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Apple Cider Vinegar: Is It A Probiotic? Gut Health Experts Explain

Abby Moore
Assistant Managing Editor By Abby Moore
Assistant Managing Editor
Abby Moore is an assistant managing editor at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
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The health claims surrounding apple cider vinegar (ACV) tend to be conflicting—some say it can help manage weight and detoxify the body, while others say there's not enough evidence to prove those benefits. One thing most experts can agree on, though, is that ACV contains gut-friendly properties. 

To make ACV, apples are crushed and the sugars are fermented. But does this fermentation process automatically qualify ACV as a probiotic? To better categorize the enigmatic vinegar, registered dietitians and gut health experts break down its probiotic properties. 

ACV is fermented, but is it a probiotic?

According to registered dietitian Jenna Gorham, R.D., L.D., a probiotic describes a live microorganism that provides a health benefit when consumed. Since apple cider vinegar is fermented, it does contain bacteria. However, there's not enough research to prove whether these bacteria survive transit through the digestive system, she says. 

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"Technically apple cider vinegar is not a probiotic," integrative gastroenterologist Marvin Singh, M.D., tells mbg, "but it should be considered a probiotic food." Probiotic foods or drinks describe any edible item that's been fermented to contain healthy bacterias. This includes kimchi, kombucha, yogurt, and any pickled item, to name a few. 

Because the probiotic effects of apple cider vinegar may be minimal, registered dietitian Jess Cording, M.S., R.D., CND, recommends consuming a wide variety of prebiotic- and probiotic-rich foods. 

All that said, the gut-friendly benefits of ACV are strongest when it contains "the mother."


What is "the mother" in ACV, and why does it matter?

When apple cider vinegar undergoes a slow fermentation process, it creates a buildup of yeast and sugars, which contain nutritional properties, such as acetic acid, citric acid, vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients. 

This buildup of desirable micronutrients is called "the mother," and it usually collects at the bottom of the AVC bottle or floats around in strands, making it appear cloudy. You'll find this in certain brands, like Bragg organic, raw apple cider vinegar.

When it comes to gut health, Singh says ACV with the mother is the kind to look for. While its value hasn't been well established through research, he says it contains B vitamins and polyphenols, making it generally good for you. 

Bottom line.

Apple cider vinegar has a variety of health claims, and not all of them are backed by research. While it may not be an official probiotic on its own, apple cider vinegar does contain healthy bacteria, gut-friendly properties, and can be part of a healthy diet. 

Just make sure to dilute it with water or other ingredients, since the acid has been shown to erode tooth enamel and create indigestion. For better gut results, look for ACV with "the mother."


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