Take it straight
Apple cider vinegar comes with a bit of a trade-off. On the one hand, it can do wonders for your body, from helping you lose weight to boosting your heart health. On the other… it tastes pretty awful. That’s why many people decide to take it in a quick, undiluted shot, and then immediately drink or eat something else to mask the bitter taste. If this is your chosen method of ACV consumption, though, it can actually be more harmful than helpful. “Due to the [acidic] nature of ACV, you risk the ACV severely irritating and causing damage to the esophagus and stomach,” advises Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, owner of Weik Fitness, LLC. “Do yourself a huge favour and always dilute your ACV in a liquid.” Water is probably the way to dilute the apple cider vinegar. Not only will this protect your throat and stomach from the acid, it will make it far more palatable. Experts recommend using one part vinegar to ten parts water.
Drink it right after eating
If you’re in the habit of drinking apple cider vinegar after a meal, you might want to amend your routine. Taking apple cider vinegar on an empty stomach is actually the best way to maximize its health benefits. Some of the foods you eat can make the vinegar less potent; drinking it before you eat also boosts its ability to help you process food. Experts recommend waiting about 20 minutes to eat something after you take ACV, to give the vinegar time to digest.
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Breathe it in
As good as apple cider vinegar can be for your digestive tract and heart, it can seriously harm your lungs. That’s why you should always be careful to keep from inhaling it when you drink it. This can cause a burning sensation in your lungs—stick to drinking it.
Take swigs of it
Even when it’s diluted, apple cider vinegar is still an extremely acidic substance. “Because of its highly acidic nature, ACV… can damage your tooth enamel,” says Caitlin Hoff, a health and safety investigator for consumersafety.org. To keep the vinegar from wearing on your tooth enamel, don’t just sip it or swig it from a glass (even diluted). Instead, try drinking it through a straw so that it comes into as little contact as possible with your choppers. Elizabeth Abel, MS, a licensed dietician, nutritionist, and creator of freeandabel.com, also recommends avoiding brushing your teeth for at least 30 minutes after taking apple cider vinegar.
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Start by drinking lots of it
If apple cider vinegar is so miraculously good for you, the more the better, right? Wrong. Too much of a good thing is usually a problem—and apple cider vinegar is no exception. Especially if you’re new to ACV, you should make sure you’re not taking too much of it. “It’s a good idea to ease into it,” says Abel. This will help you gauge how your body reacts to it. “If it gives you an upset stomach or a burning feeling, reduce the amount until there’s no sensation,” Abel suggests. Plus, starting small and working your way up to a larger amount will allow you to adjust to the taste. Even if all goes smoothly and you experience no issues, you should never go beyond two tablespoons at a time. “Even when you dilute it in water, limit your intake to two tablespoons to protect yourself against harmful or uncomfortable side effects,” Hoff advises.
Drink it right before bed
While taking apple cider vinegar before you eat is a good idea, taking it before you sleep is not. “Taking ACV immediately before bed is not advised because of the potential for it to creep back up the esophagus,” says Laura C. Stix, ND, a naturopathic doctor and clinical hypnotherapist. Even if the ACV is diluted, it can still harm your esophagus if the acid comes into contact with it while you’re lying down. “Regardless of the time of day, people should remain upright for 30 minutes after taking it to ensure there is no reflux and irritation to the esophagus,” Stix adds. She recommends drinking ACV at least half an hour before you hit the hay.
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Take it if you have H. pylori
While apple cider vinegar can, for the most part, seriously boost your digestive health, there are some stomach conditions that this acidic substance will only make worse. For instance, if you have Helicobacter pylori—the bacteria linked to ulcers—apple cider vinegar (and the acid it contains) can cause even more irritation, warns Abel. If you have any doubts about drinking ACV—regardless of the reason—consult your doctor beforehand.
Put it directly on your skin
Drinking apple cider vinegar isn’t the only way to benefit: You can use this super-substance to banish acne and dandruff, ease a sunburn, and for all sorts of other beauty benefits. But there’s a right and a wrong way to use ACV on your skin, too. “Whether you’re using ACV as a toner, to remove blemishes, or to treat infections, it’s crucial that you dilute it and minimize the contact with your skin,” says Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics. “Prolonged exposure to the highly acidic vinegar can actually kill skin cells, erode your skin, and even leave you with semi-permanent chemical burns.” Again, sticking to one part vinegar to eight or ten parts water is the usual recommended amount.
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Originally published as 8 Things You Should Never Do While Taking Apple Cider Vinegar on ReadersDigest.com.