Many people consume apple cider vinegar because of claims that it can promote weight loss and detoxify the body, although some of these claims are still being evaluated by scientific research.
Apple cider vinegar is a fermented food, so it does contain bacteria. But there isn’t adequate research yet to show whether these bacteria survive digestion.
Therefore, although many consider apple cider vinegar is a probiotic food, it is technically not a probiotic.
What is a Probiotic?
Probiotics are organisms that provide a health benefit when ingested. Probiotics are usually bacteria, but some types of yeast can also function as probiotics. There are also other microorganisms in the gut that are being studied, including viruses, fungi, archaea, and helminths.
You can get probiotics from supplements, as well as from foods prepared through bacterial fermentation.
Probiotic foods include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, and kimchi.
Probiotics should not be confused with prebiotics, which are carbohydrates containing dietary fibers that help feed the friendly bacteria already in your gut.
How is ACV Made?
Apple cider vinegar is made during a two-step process. First, crushed apples are exposed to yeast, which ferments the sugars and turns them into alcohol.
Then bacteria are added to ferment the alcohol even further, turning it into acetic acid. Acetic acid is the main active compound in vinegar.
Acetic acid is what makes vinegar smell and taste sour. Researchers believe this acid is responsible for apple cider vinegar’s health benefits. Cider vinegars are 5–6% acetic acid.
Since Apple Cider Vinegar is Fermented, is it a Probiotic?
You might be under the impression that foods containing beneficial bacteria are automatically probiotics.
However, just because ACV has probiotic organisms doesn’t make it a probiotic.
According to the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP), probiotics are live microorganisms that benefit health when taken in certain amounts. ACV doesn’t fit the definition.
- The number of live organisms in ACV differs based on how the ACV is made. Some ACVs may not contain any live organisms at all.
- It is still unclear how the probiotic bacteria in ACV impact health when consumed in normal doses.
Does the Mother in Apple Cider Vinegar Matter?
In its unfiltered organic form, apple cider vinegar also contains a substance called mother.
The mother contains strands of proteins, enzymes, and friendly bacteria that give the product a murky appearance. It usually gathers at the bottom of the bottle, making it appear cloudy.
Some people claim that the mother is responsible for most of apple cider vinegar’s health benefits, although there are currently no studies to support this.
While apple cider vinegar does not contain many vitamins or minerals, it offers a small amount of potassium. Good quality brands also contain some amino acids and antioxidants.
Why are Fermented Foods Beneficial for Health?
The probiotics produced during the fermentation process may help restore the balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut. This may improve digestion and provide other health benefits.
Some research suggests that fermented foods may improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Fermented foods may also lessen the severity of diarrhea, bloating, gas, and constipation.
A healthy gut equals a stronger immune system, so eating fermented foods may improve your immunity. Probiotic-rich foods may prevent illness and help you recover more quickly when you get sick.
Additionally, many fermented foods are rich in vitamin C, iron, and zinc — all of which are proven to contribute to a stronger immune system.
Some studies have shown that fermented foods may promote mental health, heart health, and weight loss.
A few studies have found that the probiotic strains Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum are linked to reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression. Both probiotics are found in fermented foods.
What are the Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar may help lower blood sugar and manage diabetes.
This is not to say that ACV replaces a carb-controlled diet and medications that a doctor may prescribe.
But research does suggest that ACV offers the following benefits for blood sugar and insulin levels:
- One small study suggests vinegar may improve insulin sensitivity by 19–34% during a high-carb meal and significantly lower blood sugar and insulin response
- In a small study of 5 healthy people, vinegar reduced blood sugar by 31.4% after eating 50 grams of white bread
- A small study on people with diabetes reported that consuming 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bedtime reduced fasting blood sugar by 4% the following morning
- Numerous other studies in humans show that vinegar can improve insulin function and lower blood sugar levels after meals
Several studies done on humans have shown that consuming vinegar can increase feelings of fullness. This can lead to eating fewer calories and losing weight.
Can I Take ACV and Probiotics Together?
You can take ACV and probiotics together without harm.
But be careful not to take an excessive amount of probiotics because it can still cause uncomfortable symptoms like gas, bloating, and an upset stomach.
Does ACV Benefit Gut Flora?
Apple cider vinegar may promote healthy gut flora, but research on how much of the bacteria in ACV survive digestion and make it to the gut is unclear.
How to Drink Apple Cider Vinegar?
If you want to try ACV for added health benefits, you should mix 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 ml) mixed with water and take it before or after meals.
If you prefer to spruce up your ACV beverage, try this recipe:
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger or ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 dash of cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon raw honey (optional)
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Apple cider vinegar is considered a probiotic food but not a probiotic.
It contains beneficial bacteria as a result of the fermentation process. Apple cider vinegar may improve digestion, blood sugar, weight management, and skin health. There is some research to support these benefits, but more is needed. There are many claims regarding the health benefits of apple cider vinegar (ACV), some saying