease progression [10]. Interestingly, it is believed that this is accomplished through making cells more responsive to insulin signals [11].  

7. ACV Might Help Maintain a Healthy Weight

Countless people take a daily helping of ACV as part of their weight-control regime, but does it work?

Quite possibly yes. 

Acetic acid, found in apple cider vinegar has been shown to suppress the build-up of body fat in animal studies,  and a recent Japanese study involving obese individuals fed a daily dose of vinegar over a 12-week period were found to have reduced weight, visceral fat, and waist circumference than a control group [12]. 

At just 3 calories a spoonful, it’s well worth building a dose of apple cider vinegar into your daily routine.

8. ACV Promotes Healthy Blood Pressure

Even those leading a healthy lifestyle are sometimes found to experience alarmingly high blood pressure as part of the aging process.

An older study on rats found that acetic acid fed to rats resulted in significant lowering of blood pressure [13]. This acid occurs naturally in apple cider vinegar. More studies need to be done to see whether this result can be replicated in humans, but in the meantime, why not see for yourself whether this promising health benefit of apple cider vinegar works for you?

9. ACV Can Help Protect Against Strokes and Heart Disease

Yet another health benefit of apple cider vinegar is the impact it may have on the cardiovascular system.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. A study conducted on rats found that those who were regularly fed acetic acid, similar to that found in ACV, had lower levels of triglycerides and cholesterol, both of which contribute to heart attacks and strokes [15].

Apple cider vinegar has also been shown to reduce the risk of oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which is another risk factor associated with cardiovascular problems [16]. 

For Optimal Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar, What Kind is Best?

raw apple cider vinegar usesAs you can see, the case for a daily dose of apple cider vinegar is pretty strong, but which type is best?

Chances are that you might already have a bottle of it at the back of your pantry and you’ll experience many of the benefits of apple cider vinegar from whatever type is available in your local store.  

However, for optimal results, organic, unfiltered,  unpasteurized, raw apple cider vinegar is best. Often this may be described as being “with the mother”, and might be cloudy in appearance. Don’t be put off by the cloudiness in the bottle- that’s just a sign that all the good bacteria, minerals, vitamins, and enzymes which are a by-product of the fermentation process, are present. Remember that it’s THESE which give apple cider vinegar its amazing healing powers.

It may be worth noting that research has shown that organically produced ACV has different bacterial microbiota than conventionally produced ACV [19].  So, not only are you likely reducing the risk of chemicals such as pesticides in your ACV (apples are part of the “dirty dozen” foods known to be loaded with pesticides) by drinking one that is organically produced, but you’re likely ingesting higher-quality bacteria to help your gut.

If you don’t already have some, Bragg is a great raw and organic brand to try.  This is the brand I used until I saw ACV pop up at Costco.  If you would like to purchase some for your home, you may find some here.

How Often and in What Ways Should ACV be Taken?

If you want to start to experience the health benefits of apple cider vinegar for yourself, what’s the best way to take it? 

It’s probably not the best idea to take it undiluted as over time, such an acidic substance running down your throat could cause problems with acid reflux, and there is even the risk of the acid damaging your tooth enamel.  So you’ll want to dilute ACV with water.

If you’re after maximizing the health benefits of apple cider vinegar, taking one or two teaspoons two or three times a day does the trick for most individuals.  It’s best to build up the dosage gradually over a couple of weeks to avoid any unpleasant side-effects as your body gets used to this powerful detoxifying agent.

Personally, I most often consume ACV by watering down a bottle down and taking ~2 teaspoons before meals since it has also been shown to help with digestion (it is evern highly recommended for those suffereing from SIBO.  Do you homework however if you suffer from SBIO as treatment may vary based on your type.  Be sure to see a professional for this!).  Many apple cider vinegar enthusiasts also recommend using 1-2 teaspoons mixed with manuka honey in ten parts of water just before a meal.  It does sound tasty…

But probably the best way to enjoy it is to incorporate it into your normal diet.  This is surprisingly easy.  Here are some ideas:

ACV as a Salad Dressing

Take a tip from the French and start your meal with a healthy salad, dressed in delicious apple cider vinegar dressing.

Not only will this help you feel fuller sooner, but it is a good way of ensuring that you’re getting your daily requirement of leafy greens.  To make the dressing, mix one part unpasteurized ACV with three parts extra virgin olive oil and, if you like, a little French mustard to taste.  Mix with a fork until creamy and pour over raw spinach/watercress/lambs lettuce etc.  Or, you can do what I do most often, and just pour a bit into your salad dressing container to mix with your basalmic vinnegerette or other oil based dressing.  I often take a small dressing container to be used with my salad at lunch and the mixture is deliscious.  

ACV with Chicken or Pork as a Stew

Make a tasty stew using chicken or lean pork sautéed in olive oil with apples and onions. Add a mix of 1 part apple cider vinegar to 2 parts water and sprinkle with fresh thyme or tarragon.  Simmer for 40-50 minutes.  This can be enjoyed as it is or with a little crème fraiche whisked in just before serving.

ACV as a Marinade

Did you know that the right kind of marinade will help make your barbecue meat more tender, as well as packing a punch of flavor?  Create a marinade of 1 part apple cider vinegar to 3 parts olive oil (use a light variety, suitable for cooking at high temperatures).  Grate in a couple of cloves of garlic and add fresh herbs and a little-shaved lemon/orange peel.  Before you barbecue chicken or pork, cover with marinade and set in the refrigerator for at least an hour, preferably overnight.

The Final Word on Apple CIder Vinegar Health Claims

So there it is!  The health benefits of apple cider vinegar are astonishing. It is important to keep in mind the proper dosage and timing of ACV intake for optimal benefit.  Without a doubt, doing many little things right can significantly reduce fatigue and add up to big improvements in health and performance.

It is important to note that many of the current studies are on animals and it will take more time for high quality human based studies to provide a more sound base of resarch.  However, a vast majority of the research thus far has been promising and I highly encoure considering the many apple cider vineger health uses.

If you enjoyed this article and are dealing with fatigue, you may want to consider checking out our article on the Low FODMAP Diet for Athletes and the Ultimate Candida Overgrowth Diet.  As discussed above, using ACV can be beneficial for many athletes dealing with gut issues and can be used in conjunction with many therapeutic diets.  In fact, one study found ACV demonstrated antifungal properties which may allow it to provide therapeutic effects in the treatment of candida overgrowth [17].  Even more, using ACV can be a lifestyle change that helps maintain a healthy gut and peak performance for the long run.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1785201/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4425030/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4425030/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5620630/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4438142/
  6. https://www.nature.com/articles/1602197
  7. https://www.nature.com/articles/1602197
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16321601
  9. http://www.diabetes.org/advocacy/news-events/cost-of-diabetes.html
  10. Shishehbor, F., et al., Apple cider vinegar attenuates lipid profile in normal and diabetic rats. Pak J Biol Sci, 2008. 11(23):2634-8.
  11. https://www.thediabetescouncil.com/awesome-reasons-why-acv-is-good-for-diabetes/#_ednref6
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19661687
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11826965
  14. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs310/en/
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16611381
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20387813
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25219289
  18. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09168451.2015.1034652
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27904401
  20. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/muscle-cramp/symptoms-causes/syc-20350820
  21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23314489
  22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17042843
  23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11580778
  24. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7631676

About The Author

Michael Bogden

Michael is a residency and fellowship trained sports physical therapist. A life long advocate for exercise and nutrition, he unexpectedly ran into issues with fatigue and recovery which significantly hindered his training. After working closely with his wife, Kylene, a dietitian trained in functional nutrition, he learned an entirely new approach to eating and living a more holistic lifestyle. This dramatic life change lead to remarkable improvement in his overall energy and performance. In 2017, with the help of a Functional Sports Nutrition approach, he improved his half marathon PR by 5 minutes. These improvements inspired him to create the FWDfuel blog with Kylene in order to spread the word so that others could experience the same success.

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