Never Do This When Taking Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is packed with health benefits, but there is a right and wrong way to use it—and in this case, the “wrong way” can potentially be dangerous.

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Apple Juice on an old wooden table as detailed close-up shot (selective focus)
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Mistake #1: Take it straight

If you’re thinking about downing some apple cider vinegar (ACV) and then quickly eating or drinking something else to mask the bitter taste, you may want to think twice. While there are many ACV health benefits, drinking it this way may 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, a kinesiologist and 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 ACV, which can help protect your throat and stomach from the acid and make it more palatable.

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Apple cider vinegar and apples
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Mistake #2: 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. Elizabeth Abel, a licensed functional nutritionist, explains that taking apple cider vinegar on an empty stomach may yield health benefits. “Many people, especially as they age, tend to experience a decrease in their gastric juices which can help break down the food they eat,” she says. “Consuming a little bit of ACV right before eating can help substitute for these lost gastric juices, allowing food to digest more easily.” The end result is that you may experience less bloating or indigestion after eating. She also suggests trying it as part of a salad dressing, which she says is another way to reap its benefits.

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Mistake #3: Breathe it in

“ACV can cause an unpleasant reaction in the nose or eyes, so it’s best not to take a strong whiff,” advises Abel. Remember, it’s vinegar, and vinegar gives off a potent smell that can act as in irritant. Be careful not to inhale, or at least not deeply, as you drink it. Instead, Abel suggests diluting ACV with some water to your preferred taste to help diminish the strong vinegar smell. She adds that this dilution is also important for “the protection of your teeth and esophagus.” Her suggestion? “Even 2 to 4 ounces of water mixed with 1 to 3 teaspoons of ACV is a good ratio for many people.”

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Pouring a quarter cup of apple cider vinegar
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Mistake #4: Take swigs of it

Even when it’s diluted, apple cider vinegar is still an extremely acidic substance. Caitlin Hoff, a health and safety investigator for, says that ACV is highly acidic and as such, can damage tooth enamel. So, if you’re wondering how to take apple cider vinegar, 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. Abel recommends avoiding brushing your teeth for at least 30 minutes after taking apple cider vinegar.

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Mistake #5: Start by drinking lots of it

Apple cider vinegar is good for you; here’s what can happen if you drink apple cider vinegar every day. So, 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.

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Mistake #6: 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, 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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Man with gut pain
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Mistake #7: Take it if you have H. pylori

While apple cider vinegar can, for the most part, boost your digestive health, there are some stomach conditions that this acidic substance will only make worse. One example is if you have Helicobacter pylori, the type of bacteria linked to ulcers. Unfortunately, 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.

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A bottle of apple cider vinegar in the morning sun, with apples in the background
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Mistake #8: Put it directly on your skin

Taking apple cider vinegar for your skin doesn’t always involve drinking. You can use ACV for its beauty benefits. It may help banish acne and dandruff or even ease a sunburn. But there’s a right and a wrong way to use ACV on your skin. “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 New York City resident Caleb Backe, a certified personal trainer and 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 recommended amount.

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest

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