Can Apple Cider Vinegar Help With the Symptoms of GERD?

Chronic acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux (GER), may be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Acid reflux occurs when the contents of your stomach come back up into the esophagus. This causes the esophageal lining to burn, and over time can result in severe damage to the organ.

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is an acetic acid with other substances, such as lactic, citric, and malic acids, as well as bacteria. People add it to their diets because some believe that not enough acid can signal your brain to relax the lower esophagus sphincter (LES) valve. Adding acid from ACV may help balance stomach acids to optimal working levels.

People also claim raw apple cider vinegar offers probiotic benefits that can help with digestion.

Making homemade apple cider vinegar drink

 TARIK KIZILKAYA / Getty Images

What Causes Acid Reflux

There may be several reasons why you’re experiencing acid reflux, and all of them have to do with the LES valve weakening or loosening.

All of the following can contribute to the loosening and weakening of the LES:

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Medications
  • Increased abdominal pressure from obesity or pregnancy
  • A stomach hernia

Chronic acid reflux with GERD is more than acid reflux from time to time. It’s a frequent, even daily, ordeal.

Some people experience acid reflux after eating or drinking:

  • Spicy foods, which include minty foods
  • Acidic fruits and fruit juices, such as citrus and tomatoes
  • Coffee, chocolate, and other sources of caffeine
  • Fast food and fried foods
  • Carbonated beverages, such as soda and tonic water
  • Alcoholic drinks

Eating within three hours of bedtime may also cause acid reflux.

What the Science Says

There isn’t enough clinical research showing ACV is a good remedy for acid reflux or GERD, but one study notes that ACV may be useful when taken before meals with other dietary supplements, including magnesium citrate, probiotic supplementation, and deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL).

In the study, participants saw significant improvement in their symptoms. However, they also also made dietary and lifestyle changes. Therefore, it’s not clear how much of the change was influenced by the apple cider vinegar.

How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar As a Home Remedy

If you want to try ACV for your acid reflux or GERD, dilute the ACV in warm water first:

  • Add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to a mug of warm water.
  • Drink before or after a meal.

Alternatively, you can take a capsule of dehydrated apple cider vinegar. It is sometimes blended with other herbal remedies.

Talk to your healthcare provider before trying to manage your acid reflux with herbal remedies like ACV. Apple cider vinegar should never be used as a replacement for prescriptions or over-the-counter medications suggested by a medical professional. 

Safety and Side Effects

While the risk of trying ACV for GERD is low, there are some potential side effects, especially if you have GERD. After all, apple cider vinegar is corrosive.

Drinking straight apple cider vinegar or large quantities of diluted ACV is never recommended. You should also not have APV when trying to heal an ulcer.

Even diluted ACV can cause:

  • Throat irritation, including the urge to cough or clear the throat
  • Tissue burning in the mouth, esophagus, or stomach
  • Tooth enamel erosion, which can promote cavities 

You should talk to your healthcare provider about:

  • Medication interactions like diabetes medications, laxatives, diuretics, blood thinners, and heart disease medicines
  • The delay in your stomach’s ability to empty, sometimes caused by ACV

Other Treatments for GERD

Other over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, prescription medications, and lifestyle changes may help with GERD. 

Over-the-Counter Medications

OTC options to treat acid reflux or GERD include:

  • Antacids such as Gaviscon (aluminum hydroxide magnesium) or Pepto Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate), which can neutralize stomach acid
  • H2 receptor blockers like Pepcid AC (famotidine) and Zantac 75 (ranitidine), which are stomach acid production blockers
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) like Prilosec (omeprazole) and Prevacid (lansoprazole), which prevent specific cells from pumping acid into the stomach

Prescriptions

If OTC options don’t work, your healthcare provider may prescribe treatments, including:

  • Prokinetics: These help control acid reflux while strengthening the LES and causing the stomach contents to empty faster. Examples include Propulsid (cisapride) and Reglan (metoclopramide).
  • H2 receptor blockers: Prescriptions of these medications contain higher doses of active medication. 
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): Prescriptions of these medications contain higher doses of active medication.

Higher doses of medication come with added risks, however, such as an increased bone fracture risk associated with prescription PPIs.

Lifestyle Changes

Some lifestyle changes may help you manage your acid reflux or GERD:

  • Avoid food and drink triggers, or consume in moderation.
  • Wait a few hours after eating to lie down.
  • Raise your head (elevate at one end) when you lie down to sleep or nap.
  • Keep your head elevated while sleeping to allow for proper airflow.
  • Sleep on your left side with your head elevated to reduce nighttime reflux.
  • Quit smoking, and avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Lose weight, if necessary.

Summary

While there are many claims about apple cider vinegar’s health benefits, there isn’t enough research to support its use as a treatment for acid reflux or GERD. Consult your healthcare provider about possible side effects or potential interactions before taking apple cider vinegar.

A Word From Verywell

It’s good to take an interest in preventing and managing symptoms of acid reflux at home, but remember that ACV’s benefits are not yet proven. If you feel better after taking ACV with water or taking ACV pills before meals, that’s great. Just don’t rely on ACV to do all the work.

It’s probably best to make the appropriate lifestyle and dietary changes. And if that doesn’t help or acid reflux is becoming a chronic problem, talk to your healthcare provider about other treatment options, including OTC drugs and prescription medications.

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Article Sources
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