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Recipes for apple cider vinegar elixirs have been handed down for decades as a popular home remedy. And with a growing number of influencers and TikTok videos singing the praises of ACV, you might be tempted to add it to your health regimen. But is it truly effective, or just a fad?
This “fad” has been around for over 2 millennia—since 400 B.C., to be exact. That’s when Hippocrates (yes, the same one who wrote the Hippocratic oath) started prescribing apple cider vinegar—often mixed with honey—as a remedy for coughs and colds. The “father of modern medicine” knew back then what scientists are just discovering now: apple cider vinegar can support your body’s overall health—including your immune system.
Read on to learn more about the possible health benefits of ACV and whether you should add it into your overall wellness plan. Plus, we’ll answer the big question: is apple cider vinegar good for your immune system?
What Exactly Is Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)?
Simply put, apple cider vinegar is fermented apple juice. However, the actual process for creating apple cider vinegar is somewhat complex.
First, yeast is added to the apple juice. Winemaking yeasts or champagne yeasts yield the best results since they can tolerate higher alcohol contents. This creates the fermentation process, in which the sugar in the apple juice is turned into alcohol. Don’t worry, though, in the end, apple cider vinegar is alcohol-free!
The alcohol created during the first fermentation is ethyl alcohol, commonly called ethanol, not drinking alcohol. Ethanol is also known as grain alcohol. Although it’s found—in small quantities—in alcoholic beverages, ethanol is highly toxic on its own. To rid the apple cider vinegar of ethanol, a second fermentation is needed.
Remember how we started with apple juice? Bacteria originating from the apples initiates a second fermentation. During this process, the bacteria converts the alcohol into acetic acid, a clear, colorless liquid used in making vinegar. It’s the acetic acid that gives apple cider vinegar it’s strong color, odor, and flavor.
The result: your glass of apple juice is now apple cider vinegar.
Unfiltered v.s. Filtered Apple Cider Vinegar
When the bacteria and yeast—known as the “mother”—is left inside the ACV, the mixture is considered unfiltered apple cider vinegar. When you look into the bottle of “ACV with the mother,” you can still see the darker particles floating in the bottle. These are a mix of enzymes and probiotics (beneficial bacteria), which, according to numerous studies, can have a positive impact on your digestive, immune, and even your emotional well-being.
The filtered version, on the other hand, contains no sediment, and is usually a clear amber color. It looks more appealing, visually. But studies show that, because it lacks the beneficial probiotic byproducts, it might not contain as much of the “good stuff” that makes apple cider vinegar so effective at supporting your health.
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How Apple Cider Vinegar Promotes Good Health
The key to apple cider vinegar’s effectiveness is found in the beneficial elements it contains.
The vinegar in apple cider vinegar is the acetic acid produced through fermentation. Acetic acid has been proven to be a potent antimicrobial. It is known to kill bacterial, yeast (such as candida albicans), and fungal infections—this last one being the reason why it is sometimes applied topically instead of ingested.
Apple cider vinegar is often used to treat colds due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Many users report that it is effective at alleviating or even eliminating symptoms.
Other acids are also created as a byproduct of the apples’ fermentation process. These acids are found in much smaller quantities than acetic acid, but as a whole can also support your body’s health and immune system.
These acids include:
- And succinic acids
Apple cider vinegar is also packed with polyphenols. These compounds, which occur naturally in plant-based foods (such as the apples in ACV), act as powerful antioxidants, neutralizing the harmful free radicals that seek to damage the cells of your body.
Apple cider vinegar contains five particular antioxidants:
- Caffeic acid
- Chlorogenic acid
- Gallic acid
Combined with acetic acid and the “mother,” these antioxidants can promote your immune strength and total body wellness.
The quantity and quality of beneficial bacteria is the secret sauce behind apple cider vinegar’s ability to boost your immune system and optimize your overall health.
Your body naturally contains both good bacteria (probiotics) and bad bacteria (pathogens).
For optimal gut microbiome health, the good bacteria has to outnumber the bad bacteria. When you consume apple cider vinegar, you’re helping to increase the numbers and strength of your beneficial bacteria population.
And remember the polyphenols we mentioned earlier? When broken down, they become food for your beneficial bacteria, encouraging them to flourish and thrive in your gut microbiome.
Apple Cider Vinegar and Your Immune System
If you support your gut health , does that mean that your immune system will be healthy, too? 100%!! Your gut microbiome affects all of your body’s health systems, and your immunity is no exception.
So how does apple cider vinegar boost your immune health?
This may surprise you, but roughly 70-80% of your immune system lives in your gut. When ACV encourages the healthy bacterial balance of your gut, it also contributes to a stronger, more efficient immune system.
A well-supported gut can help your immune system:
- Prevent illness or infection
- Assist your body’s response to infection
- Aid in a faster recovery time
As recently as 2018, researchers discovered that probiotics, like the ones found in apple cider vinegar, can encourage a strong immune response. In fact, a groundbreaking study examining the effects of probiotics on upper respiratory illnesses and flu-like symptoms found that participants who received probiotics had statistically significant health improvements compared to the placebo group.
The probiotics were proven to address such symptoms as:
- Nasal congestion
- Muscle pain
- and other common flu-like symptoms
So does apple cider vinegar help your immune system? The results of this study seem to indicate that there is a scientific basis for Hippocrates’ “home remedy” of taking apple cider vinegar for a cold!
Other Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar
The main elements in apple cider vinegar that can reinforce a healthy system are acetic acid and the beneficial bacteria. Working in tandem, these two can provide powerful health boosts as well as the following additional benefits.
Blood Sugar Control
Apple cider vinegar shows some promise when it comes to regulating blood sugar levels. Studies indicate that apple cider vinegar may improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin. This may encourage the efficient transfer of glucose into your cells, where it can be used for energy.
Apple cider vinegar has also been shown to lower the blood sugar level of people with type 2 diabetes. In another study, participants who drank two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bedtime had better fasting blood sugar levels the next morning.
When paired with smart food choices and consistent exercise, apple cider vinegar can play a role in controlling blood sugar levels.
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Apple cider vinegar has been shown to encourage weight loss, especially when coupled with a healthy diet.
In a randomized clinical trial, study participants who drank a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar twice a day lost more weight than those who just followed the eating plan. Not only did they lose more weight, but they also lowered their BMI and reported reduced appetite/cravings.
Apple cider vinegar, combined with healthy eating and exercise habits, can be an effective tool for weight loss and give you the positive results you desire.
Reduced Risk of Heart Disease
According to studies, apple cider vinegar can help improve your heart healthcare.
It’s effective in lowering risk of heart disease because it can reduce cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels. It has also been shown to help lower blood pressure.
In fact, after just a few months of consuming apple cider vinegar, study participants experienced heart health improvements.
Upping Your Intake of Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is highly acidic, so many people have difficulty drinking it on its own. To make it easier to consume, you can dilute ACV with water—add at least 5 times as much water as apple cider vinegar prior to consuming. You can also add ACV to a warm drink, such as tea.
If you are drinking apple cider vinegar to help soothe a sore throat, you might also want to add some other soothing ingredients such as:
- Lemon or lemon juice
- Raw honey
- Fresh ginger
- A pinch of cayenne pepper
You can also use apple cider vinegar for cooking or baking. However, the heat can possibly change its effectiveness. If you’re taking apple cider vinegar for its health benefits, try to keep it in its original form whenever possible. One common use is as a base for salad dressing mixed with extra virgin olive oil.
You can also stir it into soups or use it as a marinade for your favorite vegetables.
Choosing the Right Apple Cider Vinegar
There are many options for apple cider vinegar available in stores and online. In general, avoid anything that says it’s made with “apple products” instead of apples. You want to be sure that you are getting the real deal!
When you’re shopping, look for unfiltered, raw, organic apple cider vinegar. This provides the beneficial properties of the ACV’s “mother,” while avoiding any unnecessary added ingredients.
Possible Risks of Apple Cider Vinegar
There are some risks and side effects of ACV to watch out for. Like all vinegars, apple cider vinegar is acidic. When ingested in high quantities, the acid could cause damage. Your stomach lining and tooth enamel are particularly susceptible. Be especially careful if you have or are prone to ulcers.
And if you begin drinking apple cider vinegar, be sure to thoroughly rinse your mouth afterward. You want to be sure to do away with any lingering acid that could damage your teeth.
Apple cider vinegar can also cause bloating or even an upset stomach. If you’re new to taking it, start off slowly, and give your body time to become accustomed.
Additionally, there are some reports linking ACV to decreased potassium levels, and it can interact with certain medications such as insulin, diuretics, and potassium-lowering medications. Before starting ACV, it’s best to first seek guidance from a medical professional if you are on any medications.
There’s a reason why some home remedies are passed down through generations; they work.
When it comes to optimizing your immune function, apple cider vinegar certainly shows great promise. By promoting a healthy gut microbiome, this ancient remedy can strengthen your immune response and lead to improvements in your overall health.
Adding ACV into your diet can be the perfect all-natural wellness boost you need.
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