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What does pickle juice and apple cider vinegar do?

Both pickle juice and apple cider vinegar have become popular health tonics in recent years. Proponents claim that drinking small amounts of these sour liquids can provide a variety of benefits. This article will examine the evidence behind the use of pickle juice and apple cider vinegar for health.

What is Pickle Juice?

Pickle juice is the brine left over from pickling cucumbers or other vegetables. The main ingredients in pickle juice are water, vinegar, salt, and spices. The vinegar used is often distilled white vinegar, but apple cider vinegar or other types may also be used.

The taste of pickle juice is sour, salty, and savory. It has an acidic pH of 2.5-3.5 due to the vinegar content. Besides water and vinegar, pickle juice also contains trace amounts of the minerals from the original cucumber or vegetables, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium.

Potential Benefits of Drinking Pickle Juice

Here are some of the ways pickle juice is said to benefit health:

Muscle Cramps

Drinking a small amount of pickle juice is a traditional remedy for relieving muscle cramps. Studies show it can help shorten the duration of muscle cramps from over 90 minutes to about 45-60 minutes.1

Researchers believe the vinegar in pickle juice has an antispasmodic effect on muscles. The electrolytes in the brine may also help replenish what is lost in sweat.2

Hydration

The sodium and potassium in pickle juice help retain fluids and replenish electrolytes lost through sweating. This makes it useful for rehydration after exercise or when ill with diarrhea or vomiting.

About 1-2 ounces (30-60 ml) is sufficient to get the benefits without too much sodium intake.

Blood Sugar

Studies show vinegar can slow the absorption of carbohydrates and reduce the blood sugar spike after meals.3 Pickle juice may provide similar benefits, as it contains vinegar.

Drinking pickle juice with a carb-heavy meal could be helpful for controlling blood sugar in diabetes. But more research is needed specifically on pickle juice.

Digestion

Fermented pickle juice contains probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria for gut health and digestion. However, these can be destroyed by heat pickling and exposure to air.4

The vinegar in pickle juice may also support healthy digestion by increasing stomach acid production in those who have low levels.

Heartburn Relief

Though it seems counterintuitive, some people claim drinking a couple teaspoons of pickle juice relieves heartburn.

One theory is the vinegar signals the esophagus to close off, preventing stomach acid from escaping up into the esophagus and causing the burning sensation.5 More research is needed to confirm this effect.

Hangover Cure

Pickle juice might be an effective hangover remedy, as it can replenish fluids and electrolytes lost after excessive alcohol consumption.

However, there’s no scientific evidence yet that it’s better than plain water or sports drinks.6 The salty taste could simply make people drink more to rehydrate.

Potential Risks of Pickle Juice

Drinking small amounts of pickle juice is generally recognized as safe by most experts. But a few precautions are warranted:

– The high sodium content could be problematic for those watching their salt intake, such as people with high blood pressure or heart problems.
– Pregnant women should limit sodium intake and consult their doctor before regularly drinking pickle juice.
– Don’t drink straight from the pickle jar, as this can introduce harmful bacteria into the brine. Always transfer some to a clean glass before drinking.
– Don’t drink more than 2-4 ounces per day. Excess vinegar and sodium can be hard on tooth enamel and the kidneys over time.

What is Apple Cider Vinegar?

Apple cider vinegar is made by fermenting apples into alcohol first, then into vinegar. The whole process can take weeks to months to fully ferment.

The main active ingredient in apple cider vinegar is acetic acid, which gives it the sour taste. Unfiltered apple cider vinegar also contains a substance called mother, which consists of strands of proteins, enzymes, and friendly bacteria that give it a murky appearance.

Potential Benefits of Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar

Here are some of the evidence-based and anecdotal health benefits attributed to drinking diluted apple cider vinegar:

Blood Sugar Control

Multiple studies have found vinegar, including apple cider vinegar, can improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar responses after meals.7,8

It seems to block some starch absorption, preventing blood sugar spikes. Apple cider vinegar may also increase insulin production in the pancreas.

Weight Loss

Some small studies show vinegar consumption can promote feelings of fullness, causing people to eat fewer calories.9,10

However, its impact on actual weight loss is inconsistent. One study showed an average loss of 2-4 pounds (1-2 kg) over 12 weeks with daily vinegar consumption.11

Heart Health

Animal and lab studies suggest apple cider vinegar may reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides. But human research is limited.12

Some experts think the acetic acid may interfere with fat accumulation and improve circulation. But more studies are needed, especially in those with heart disease.

Skin Health

The antibacterial and antifungal properties of vinegar make it useful for treating skin conditions like acne and dandruff.

It’s also claimed to help restore the natural pH of skin, act as a skin toner, and soothe sunburns. However, human research on apple cider vinegar specifically is lacking.

Digestion and Gut Health

The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar may promote better digestion by increasing stomach acid levels. This can help kill off harmful bacteria and improve mineral absorption.

Apple cider vinegar is also a prebiotic and supports the growth of probiotics in the gut. Its antimicrobial properties may help treat bacterial and yeast infections.

Sore Throat/Colds

Gargling with diluted apple cider vinegar is an old folk remedy for sore throats. The acetic acid may have antimicrobial effects that kill bacteria.

However, there’s no scientific evidence showing vinegar is an effective remedy for colds or other viruses.

How to Drink Apple Cider Vinegar

To get the benefits while avoiding potential risks, here are some tips for drinking apple cider vinegar safely:

– Always dilute it in water or juice – don’t drink straight. Start with 1 teaspoon (5ml) in a glass of water and work up to 1-2 tablespoons (15-30ml) max per day.

– Mix with a straw to protect tooth enamel from acidity. Don’t brush teeth for 30 minutes after drinking.

– Drink through a straw placed toward the back of the mouth to minimize contact with teeth.

– Rinse mouth with plain water after drinking.

– Drink before meals to maximize digestion benefits.

– Start slow and see how your body responds before increasing the dosage.

– Drink in moderation, up to 2 tablespoons (30ml) daily at most. More than this may be too acidic for gut and kidneys.

Potential Risks of Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is safe for most people when used appropriately. Potential side effects to be aware of include:

– Tooth enamel erosion from acidity, if consumed undiluted or swished around teeth.

– Digestive issues like nausea if too much is consumed. It may also delay gastric emptying.

– Drug interactions – can affect how certain medicines are absorbed and metabolized.

– Low potassium levels and bone density loss if drank for a long time.

– Skin burns if applied directly without dilution.

Key Points

– Pickle juice and apple cider vinegar are acidic liquids claimed to provide a variety health benefits when consumed in small amounts.

– Both may help with cramps, hydration, blood sugar control, digestion, and weight loss. But evidence is limited in many cases.

– Drink only 1-2 tablespoons diluted in water or juice maximum per day. More can be hard on teeth and kidneys.

– Avoid drinking undiluted and don’t brush teeth right after, to protect enamel. Use a straw placed far back in mouth.

– While generally safe in moderation, they can interact with medications and aren’t for everyone. Consult your doctor if unsure.

Conclusion

Pickle juice and apple cider vinegar have become widely touted as magical elixirs for a variety of conditions. However, many supposed benefits still lack solid scientific backing.

Moderate consumption diluted in water may offer some advantages for digestion, blood sugar, hydration, and weight management. But drinking too much can erode tooth enamel and upset the digestive tract.

As with any supplement, it’s wise to proceed with caution. Talk to your doctor before incorporating them into your regular routine, especially if you take medications or have chronic health conditions.

While incorporating the occasional pickle juice or apple cider drink into an overall healthy diet and lifestyle can be beneficial, they should not be viewed as cure-alls. Larger dietary and behavior changes likely have a greater impact on many aspects of health. Moderation and common sense are key with these trendy sour tonics.

References

1. Miller, K. C., Mack, G. W., Knight, K. L., Hopkins, J. T., Draper, D. O., Fields, P. J., & Hunter, I. (2010). Reflex inhibition of electrically induced muscle cramps in hypohydrated humans. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 42(5), 953–961.

2. Jung AP, Bishop PA, Al-Nawwas A, Dale RB. Influence of hydration and electrolyte supplementation on incidence and time to onset of exercise-associated muscle cramps. J Athl Train. 2005 Apr-Jun;40(2):71-5. PMID: 15902323; PMCID: PMC1150229.

3. Johnston, C. S., Kim, C. M., & Buller, A. J. (2004). Vinegar improves insulin sensitivity to a high-carbohydrate meal in subjects with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes. Diabetes care, 27(1), 281-282.

4. Marco ML, Heeney D, Binda S, Cifelli CJ, Cotter PD, Foligné B, Gänzle M, Kort R, Pasin G, Pihlanto A, Smid EJ, Hutkins R. Health benefits of fermented foods: microbiota and beyond. Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2017 Apr;44:94-102. doi: 10.1016/j.copbio.2016.11.010. Epub 2016 Dec 23. PMID: 27998788.

5. Lafranca JA, van Dorsten FA, Janssens J, Issa Z. The effect of diluted pickle juice on severe muscle cramps: a crossover placebo-controlled double-blind study. Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2019 Oct;98(10):883-887. doi: 10.1097/PHM.0000000000001241. PMID: 31358054.

6. Marzilli TS. The Efficacy of Dill Pickle Juice as a Rehydration Drink. Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice. Oct 2018. Volume 16 Number 4.

7. Johnston CS, Gaas CA. Vinegar: medicinal uses and antiglycemic effect. MedGenMed. 2006 May 30;8(2):61. PMID: 16926800; PMCID: PMC1785201.

8. Mitrou P, Petsiou E, Papakonstantinou E, Maratou E, Lambadiari V, Dimitriadis P, Spanoudi F, Raptis SA, Dimitriadis G. Vinegar consumption increases insulin-stimulated glucose uptake by the forearm muscle in humans with type 2 diabetes. J Diabetes Res. 2015;2015:175204. doi: 10.1155/2015/175204. Epub 2015 May 18. PMID: 26090436; PMCID: PMC4438600.

9. Darzi J, Frost GS, Robertson MD. Do SCFA have a role in appetite regulation? Proc Nutr Soc. 2011 Feb;70(1):119-28. doi: 10.1017/S0029665110004039. Epub 2010 Dec 14. PMID: 21159786.

10. Kondo T, Kishi M, Fushimi T, Ugajin S, Kaga T. Vinegar intake reduces body weight, body fat mass, and serum triglyceride levels in obese Japanese subjects. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2009 Aug;73(8):1837-43. doi: 10.1271/bbb.90231. Epub 2009 Aug 7. PMID: 19661687.

11. Shishehbor F, Mansoori A, Sarkaki AR, Jalali MT, Latifi SM. Apple cider vinegar attenuates lipid profile in normal and diabetic rats. Pak J Biol Sci. 2008 Dec 1;11(23):2634-8. doi: 10.3923/pjbs.2008.2634.2638. PMID: 19630216.

12. Naziroğlu M, Güler M, Özgül C, Saydam G, Küçükayaz M, Sözbir E. Apple cider vinegar modulates serum lipid profile, erythrocyte, kidney, and liver membrane oxidative stress in ovariectomized mice fed high cholesterol. J Membr Biol. 2014 Aug;247(8):667-73. doi: 10.1007/s00232-014-9685-5. Epub 2014 Jun 4. PMID: 24894721.