Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past few years, you’ve heard about apple cider vinegar—or ACV, as it's affectionately called by its die-hard fans. According to online buzz, this ancient remedy reduces inflammation, promotes weight loss, and relieves everything from leg cramps to painful acne.
Natural remedies that supposedly fix everything that ails you are often too good to be true, so I was skeptical. But then my sister began taking ACV on a daily basis. At first, it was merely to serve as an immunity booster. But she swore it also helped her digestion, allergies, and simply made her feel better. So I decided to jump on the ACV bandwagon for 30 days straight — here's what happened.
The folks at Ethan’s, a Boulder, Colorado-based company that creates ACV elixirs in various flavors, were kind enough to provide me with a month’s supply of flavored apple cider vinegar "shots" (four teaspoons if you want to try this at home). The first one I try is turmeric apple, which has a peppery zing that's far more appealing than straight-up vinegar. (Plus, the curcumin in pepper has anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties.) In fact, it's so tasty that I'm wishing I could pour it into a pint glass and sip it at dinner rather than make do with one shot.
Within hours of my first "dose," something even stranger happens. My cravings for sugar (which are legendary) disappear. Completely.
Coming from someone who regularly has chocolate for breakfast — not to mention all the other meals — this is no small feat. By the end of the week, my taste for sugar is all but eliminated. I bite into a fresh apple and it tastes sickeningly sweet to me, I can't even finish it. Curious as to why this has happened, I talk to Katie Rankell, R.D., a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at UC Irvine Medical Center.
“Acetic acid found in vinegar has been shown to lower blood sugar and aid in a feeling of fullness,” she explains. “It lowers blood sugar by reducing the absorption of carbohydrates.”
After finishing my turmeric apple shots, I move on to Ethan’s cinnamon maple flavor. It's described as a good starter flavor for ACV newbies, but my taste buds can’t reconcile the sweetness with the tart vinegar. I dutifully drink my shot every day, but I'm not quite as excited about it.
Ethan’s ginger pineapple mix is a much better fit for my taste palate. Plus, ginger’s been used for thousands of years to treat ailments ranging from arthritis to migraines. I don’t suffer from any of these health issues, but who knows? Maybe ginger (and ACV) will keep me from ever having to.
Sadly, my stomach doesn’t agree. Halfway through the week, I start to wonder if my daily shot is systematically stripping the lining from my digestive system. I feel like I have internal rug burn. I try diluting the ACV, sipping it slowly rather than throwing it back as a shot, and telling myself how good it is for me. None of it works. My stomach hurts.
My sister swears that ACV actually helps her digestion, but Rankell doesn’t seem surprised by my complaint. She explains that ACV's side effects include a worsening of stomach ulcers and acid reflux. (It can also erode tooth enamel, lower potassium levels, and enhance the effects of some prescribed medications.)
I don’t have any pre-existing gut conditions. Still, I'm queasy.
Every morning, I eye the bottle of ACV in my fridge, working up the courage to take a swig. Again. Returning to the flavor I like best — turmeric apple — helps. So does catching my gut off-guard by taking the shot at different times of the day.
But aside from still being turned off by sweets, I have to admit that I haven't noticed a huge change in my health. Since I don’t have high blood pressure or cholesterol and I’m already at a healthy weight, I ask Rankell: Is there any point in my continuing with ACV?
Her answer is no. “Blood pressure and cholesterol will lower with any weight loss or improvement in dietary habits,” she points out. “ACV specifically has not been shown to have a significant effect.”
But if I do continue taking it, Rankell recommends diluting it and having smaller amounts — say, only a teaspoon or two in warm water, tea, or salad dressing.
Despite her words of caution, I admit that I'll most likely stick with ACV. I like the taste, I don't miss my sugar cravings, and — let's be honest — there's nothing wrong with striving to be healthier, even if it's one teaspoon healthier each day. Your body's a temple and all that.
If you decide to do the same, check with your doctor first.