Long touted as a cure-all, apple cider vinegar has been a pillar of natural medicine, home-cooking and folk remedies for centuries, used for everything from tooth whitening to treating arthritis, rheumatism, asthma, high blood pressure and colds. It also has a long history as an ingredient in detergents, body and hair-care, illness treatment and wound dressings. It may just qualify as "man's best friend!"
Today, apple cider vinegar is still used by advocates of natural health and nutrition to promote gut health, digestion, weight loss, blood sugar regulation and so much more, guaranteeing itself a space on our shelves. But what exactly is apple cider vinegar? And how does it work its magic?
What is ACV?
The recipe for apple cider vinegar is fairly straightforward. Crush some apples and extract the juice. Add some choice bacteria and yeast to start the fermentation process (converting sugars to alcohol), and then let specialised acetic-acid forming bacteria do their thing as they transform alcohol into vinegar.
In raw and unfiltered apple cider vinegar, you can still see the Mother. This cloudy, web-like knot floating around is the still-living culture used to ferment vinegar, a colony of beneficial bacteria, enzymes and proteins ready to support your gut health, and therefore, your general well-being.
In-and-of-itself, ACV doesn't have many 'nutritional benefits.' It's ridiculously low in calories and contains no fats or carbs, but it equally contains few vitamins, nutrients or minerals. Its beneficial qualities lie solely in the health properties of acetic acid and the bacterial armada that is the Mother. And believe me, these pack a punch!
The host of beneficial bacteria in raw and unfiltered ACV supports your gut health, helping to strengthen the first intestinal line of defence against pathogens. The bacteria lining your gut form a physical barrier through which nasty things can't pass, and they keep the villi of your intestines healthy and in good order.
Blood Sugar Management
ACV very kindly slows stomach emptying, which not only helps you feel fuller for longer but prevents large sugar spikes when taken before a high-carb meal. It's also been shown to increase insulin sensitivity, enabling your body to move more glucose out of the bloodstream and into your cells. The overall effect is to lower your fasting glucose levels.
Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a hormonal condition associated with insulin resistance, abnormal menstruation and hormone imbalances. The role of gut health in hormone regulation is more important than we generally assume, and studies showed that regular ingestion of ACV improved hormone levels, insulin sensitivity and menstruation in women in PCOS.
Since ACV slows stomach emptying, it makes us feel fuller for longer, thus reducing inter-meal snacking. The acetic acid in ACV may also reduce visceral fat and the calories absorbed from carbs, as well as facilitating digestion.
The acidic properties of ACV may act like other nutritional supplements which increase the acidity of your stomach, thus aiding in the breakdown of nutrients and minerals.
Washing your face with a mixture of ACV and water reduces the symptoms of acne, thanks to the antibacterial and antimicrobial properties inherent in ACV.
Those same antibacterial properties can help solve bad breath caused by malodorous bacteria. Simply gargle with ACV every evening for a breath of fresh air.
ACV is really just a great way to make sure you're giving your probiotic buddies a helping hand, maintaining your gut in peak health so that your body functions at maximum capacity. Gut health is central to effective immunity, digestion, hormone regulation, sleep, tissue health, and so much more, so ACV is one habit amongst many that can contribute to a healthy lifestyle.
There are some things to keep in mind when including ACV in your daily routine, however. It remains a highly acidic and potent substance to be treated with care and caution.
Enamel and Mucous Erosion
The high acidity of ACV can cause damage to tooth enamel and the mucous lining of your throat, oesophagus, and stomach. Keep your dosage small, dilute it with water, drink it with a straw or use capsules to avoid these side-effects.
Always rinse your mouth out with water after ingestion, and wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth, to avoid damaging your enamel further.
ACV could Worsen Symptoms of Gastroparesis in Type 1 diabetics
Patients with Type 1 diabetes often suffer from a condition called gastroparesis. The nerves in the stomach cease to function appropriately, and food stays in there too long, causing bloating, nausea and heartburn. Type 1 diabetics are therefore cautioned against including ACV in their diet.
ACV could interact with several prescribed drugs, including insulin. It's always worth checking with your GP before self-medicating.