Constipation is a common condition affecting people of all ages. It occurs when stool passes through the large intestine too slowly, becoming hard, dry and difficult to eliminate. Constipation has many possible causes, including poor diet, lack of exercise, certain medications, dehydration and various medical conditions.
While over-the-counter laxatives are frequently used for constipation relief, some people turn to natural remedies like apple cider vinegar (ACV). Proponents claim that incorporating ACV into your diet can help get things moving again.
This article examines the evidence behind using ACV to relieve constipation.
What is apple cider vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar is made by fermenting apples in water. Yeast and bacteria are added, which ferment the sugars in the apples and turn them into alcohol. In a second fermentation step, bacteria further ferment the alcohol into acetic acid, the main active component of vinegar.
ACV contains around 5–6% acetic acid and has a sour taste and pungent smell. It’s used for cooking, baking, salad dressings, food preservatives and chutneys.
Organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar also contains a substance called mother, which consists of strands of proteins, enzymes and friendly bacteria that give the product a murky appearance.
Some people believe that the mother is responsible for most of ACV’s health benefits, although there are currently no studies testing this theory.
How might ACV help with constipation?
A few ways ACV may help get things moving include:
Increases stomach acid
Some studies show that vinegar increases stomach acid, which helps break down food.
Greater breakdown of food means less work for your intestines, allowing food to pass through more easily.
The acetic acid in ACV may help soften and loosen stool in your intestines, enabling easier passage.
The mother in unfiltered ACV contains probiotics, which are microorganisms that help promote a healthy gut.
Probiotics assist with digestion and improve gut motility. This may facilitate stool passage through the intestines.
Some proponents claim that drinking a little ACV in water first thing in the morning helps “wake up” your gastrointestinal (GI) tract and promote regular bowel movements.
However, most supposed benefits of ACV relate to unpasteurized products containing the mother. Regular distilled vinegars lack these probiotics and enzymes.
Studies on apple cider vinegar and constipation
Despite widespread claims about ACV’s ability to ease constipation, few studies have examined its efficacy.
Most evidence is anecdotal or based on animal research:
One study gave constipated rats a diet supplemented with ACV. It found that ACV increased stool frequency and moisture.
Another rat study found acetic acid improved stool consistency and normalized bowel movements. However, acetic acid on its own may not provide the same benefits as vinegar with the mother.
To date, only two human studies have examined the effects of vinegar on bowel movements:
- A 4-week study in 11 people with type 2 diabetes found vinegar improved bowel movement frequency and stool consistency.
- A small study gave 7 healthy people 15–30 mL of ACV with breakfast for 2 days. Vinegar increased bowel movements and stool volume.
While these results are promising, the studies were small and short-term. More extensive, high-quality research is needed.
How to take ACV for constipation relief
No standard dosage has been established, but most resources suggest mixing 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 mL) of ACV with a glass of water and drinking it.
It’s best to start with a smaller amount like 1 teaspoon (5 mL) and gradually work up to higher doses, as too much ACV may exacerbate constipation.
Vinegar is acidic and can erode tooth enamel. To prevent damage, dilute the ACV in water and drink it through a straw.
You can drink your ACV concoction first thing in the morning and again before bed. It may take 2–3 days of use before you notice bowel effects.
Be sure to use raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar with the mother, as this type provides probiotics. Refrigerate ACV after opening to maintain potency.
Other natural remedies for constipation
Along with ACV, many natural laxatives and home remedies may help get things moving again. These include:
Staying hydrated is key for softening stool.Aim for 1.5–2 liters of fluids per day and include water, herbal teas, broths and prune juice.
Soluble fiber from oatmeal, nuts, beans, lentils, peas and fruits like apples, pears and prunes can help.
Probiotic foods and supplements support regularity. Options include kimchi, kefir, yogurt, sauerkrautand kombucha.
Physical activity like walking stimulates the bowels.Aim for at least 30 minutes per day.
Magnesium relaxes the intestines and draws water into the stool. Food sources include nuts, seeds, beans, leafy greens and avocado.
Flaxseeds are high in fiber and omega-3 fats, which lubricate stool. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons (28 grams) on yogurt or cereal.
Castor oil is a natural laxative. Take 1–2 teaspoons (5–10 mL) on an empty stomach.
Prunes contain sorbitol, which has a laxative effect. Eat around 50 grams per day.
Defecating in a squatting rather than sitting position straightens the rectum, allowing easier passage.
Use a footstool to elevate your feet while sitting on the toilet.
Safety and side effects
ACV is safe for most people when used in moderation. Potential side effects include:
- Delayed gastric emptying
- Irritation of the digestive tract
- Decreased potassium levels
- Erosion of tooth enamel
- Throat burn when consumed undiluted
Start with small doses of ACV diluted in water to minimize side effects. See your healthcare provider if side effects persist.
Some groups should avoid using ACV:
- People with gastroparesis. Vinegar slows stomach emptying.
- Individuals taking potassium-lowering drugs like Lasix.
- Anyone with acid reflux or GERD.
Additionally, ACV may interact with certain medications like insulin and digoxin. Speak with your doctor before using it.
Apples cider vinegar is touted as a natural constipation remedy. Evidence from a few small human studies and animal research suggests ACV may increase stool frequency, improve consistency and promote regularity.
ACV is thought to work by increasing stomach acid, softening stool, adding probiotics and waking up your GI tract. Start with 1 teaspoon (5 mL) diluted in water and gradually increase to 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 mL) before meals.
Pair ACV with other natural remedies like hydration, fiber, exercise and probiotics. See your healthcare provider if side effects occur or if your constipation persists.
While ACV shows promise for constipation relief, larger human studies are needed to confirm its efficacy and optimal dosage.
Frequently asked questions
How much apple cider vinegar should you drink for constipation?
There is no standardized dosage, but most sources recommend 1-2 tablespoons (15-30 mL) diluted in water, up to twice per day. Start with a small dose like 1 teaspoon (5 mL) and gradually increase.
When should I drink apple cider vinegar for constipation?
Drink a diluted ACV tonic first thing in the morning and again before bedtime. Allow 2-3 days for results. Some also recommend drinking it just before meals.
Is apple cider vinegar safe for constipation?
ACV is generally safe when consumed in moderation. Potential side effects include digestive irritation, potassium depletion, tooth enamel erosion and drug interactions. Dilute ACV and avoid excessive doses.
How long does apple cider vinegar take to relieve constipation?
Many report relief within 2-3 days, but effects may vary. For acute constipation, try for at least 3 days before deciding if ACV works for you. For chronic constipation, give it 1-2 weeks.
What kind of apple cider vinegar is best for constipation?
Opt for raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar containing the mother, as this provides probiotics and enzymes. Distilled vinegars lack these added benefits for gut health.