Apple cider vinegar is an old-time cure that does wonders for a variety of conditions, especially acid reflux (also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD for short).
A friend recently told me she was suffering from acid reflux. Her doctor had prescribed one medication, then another, then a third, but they made little difference. I suggested apple cider vinegar. Two days later she reported she was off the pills and feeling better. Today, two weeks later, she’s still on the cider and says that it has worked better than any of the medications.
Taking vinegar to treat acid reflex sounds counter-intuitive. Why does it work?
What is the root cause of GERD?
In Gaps and Psychology Syndrome, Dr. Campbell McBride explains what hypocholorhydria is and how it affects the body (pp. 287-292). Here’s my summary:
- Most people with abnormal gut flora have low stomach acid production.
- For digestion to start properly, the PH of the stomach must be 3 or less.
- Digestion is “like a conveyer belt or an assembly line in a factory. If the first person does a poor job, then no matter how well the rest of the people in the line may work, the end product is likely to be of a poor quality…. The first person is the stomach acid.”
- Besides disrupting the digestion process, stomach acid is the first line of defense against microbes – such as h. pylori, E. coli, Salmonella, and Candida – which are able to proliferate in the gut and even the stomach itself.
- When stomach PH is low, pathogens may grow around the sphincter found at the top of the stomach and paralyze the muscle, allowing food to be regurgitated – i.e. acid reflex / GERD.
What is the conventional treatment for GERD?
According to the Mayo Clinic, treatment starts with:
- Antacids that neutralize stomach acid
- Medications to reduce acid production
- Medications that block acid production and heal the esophagus
And progresses to:
- Prescription-strength H-2-receptor blockers – which reduce acid production by blocking signals telling the stomach to make acid.
- Prescription-strength proton pump inhibitors – which reduce the production of acid by blocking the enzyme in the stomach wall that produces acid.
If the problem is indeed a lack of acid, then all these methods, which further reduce acid, will never cure the problem, but will only provide temporary relief. And indeed, people take these medications indefinitely. Besides taking apple cider vinegar, or another substance that increases stomach acidity, the solution is to switch to a healthy, real food diet.
Which apple cider vinegar should you buy?
Look for any raw/unpasteurized ACV. The apple cider vinegar commonly found in supermarkets is usually pasteurized. Health food stores are a better bet. Besides being unpasteurized, it may be unfiltered. In that case, you’ll see something floating around in the bottle. Don’t worry. This is what’s called the mother. It is what causes the vinegar to ferment and isn’t harmful.
How to take it?
I’ve been taking a little apple cider vinegar daily for almost two years (not for GERD – for other reasons, but more about that in another post). It took some getting used to but now I find it completely ok – even pleasant. Start by putting a small amount, maybe a teaspoon or half a teaspoon in a glass of water and drink it with a straw. Why a straw? I’d rather be cautious and not expose my teeth to this acidity on a daily basis for years. Work up to a tablespoon or so. You may want to try adding a little honey. I tried drinking it with apple juice at first, but it didn’t find it more palatable this way, and I didn’t want to start drinking fruit juice daily.
You can play around with the dose. See how much you need to get relief from your symptoms. Let’s not forget that it’s a food. You can use it in cooking and salads.