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What Is An Apple Cider Vinegar Detox & Does It Really Work?

Abby Moore
August 8, 2020
Abby Moore
mbg Nutrition & Health Writer
By Abby Moore
mbg Nutrition & Health Writer
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
August 8, 2020

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a relatively common kitchen ingredient with potent dermatological benefits. It has been shown to help ease dandruff, relieve foot odor, and may even treat warts. The topical benefits are one thing, but do the health benefits of drinking ACV actually stack up?

To understand whether drinking ACV daily (also called an apple cider vinegar detox) could actually support the body's natural detoxification systems, mbg spoke with registered dietitians and functional medicine doctors. Here's what they had to say about potential health benefits, the current state of research, side effects, and safety tips. 

What is an apple cider vinegar detox? 

Apple cider vinegar is made from crushed and fermented apples. For centuries, the vinegar has been touted for its medicinal and therapeutic properties. In fact, the pharmaceutical use of ACV dates back to 400 B.C1., when Hippocrates used it to clean wounds and help manage coughs. Today, many people believe drinking apple cider vinegar two to three times a day can help detox the body and lead to weight loss. 

An ACV detox typically entails drinking 1 to 2 tablespoons of the vinegar before meals. However, naturopathic physician Jaime Schehr, N.D., R.D., tells mbg it's too acidic on its own and should always be diluted with water. Here's one common way to drink it:

ACV detox drink

  • 1 to 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 8 ounces water 
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp. honey (or other natural sweetener) 
  • Optional: squeeze of lemon juice or a sprinkle of cayenne pepper. 

What are the potential benefits?

It may curb appetite.  

The acidic properties of apple cider vinegar—specifically acetic acid—may lead to feelings of fullness2, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Amy Kimberlain, RDN, says. It does this by reducing the absorption of starches and delaying gastric emptying3 (aka slowing down digestion). 

This is why proponents of ACV commonly suggest drinking it before or with a meal rather than after. 

It might be good for the gut. 

Since apple cider vinegar is fermented, it contains gut-friendly bacteria. Eating fermented foods has been shown to enhance digestion and support a healthy and balanced microbiome. However, functional medicine doctor Amy Shah, M.D., tells mbg, "ACV can cause problems for digestion if you overuse it." 

Is there any research to support an ACV detox?

"There is little research to support the benefit of ACV on specific health conditions," Schehr says. So while adding the vinegar to a daily diet may not be harmful, there's also little evidence that it has detoxifying properties or a significant weight loss function. 

As with any supplement, Kimberlain says if you do decide to use apple cider vinegar, it should be in conjunction with a healthy diet—not in place of one. 

What are the potential side effects?

"ACV can cause digestive side effects including throat burning, reflux, and loose stool," Schehr says. "It may also erode tooth enamel if it's used too often or held in the mouth too long." 

People with sensitive stomachs or preexisting gastrointestinal issues, like acid reflux or heartburn, may want to avoid or limit their intake. 

What to keep in mind if you try an ACV detox.

If you decide to incorporate ACV into your routine, experts say it's important to dilute it with water or add it to foods or dressings, to avoid esophageal burning. While it's always beneficial to consult with a medical practitioner before changing your diet, people with diabetes, in particular, should do so before adding ACV since it can alter insulin and blood glucose levels.  

Bottom line.

Apple cider vinegar has been used medicinally for centuries and does have observed health benefits, including gut-friendly properties and antioxidants. Despite anecdotal claims about detoxifying and weight loss benefits, there's little science to back it up. If someone is choosing to add ACV to their diet, it's important that they dilute it with water and consider consulting a doctor if they have preexisting health conditions.

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Abby Moore author page.
Abby Moore
mbg Nutrition & Health Writer

Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.