What's apple cider vinegar (ACV)?

Apple cider vinegar has been used for a long time to heal ailments and even a cleaning product. Like all kinds of vinegar, apple cider vinegar includes acetic acid as an essential ingredient. As the name implies, ACV is made of apple cider. The cider is produced by fermenting the sugar. 'Good' bacteria known as acetobacter then convert the alcohol from the cider into acetic acid to form vinegar. Besides acetic acid, ACV can also have a small quantity of citric acid and malic acid. The pH of ACV is 2-3, which can be mildly acidic. 

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has been labeled as a cure-all in recent decades, with far-ranging health benefits being clarified. One step towards optimal health starts with assisting the body to become more alkaline. One approach to accomplish this is to include more alkaline foods into your daily diet. Once you understand the fundamentals of an alkaline diet (alkalinity vs. acidity), the health advantages of having alkaline food in your diet become clearer. But the science for ACV benefits after it's consumed is not that simple. So what are the actual advantages of ACV, and does the ACV pH value have something to do with it?

See: Apple Cider Vinegar Detox Health Benefits

What's pH balance?

The term pH stands for "potential of hydrogen." A pH level is based on a scale ranging from 0 to 14, indicating the acidity or alkalinity of compounds like soil, food, drinks, or blood. The lower a substance's pH level, the higher the hydrogen ion chemicals it contains, and the more acidic it is. The greater a substances' pH level, the hydrogen ion chemicals it has, and the more alkaline it is. Water is one example of a neutral solution with a pH of 7, placing it in the scale's center.

The natural pH levels vary by organs in the human body. The average person's skin is acidic, with a pH level between 4 and 6.5. The acidity acts as a protective film against harmful germs and toxic environmental pollutants. Typically, the human gut has a pH level between 1.35 and 3.5. Its high acidity breaks down proteins and assists in the digestion process.

The body as a whole keeps an extraordinarily tight pH range and slightly alkaline pH level between 7.35 to 7.45. Our body has many biological and biochemical systems in place to keep healthy pH levels. An intricate symphony involving lungs, kidneys, and brain, as well as chemical buffers in blood and blood cells (erythrocytes), keep our pH levels regulated. However, if our pH changes out of the normal or healthy range, harmful health consequences can result. 

See: Apple Cider Vinegar Diet Benefits & Side Effects

Alkalinity vs. acidity

Within the body, the acid-alkaline balance is vital. Bodily functions occur only at specific acidity or alkalinity levels. For instance, the skin, gut, and bladder regions are highly acidic to shield us from outside toxins. Most of our other organs and cells operate best in an alkaline pH. Since many enzymes and chemical reactions within the body operate better at a specific pH, a little shift in the pH levels can profoundly affect body function. On average, the pH level at which your body works best is 7.4.

Possible Benefits Of Implementing An Alkaline Diet

Western diets typically leave our bodies very acidic since they're saturated in bad fats, not enough fiber, overconsumption of protein, and too much sugar. Once the body becomes too acidic, it contributes to inflammation and an increased risk for different diseases and disorders. In comparison, an alkalizing diet will help to balance your pH level, finally reducing acidity. When you've got a more alkaline environment, your body can function at optimum levels. For example, alkalinity can reduce inflammation, including the brain, gut, skin, and muscles.

Besides relieving inflammation, an alkalizing diet also inhibits the growth of yeast and bad bacteria. This property also allows for superior detoxification. Following the appropriate alkalizing diet and detoxification protocol may help many. This benefit reflects a lifestyle change that could make life considerably better. Additionally, it is essential to identify specific food allergies or sensitivities that may also trigger symptoms.

Foods that can help with an alkaline diet

The pH of the food itself doesn't dictate how it responds in our own body. By way of example, an individual might feel that fresh lemons and limes and raw organic apple cider vinegar are acidic, but they become alkaline when consumed.

Prime examples of acid-forming foods include animal proteins, sugar, coffee, juice, and processed foods. Similarly, alkaline foods include leafy greens, root vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, garlic, lemons, cabbage, and some peppers, such as cayenne.

See: Effect of curcumin on acidic pH-induced expression of IL-6 and IL-8 in human esophageal epithelial cells (HET-1A): role of PKC, MAPKs, and NF-kappaB.

Apple cider vinegar pH

Some wellness practitioners think that sipping a diluted daily dose of ACVcan finally "improve" the human body's pH, meaning blood pH becomes more alkaline. Other health industry experts theorize that the acidity in this early home remedy can offset the body's natural acid-base equilibrium. Research indicates that drinking a glass of water containing a small quantity of ACV will not alter your body's blood pH level (for improved or worse). The simple reason is that your body's natural system won't permit it.

Whether the food you consume is acid-producing or alkaline-promoting, it goes into the stomach's acidic environment.

The acidic and alkaline properties of food are neutralized during digestion. Extra acid or alkali is released in our urine, and that's why urine pH levels fluctuate. 

Some say that after a diet high in foods that are acidic or without ACV might help prevent or cure cancer. AICR (The American Institute for Cancer Research) cautions that although studies have shown that cancer cells can't live in an alkaline environment (and thrive in an acidic environment), this outcome only pertains to cells in a laboratory setting. The AICR clarifies that producing a less acidic environment in the body is virtually impossible.

ACV might be beneficial in tiny amounts. Consistent findings from the small number of available studies appear to indicate it might benefit weight problems and blood glucose control per recent studies.


See: Apple Cider Vinegar for Acid Reflux

ACV possible health benefits & side effects

Potential ACV health benefits

Many health benefits are linked to ACV, which ranges from the treatment of dandruff to athlete's foot. More generally, it asserts that ACV enhances energy and the absorption of nutrients from food. But not all these claims are demonstrated by scientific studies on people. Some health benefits and claims have limited research, while others have none. Let us take a look.

- Lose Weight: There's some evidence from clinical trials showing that ACV might be helpful for weight loss. But the effects appear to be small at best. It appears that as with most other quick-fix weight-loss thoughts, vinegar isn't the easy answer. Diet and exercise may still be the most reliable and well-studied tactics for achieving a healthy weight and keeping the weight off.

Lowers blood glucose levels.

A 2017 review of clinical research found that vinegar may help decrease blood glucose levels spikes following a meal. It could also help stabilize insulin levels after eating. These effects were observed in people with diabetes and pre-diabetes, in addition to healthy individuals, when they'd 1-2 tbsp of vinegar with a meal. It is believed that vinegar may lower insulin and glucose levels by slowing both stomach emptying and carbs' digestion. Additional study is needed to confirm these effects and their advantages. People with diabetes, especially those who have gastroparesis, shouldn't have vinegar-based beverages without consulting their physician.

Unproven health effects of ACV

While apple cider vinegar is popular for many ailments and conditions, nearly all its effects have not been clinically proven. Research has not been proven to heart disease or prevent cancer from decreasing high blood pressure. Taking apple cider vinegar doesn't alter or 'balance' your body's pH, which is very controlled by your body when healthy.

A few reasons that the health benefits of ACV stay unproven may be because research done so far is with small sample sizes and/or of inferior quality. Quite a number of the studies have included animal issues, not individuals, and many human studies didn't specifically use apple cider vinegar. 

ACV side effects

Drinking apple cider vinegar by itself can damage your throat and esophagus (food pipe), causing inflammation and pain. Besides, it can worsen heartburn and acid reflux. If you drink apple cider vinegar, you must dilute it by adding water. Even when diluted, drinking apple cider vinegar may erode the teeth enamel or the tough outer coating that protects your teeth from decay.

Taking apple cider vinegar can also interfere with some medications, including diabetes medications and diuretics (fluid tablets). Consult your doctor before starting any new herbs or supplements, particularly if you take regular medications.

Some people have employed apple cider vinegar for their skin to treat acne and other skin ailments. This action can cause substantial irritation, possibly resulting in scarring and unusual skin pigmentation. Occasionally vinegar may even cause skin burns.

Others have used it to eliminate unwanted skin lesions, such as moles. Besides the side effects mentioned, you must see your doctor about any skin lesions, particularly those that are new or seem different. Fixing skin lesions yourself can put your health in danger.

See: Vinegar Consumption Increases Insulin-Stimulated Glucose Uptake by the Forearm Muscle in Humans with Type 2 Diabetes.

Apple cider vinegar bath pH balance

Overall, there's currently no substantial evidence to support the health benefits of apple cider vinegar. Use it as a home remedy but don't expect it to cure all your ailments. Adding ACV into a tub makes the water more acidic, promoting skin health by restoring the skin's pH balance and protecting this vertical layer. There might be some benefits associated with incorporating ACV into a bath. 

People the world over use vinegar for medicinal purposes in varying types. Scientific research supports this to a certain level, as the acetic acid in the vinegar does seem to have some health benefits. Additionally, the acidic character of ACV may be the key to its apparent advantages. These variables could help because the barrier on the outer layer of the skin of the acid mantle is naturally acidic. It protects the skin from infections, viruses, and other possible hazards. Any breaks in this barrier, or variables that cause the skin's pH levels to change, can lead to skin issues.

The pH-balancing properties of apple cider vinegar can help natural barrier on your skin composed of natural oils. Our skin becomes more alkaline as we age, which weakens our acid mantle's capacity to protect against wrinkles. An ACV bath can lower skin pH on the entire body, making the skin less prone to potential toxins.

See: Intake of vinegar beverage is associated with restoration of ovulatory function in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.

References

1. Darzi J, Frost GS, Montaser R, Yap J, Robertson, MD. Influence of vinegar's tolerability as an oral source of short-chain fatty acids on appetite control and food intake. International Journal of Obesity, 2013;38:675–681.

2. Hamm L, Nakhoul N, Hering-Smith K. Acid-base homeostasis. Clin J Amer Soc Nephrology 2015; 10: 2232-42

3. Kondo T, Kishi M, Fushimi T, Ugajin S, Kaga T. Vinegar intake reduces body weight, body fat mass, and serum triglyceride levels in obese Japanese subjects. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 2009;73(8):1837-43.

4. Is apple cider vinegar really a wonder food? Rosemary Stanton. The Conversation (24 Nov 2017). https://theconversation.com/is-apple-cider-vinegar-really-a-wonder-food-86551 

5. Shishehbor F, Mansoori A, Shirani F. Vinegar consumption can attenuate postprandial glucose and insulin responses, a systematic review, and meta-analysis of clinical trials. Diabetes Res Clin Pract 2017;127:1-9. DOI: 10.1016/j.diabres.2017.01.021.

See: Ayurveda treatment for acne & pimples

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