It's used to lose weight, to lower blood sugar levels, to improve digestion, lower cholesterol, improve hearth health, and the list goes on... but does it also cause the unwanted and extremely inconvenient side effect of diarrhea?
What we're talking about here is good ol' Apple Cider Vinegar, which seems to have become a natural remedy to just about every problem under the sun.
Can it cause diarrhea? Well, in short... yes... but it probably won't. In fact, it seems to be more likely to help treat it.
What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar, or ACV for short, is basically fermented apple juice, which in the end consists of about 94% water, about 1% carbs and doesn't have any fat or protein.
Most of the claimed health benefits surrounding this "super-food" are very loosely proven with scientific evidence, which is why ACV falls into the category of being a folk medicine.
Does It Cause Diarrhea?
No one wants to deal with the hassle of running to the restroom in excess... nor do any of us want the uncomfortable side effects that come along with this condition... or the potentially embarrassing social impact it can have.
Not only that, but taking ACV would pretty much be a complete waste of time since an eruption of diarrhea would lead to loss of nutrients and also little absorption of the ACV.
2 Ways It May Cause Diarrhea
1. There is a theory that drinking too much at one time will cause excess water to be pulled into the bowel, which will lead to watery stools, aka diarrhea--but not much in the way of proof here. That said, drinking or eating excessive amounts of even the healthiest foods can cause digestive issues, so this could be true.
But we aren't talking about what will happen if you chug an entire bottle of ACV. We are talking about consuming recommended amounts, which might be as little as a tablespoon once a day.
2. Some people with sensitive stomachs may experience stomach pain, bloating, and diarrhea. If you fall into this category it might be best to avoid all acidic foods as best you can and likely spicy foods as well.
The reason for this is because of ACV's acidity, which is usually around a pH of 3.3-3.5 at 5%. This, however, is less than other vinegars. ACV is more alkaline due to having more alkaline nutrients.
Acidity is also a reason why some people get diarrhea from orange juice, but this is also very rare.
A Constipation Treatment?
One of this folk medicine's uses is to treat constipation, which we all know is the opposite of diarrhea.
Supporters of ACV supplementation for constipation say that it has a laxative effect, which is pretty much like saying that it can cause diarrhea if supplemented in large enough amounts.
One of the arguments for its laxative health benefits are that it contains the soluble fiber called pectin, which is all-around good for healthy bowel movements. However, the amount of pectin in apples is only about 1 - 1.5% (source: Wikipedia) and the incredibly small doses of ACV that most people are taking for health benefits isn't going to provide much in the way of this soluble fiber at all... and besides... wouldn't it just make more sense to eat an apple if you are looking for some pectin?
While there are some reasons (as discussed) that ACV may have laxative effects and cause diarrhea, it definitely does not seem to be that great of a choice for a constipation treatment.
Study Shows It Slows Down Bowel Movements
Contrary to it causing diarrhea, apple cider vinegar has actually been shown in studies to slow down gastric emptying.
A 2007 study published in BMC Gastroenterology had 10 patients with diabetic gastroparesis (condition where digestion is abnormally slow and stomach cannot fully empty itself) supplement ACV. The results were that it made the condition even worse by slowing down the gastric emptying rate even more... which would suggest that it could potentially help with diarrhea.
A Cause or Cure for Explosive Bowel Movements?
If you are consuming small doses of ACV for health reasons you are unlikely to get diarrhea from it--and seem to be more likely to treat the condition if you have it.
While there is very little evidence suggesting either, according to some sources it is likely that a healthy dose of ACV will help return bowel movements to normal no matter what the situation--by improving gut health in various ways.
4 Ways ACV Is Good for Your Gut
#1 - Improves Digestion
There isn't really much in the way of proof here, but legend has it that ACV increases the acidity of your stomach and this then leads to the body creating more pepsin, which is the enzyme responsible for breaking down protein.
Pepsin has been found to occur more rapidly in acidic environment (source: 2015 article in the Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology) and it makes perfect sense that an acidic beverage such as ACV would increase the overall acidity of one's stomach.
It is for this reason that ACV is sometimes consumed before meals rich in protein... to help aid the digestion.
#2 - Helps With Upset Stomach
When you think about stomach acid being the problem behind an upset stomach, indigestion, heartburn, etc... you usually think of there being too much. However, some sources claim that too little stomach acid may be the more common problem.
A small sip of diluted ACV before meals can help balance acid levels and return digestion to normal.
#3 - Improves Gut Microbiota
The bacteria that resides in our guts is incredibly important. Without it we would have horrible digestion and much of the nutrients from the food we eat would go in one end and right out the other, without being absorbed.
ACV can actually help improve gut bacteria because it has prebiotic effects, which basically means that it provides food for good gut bacteria. ACV has prebiotics from the fermented apples and is also a source of pectin, which is an soluble fiber that helps with digestion and is a prebiotic itself.
#4 - Reduces Inflammation
It is also recommended by some as a treatment for gastritis, which is when one's stomach becomes inflamed and swollen for various reasons.
In the Chiroprator Kyle D. Christensen's book titled Herbal First Aid and Health Care, he talks about how lack of hydrochloric acid production in the stomach is often to blame for gastritis and how ACV can help cure this problem.
ACV is also consumed as a way to reduce inflammation of all kinds, although its effectiveness is not proven.
With or Without Mother?
You will hear a lot of natural health enthusiasts saying that you should be buying ACV with "mother", but what the heck does this even mean?
Well, if you look at ACV with and without "mother" you will see that when it has "mother" it is a lot more murky and has sediment at the bottom.
That's the difference. With "mother" isn't filtered and because of this you are left with a liquid that has cellulose and acetic acid bacteria in it--a more raw form that will provide you with a bit more.
If you are thinking about jumping on the ACV health craze and are looking to drink the liquid yourself, be sure to dilute it beforehand. The high acidity can eat away at the enamel on your teeth and can irritate your throat--and the strong taste isn't exactly inviting.
You may see people taking a spoonful of it right to the mouth, but this isn't the best choice and these people may regret it later down the road if they do so consistently.
What you can do is add a teaspoon or tablespoon to a cup of water, which is what most people do. This will dilute it plenty but you don't have to go this far. Just a small 50/50 mix of ACV and water is plenty.
- Apple cider vinegar is unlikely to cause diarrhea when consumed in small amounts
- The acidity of ACV can irritate those with sensitive stomachs, potentially leading to diarrhea--and it is also said that ACV can cause excess water to enter the colon
- ACV's doesn't seem to be a very good laxative treatment for constipation
- Some evidence suggests it helps slow bowel movements
- ACV is good for overall gut health
While apple cider vinegar can potentially cause diarrhea for some people, most of us who supplement small amounts for health reasons aren't going to have any problem with it--and will benefit in various ways.
Much of the hype surrounding ACV is folk-medicine, so you can't always trust everything you here. It may not be the amazing super-food it is touted as being but it can be a healthy supplement to add to your diet... one that can help normalize bowel movements.
*If you are experiencing diarrhea from ACV you should discontinue supplementation and you may want to try eating these foods to help stop it. Or, if it is severe, we always recommend consulting with a doctor.
Thank you for this article. My experience has been contradictory though. I’ve had Ulcerative Colitis for 28 years. (I’ve been in remission for several years and my latest colonoscopy showed no inflammation.). I’ve had chronic constipation for decades though. The ACV has definitely had a laxative effect on me. I’m actually fine with that though, preferring to move these toxins out of the body on an almost daily basis rather than go 8 days without a BM! I’ve been taking the ACV, either the Braggs liquid form or a capsule, for 3 weeks. Curious to see if I stabilize and return to normal BMs.