How to use Apple Cider Vinegar to Improve Digestion

Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night with a heavy feeling in your gut?

Do you ever feel like you have a rock/small baby hippopotamus in your belly hours after eating a meal?

If yes, you may not be digesting your food properly.

These uncomfortable feelings were so well-known to me that I used to just let them slide as “normal”. But there is no such thing as “normal” pain or discomfort: it is an indication from our body that something is amiss.

Proper digestion is key to a healthy body.

The digestive tract — from your tongue to your tooshey — plays a vital role in all aspects of our health. It is the mechanism through which we receive the nutrients necessary to sustain life, and is a vital component of the immune system.

But think about it: if we are eating the most nutrient-dense foods possible yet not breaking them down adequately enough to actually get to the nutrients they contain… what’s the point?

Proper stomach acid levels are necessary for proper digestion and nutrient absorption.

As soon as we see, smell, or think about food, our stomach cells begin secreting hydrochloric acid (HCl). HCl plays a vital role in protein digestion by converting pepsinogen into the enzyme pepsin, which breaks proteins down into amino acids. It also promotes the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, fats, and vitamins A and E by stimulating the release of pancreatic enzymes and bile into the small intestine.

So without adequate stomach acid, food is incompletely digested and nutrients are not properly assimilated. This is a BIG. DEAL.

Factors such as stress, excess carbohydrate consumption, nutrient deficiencies, allergies, and excess alcohol can decrease HCl production. And according to Jonathon Wright, MD — author of Why Stomach Acid is Good for You — approximately 90% of Americans produce too little stomach acid.

(Now if you’re thinking “Oh, well I have acid reflux/GERD so I make too much stomach acid”, think again. Contrary to popular belief, acid reflux and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) are actually caused by low stomach acid. While antacids do help to alleviate the symptoms, they do not remedy the underlying cause. To learn all of the details, check our Chris Kresser’s 6-part series on the topic.)

Apple cider vinegar helps improve digestion by increasing stomach acid.

Drinking a glass of water mixed with a 1-3 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar* 15-20 minutes before a meal can improve digestion and nutrient assimilation by increasing HCl production. Start with 1 teaspoon to see how you fare, and go from there.

I personally drink 3 teaspoons of ACV diluted with an equal amount of water before meals because I know I am very deficient in stomach acid and prefer this option over popping a HCl supplement. I then “swish” about 4 more ounces of water and swallow it to prevent the acid from affecting my tooth enamel and irritating my esophagus.

*Be sure to use raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar with the mother.

Have you used ACV to improve your digestion?

Please share your experience with us!

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Share Your Thoughts





  1. Have you tried drinking 1-2 glasses of fresh apple juice? It’s a great way to get things moving, and I recommend it to people who will be traveling. It makes you feel lighter and able to sit longer on those intercontinental flights. BTW make sure there is 10-12 hours between the time you drink the juice to the time of your boarding.

    March 11, 2015 • 10:50 am •
  2. Nadia

    Ooh I feel like that would be a lot of sugar to drink!!

    March 11, 2015 • 11:17 am •
  3. Nadia

    Ooh I feel like that would be a lot of sugar to drink!!

    March 11, 2015 • 11:17 am •
  4. Mike A

    Great article Nadia. How do you compare taking ACV to taking enzymes and probiotics? Do you take these as well as ACV or is this all you use for digestion? I have always used ACV before I go to bed. This cured acid reflux that I used to have. It really works great. I am going to try it before meals as well.

    March 26, 2015 • 10:18 pm •
  5. Nadia

    Great questions and that’s AWESOME! Yes, ACV helps with acid reflux since reflux (opposed to what many think!) is actually caused my LOW stomach acid.

    I do also take high quality transient and native probiotics daily for overall GI health.

    Enzymes and HCl are both necessary for proper digestion. There are a bunch of different enzymes involved in digestion that come in at different stages of the process (starting salivary alamyse in the mouth – in the saliva – that is necessary for carb/starch digestion). But the thing is, proper HCl levels stimulate the secretion of gastric enzymes in the stomach, as well as pancreatic enzymes in the small intestine. So if you’re chewing your food properly and HCl levels are appropriate, enzyme levels should be sufficient as well. But a number of digestive supplements do contain both HCl (as betaine) and enzymes to assist the entire process – like these http://amzn.to/1GISFLb and these http://amzn.to/1NE4qEF if you’re interested.

    March 31, 2015 • 11:01 am •
  6. Whitney

    Thanks for the great idea! I’m going to have to try it. But I was wondering, do I need to do this forever? Or will my stomach acid levels correct over time, and then I won’t have to drink apple cider vinegar forever?

    September 24, 2015 • 9:15 pm •
  7. Erica Robinson

    Today I exoerienced the hard knot in my stomach. This was not uncommon to me because I have major digestion issues often. I am visiting my sister for the weekend and noticed she had some braggs acv in her bathroom so I said to her I wonder if I drink this would it help me since it has so many wonderful benfits. I took two capfuls (non diluted) and like magic the uncompfortable feeling starting to dissapear. I felt movement in my system immediately. My headache dissapeared. Needless to say I will be getting a bottle immedieatly and begin the regumine mentioned in this article. Thanks for posting.

    November 21, 2015 • 1:02 am •
  8. Nadia

    That’s so great to hear, Erica! It really is a great thing to always have on hand, like you said it has so many uses. I love that your sister had it in the bathroom! It’s great for face masks and as a toner (very diluted) – not sure if that’s what she uses it for!

    November 21, 2015 • 1:34 pm •
  9. Ebenezer

    Nadia,
    Thanks for this info. It has been really helpful but I am a bit worried of what the side effect of taking more than 3 tablespoonful of ACV daily might be particularly it effect on your kidney?

    November 22, 2015 • 3:02 pm •
  10. Angela

    Four tablespoons a day is quite a bit. Just like anything, you have to be careful not to overdo it (too much of a good thing can be a bad thing!). I’ve read that overconsumption of ACV can increase risk of bladder cancer, so keeping it to a reasonable amount is probably the safest bet!

    November 22, 2015 • 5:57 pm •
  11. Nadia

    Hi Angela. Thanks for your comment and concern. I have not heard that and will have to look into it. But the 4 tablespoons is definitely not something indefinite — the idea is to get your stomach to start producing more acid so that eventually you don’t need it at all. I’m actually at the point where I’ve stopped using any ACV! I should make this more clear in the post.

    November 27, 2015 • 12:17 pm •
  12. Nadia

    Hi Ebenezer. Thanks for your comment and concern. I have not heard of any possible side-effects for the kidneys, but will have to look into it.

    But the 4 tablespoons is definitely not something indefinite — the idea is to get your stomach to start producing more acid so that eventually you don’t need it at all. I’m actually at the point where I’ve stopped using any ACV! I should make this more clear in the post.

    November 27, 2015 • 12:18 pm •
  13. Jon Swartz

    is there any counteractive issues with drinking the honey/ cayenne mixture before meals as well as drinking the apple cider vinegar before meals?

    Would that be a harmful mixture at all change the effectiveness of the other mix?

    December 29, 2015 • 2:19 pm •
  14. Nadia

    I wouldn’t do both since they have the same effect.

    December 30, 2015 • 4:14 pm •
  15. Glen

    Hello Nadia
    I’ve started taking ACV for acid reflux. I take a protein shake first thing in the morning and then take ACV in a glass with water straight after. Is this ok to do straight after or should I give it a couple of hours and let my protein shake digest?
    Also can I store ACV in a plastic cup with water and drink later in the day at work?

    January 6, 2016 • 2:50 am •
  16. Raivon

    Great article! I’m newly pregnant andi have horrible indigestion! It feels like my stomach is always full and I feel so bloated at all times. I know I need to eat but I don’t want to Bc of the discomfort. I tried acv , 1 tsp in warm water and I started to feel “empty” again! Is the standard “dose” 1-4 tablespoons? Tia

    January 19, 2016 • 12:08 am •
  17. Catherine

    Hi. I have problems with chronic anemia. If ACV improves digestion, does this mean it will improve my body’s absorption of iron from supplements and food?

    January 24, 2016 • 9:10 am •
  18. Nadia

    Hi, Glen. I hope your acid reflux has improved since writing this comment – my apologies for the belated reply! I would suggest you store the ACV in glass, not plastic. Also, you may find that if you take it before eating (or drinking your protein shake) it prevents the reflux from happening.

    February 18, 2016 • 4:22 pm •
  19. I’ve suffered from a hiatus hernia and IBS since I was 15, and have been on omprozole for around 15 years. Apple cider vinegar before meals definitely helps, but cutting out sugar made the biggest positive difference.

    February 20, 2016 • 10:29 am •
  20. Erik

    When you said you drink 2 tbsp of ACV diluted with an equal amount of water, do you mean you drink it with 1 ounce of water? 2 tbsp is 28 grams and 28 grams is 1 ounce.

    I’ve read about drinking 1 tbsp of ACV with 8 ounces of water. Wouldn’t you need at least 8 ounces of water or is a lower amount better?

    March 25, 2016 • 8:52 am •
  21. Erik

    When you said you drink 2 tbsp of ACV diluted with an equal amount of water, do you mean you drink it with 1 ounce of water? 2 tbsp is 28 grams and 28 grams is 1 ounce.

    I’ve read about drinking 1 tbsp of ACV with 8 ounces of water. Wouldn’t you need at least 8 ounces of water or is a lower amount better?

    March 25, 2016 • 8:54 am •
  22. Joe

    “Do you ever feel like you have a rock/small baby hippopotamus in your belly hours after eating a meal?”

    Boy that described me to a tee many times. And the more antacids I took the worse it got. I thought there was something seriously wrong starting to happen to me.

    Then I discovered this information that perhaps I didn’t have enough stomach acid so I started using apple cider vinegar mixed with water with my meals.An overnight cure. I couldn’t believe it.

    Thanks !

    April 25, 2016 • 7:57 pm •
  23. Nadia

    Joe, I’m am so incredibly happy to hear that! I definitely recommend reading through the Chris Kresser series linked to in the post and also the book Why Stomach Acid Is Good For You for more info if you’re interested!

    April 27, 2016 • 11:12 am •
  24. Sherri Harper

    I have Gastroperisis which is slow emptying of the stomach contents. My stomach n intestines are not digesting my food and cause me to b full n throw up after eating. I also get cinstipated easily. Have recently quit taking miralax due to its content. Have heard that ACV can help with my digestive problems. Is this true. Thanks

    July 25, 2016 • 10:47 am •
  25. Jay Gamble

    I have ulcerative colitis. i take my prescribed meds plus 1-2 tablespoons of Red Apple Cider Vinegar with the mother, diluted with water. When my medication refill has crossed in the mail, I lnow RACV will protect my gi tract. I also have used medical cannabis to alleviate symptoms. All medications can be used for good or bad purposes. I love my RACV.

    September 8, 2016 • 6:37 pm •
  26. Jennifer

    Hi, wanted to thank you for the concern about tooth enamel. As a dental hygienist, one of my focuses is patients enamel and causes for its breakdown.

    Appreciate all of the great articles as well. Completing a liver cleanse now and will be starting the ACV as well. My belly hurts when I bend over and feels full all the time. Over the summer I did a body challenge where I was introduced to the lemon-cayenne pepper drink. I didn’t understand the why behind it, but knew it sis something right in my body. Missing that feeling of ‘feeling good’ and not wanting to get stuck on OTC pills/vitamins I have no idea if they contain what the label says, I decided to go the natural route and let nature take care of me.

    Thanks for the great articles and support.

    Jennifer

    November 29, 2016 • 12:36 pm •