Should you take a shot first thing in the morning? Add a splash to your water bottle? Stick a straw in a bottle of Bragg before dinner?
To maximize ACV’s benefits—and avoid any unwanted side effects—you’d better use it right. Here, nutrition and gut experts break it all down for you.
Why Drink Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar, which contains a number of healthy bacteria, enzymes, and acids, is often regarded as a health cure-all.
“Apple cider vinegar has a long history as a home remedy for everything from a sore throat to high blood pressure, but there’s not any science to support these claims,” says gastroenterologist Rudolph Bedford, M.D., of Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica.
However, science does back up a number of other benefits, including helping you maintain a healthy weight, promoting healthy blood sugar, and supporting digestion. Early research suggests it might benefit heart and immune health, too.
6 Rules For Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar
To reap ACV’s benefits fully, keep the following six rules in mind.
1. Don’t Drink It On An Empty Stomach
Someone on your Instagram feed has liked touted the benefits of early-morning ACV shots, but experts don’t recommend it.
“When taken on an empty stomach, anything acidic can cause inflammation of the stomach lining, acid reflux, or an upset stomach in folks with sensitive stomachs,” says Bedford.
The main component of ACV? Acetic acid, which is (as it sounds) very acidic.
According to Bedford, some people may experience bloating, nausea, and diarrhea after consuming ACV on an empty stomach.
2. Dilute It
Another issue with those a.m. ACV shots? The actual shot part.
In addition to being rough on the digestive system, straight ACV can also be rough on your teeth, potentially contributing to enamel erosion over time.
Instead of drinking ACV like a shot of whiskey, experts recommend stirring a tablespoon into water, seltzer, or tea, and then sipping the concoction (preferably using a straw).This is easier on your digestive tract and protects your teeth, says Jonathan Valdez, R.D.N., owner of Genki Nutrition and spokesperson for the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“If you don’t want to drink apple cider vinegar, you can also cook with it,” says Valdez, who recommends using it in marinades and salad dressings.
3. Avoid Drinking ACV Before Bedtime
Acidic foods are more likely to cause acid reflux when consumed right before lying down, explains Bedford. Since ACV is so acidic, consuming it within two hours of bedtime could leave you uncomfortable once you lie down.
However, note that if you’re just cooking with ACV (or using it in dressing), you should be safe from indigestion issues, Bedford says.
4. Have Your ACV With Some Carbs
“Carbs, specifically bread products, are known for their ability to soak up acidic fluids,” Bedford says. Given that, he suggests pairing your ACV with foods that contain carbs to keep it as easy on your stomach as possible.
Meals like oatmeal, a sandwich, or eggs with toast will do the trick.
And don’t worry, “there’s been no research showing that taking apple cider vinegar with food alters its effectiveness,” says Valdez. Science also doesn’t suggest you’ll miss out on the energy boost many people claim to feel after drinking ACV if you down it alongside food.
5. Don’t Overdo It
“Many people take far too much apple cider vinegar,” says Bedford. “The correct dose is one to two tablespoons of organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar per day.”
Drink more than that, and you increase your risk of dealing with undesirable symptoms like indigestion, heartburn, upset stomach, and diarrhea—and eroding your teeth.
6. Listen To Your Body
“I would tell anyone who is taking apple cider vinegar and getting stomach aches to stop using it,” says Bedford. After all, the stuff is supposed to help your digestion, not make it worse.
If ACV doesn’t work for you, you can support your digestive health, weight management, and overall well-being in other ways, like with a probiotic supplement, eating more fiber, hydrating more, and exercising daily.
Of course, if you continue to experience uncomfortable GI symptoms after kicking your ACV habit, pay your healthcare provider a visit.