Vinegar Water Health Tonic
Vinegar is a panacea that has been used over the millenia for internal and external bodily health and to maintain homes and possessions. Vinegar has a wide range of healthy functions and can be used to help with anything from digestion to cleaning to cooking. I use it in a lot of different ways but this post will focus on one of my habits that I do every day to maintain good health – drinking vinegar water.
Vinegar is primarily acetic acid and its etymology is related to the French words for sour wine. It is created by a two-step fermentation process. The first step in the process is the fermentation of sugar in to alcohol. The sugar can be from any natural source. In the case of apple cider vinegar (ACV), the source of the sugar is the juice of apples. Other vinegars you may be familiar with come from other fruits or grains such as rice, malt, or grapes (for wine vinegar). Once the alcoholic liquid has been produced from fermentation, the second part of the process begins. Naturally occuring bacteria begin to combine the solution with oxygen. This process forms the acetic acid solution we know as vinegar (along with other minerals, aminos and nutrients). You might have experienced this naturally when you haven’t finished a bottle of wine and it goes sour.
Vinegar has been touted to have amazing benefits. It has been cited as preventing obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, cancer, common colds, arthritis and aging. It is also thought to boost immunity and serve as a natural antibacterial and antifungal agent. While some of these claims are pumped up, vinegar does have some real health benefits that I believe in:
- Increases calcium absorption. The acid in vinegar increases the body’s absorbtion of vital minerals, including calcium. This is especially helpful for those who don’t consume dairy or suffer from osteopenia or osteoporosis.
- Controls blood sugar levels. Consuming vinegar prior to a meal slows down the speed at which the carbohydrates are converted to glucose in the body. When the sugars from the meal are released more slowly, the body doesn’t become so overwhelmed by the glucose. In essence, drinking vinegar can help inhibit insulin sensitivity which can help control the onset or symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes.
- Aids digestion. Vinegar is full of prebiotics that are present from the bacteria involved in the fermentation process. The prebiotics nourish naturally occuring intestinal bacteria (probiotics) that live in the gut. Keeping the intestinal bacteria balanced and happy can help irritable bowel syndrome or a bad tummy and keeps digestion moving along.
- Eliminates heartburn. People get heartburn for different reasons, but one of the reasons is that certain foods can cause the esophagus to relax which allows the acid in the stomach to rise up. Drinking vinegar makes the esophagus contract which prevents the acid from rising up. In the case of pregnancy, the esophagus is relaxed because the placenta is producing progesterone which relaxes the smooth muscles in the uterus. This also causes the nearby esophagus to relax which is why heartburn is such a pain during pregnancy.
- May aid in weight loss. According to the Nutrition Diva (whose podcast I love), acetic acid activates certain genes that cause your body to store less fat around your waist. Instead the fat is deposited more evenly around the body. It is also thought to increase thermogenesis which essentially makes your body run hotter using fat as the fuel, similar to my post on cold showers.
There are still a lot of controlled and applicable studies that need to be done regarding the benefits of consuming vinegar. We may have not yet fully recognized the biochemsitry that goes on by ingesting the malic acid, pectin, aminos, mineral salts, or naturally occuring bacteria in vinegar. There is, however, quite a lot of antecdotal evidence regarding its reputation as a healing elixir.
Every morning before I eat my breakfast and after I have my smoothie, I slam a glass of vinegar with water. I dilute 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar in about 12 ounces of water. It’s diluted in order to prevent any damage to teeth or the mouth from the acid. I like to say a little mantra like, “Today will be a healthy day” when I do it. I actually enjoy the taste of vinegar, but a lot of people don’t. If you’re one of them, try mixing in a teaspoon of local honey or manuka honey to amplify the antibacterial effects and sweeten the flavor. I feel like the vinegar helps to absorb the calcium from my breakfast and starts me off on the right foot for the day. You could do this for any or all meals, especially if it is going to be high in sugar. I think that drinking the water also helps create a feeling of fullness which prevents overeating.
For vinegar, be sure to get an organic, raw (unpasteurized), unfiltered apple cider vinegar. You want the “mother” remaining in the bottle. The mother looks kind of wispy and you will see it floating around. It is the byproduct of fermentation and is the source of the powerful health benefits. As with many things in our society, vinegar makers began distilling the vinegar to get rid of the mother because people freak out when something isn’t aesthetically pleasing or is a natural byproduct. Bragg vinegar is hands-down the best I have found. They have some really good information on their website. I keep a bottle at home and one in my desk drawer at work.