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Is There Science to Support Vinegar for Reflux?

Many people report that a spoonful of vinegar in a glass of water can ease occasional symptoms of reflux. Does it tighten the lower esophageal sphincter?
Is There Science to Support Vinegar for Reflux?
Apple vinegar. Bottle of apple organic vinegar on wooden background. Healthy organic food.

We love home remedies, but most are based on people’s experience and don’t have any truly scientific explanation for why or how they work. That is why we get excited when we encounter a possible reason. A doctor recently suggested why we might consider using vinegar for reflux.

Taking Vinegar for Reflux Symptoms:

Q. I was listening to your radio show and heard you wondering about the reason that vinegar works for reflux. As a physician, I was told that acid consumption causes the esophageal sphincter to contract, which helps prevent the reflux.

What Is Acid Reflux?

A. Reflux occurs when the sphincter at the junction of the esophagus and the stomach gets lazy. This muscle is supposed to allow food into the stomach but prevent stomach contents from splashing back into the esophagus.

Some medications can loosen the lower esophageal sphincter, which would increase the risk for heartburn. We like your hypothesis that acetic acid (vinegar) might have the opposite effect. We couldn’t find any research to support this approach, however.

How to Use Vinegar for Reflux:

People who take vinegar for reflux usually put a tablespoon or two into a glass of water and drink it. Although some people insist that apple cider vinegar is superior for this remedy, as far as we can tell any vinegar you would put on your salad or in your food will work. Choose what you have on hand and what appeals to your taste buds.

After drinking vinegar, be sure to rinse your mouth with plain water to keep the acid from attacking your tooth enamel. Wait half an hour or a bit longer before brushing your teeth in case the acid softens the enamel temporarily. You don’t want to abrade the surface while it is soft.

Learn More:

You will find many other simple remedies for symptoms of acid reflux in our Guide to Digestive Disorders. People who experience heartburn or other symptoms of reflux several times a week should see their doctors about their digestive problems.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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