Relieving Constipation with Apple Cider Vinegar

Medically reviewed by Alan Carter, PharmD on March 24, 2016Written by Ashley Marcin on March 24, 2016

You might be wondering what types of at-home remedies can help ease constipation. Among other remedies, some people claim that drinking or soaking in apple cider vinegar (ACV) can help treat digestive issues. Learn more about this folk remedy and consider if it might work for you.

What Are the Symptoms of Constipation?

Almost everyone experiences constipation from time to time. If your bowel movements are less frequent than usual, or stool is difficult to pass, you may be constipated. After you’ve gone several days without a bowel movement, your stool becomes harder and doesn’t move as well in your digestive system.

Other symptoms of constipation include:

  • hard or lumpy stools
  • difficulty and straining during bowel movements
  • feeling like you can’t fully empty your bowels, even after a bowel movement
  • needing to remove stool from your rectum with your hands or fingers

Occasional constipation is usually no reason for concern. If you’ve had difficulty moving your bowels for several weeks or months, it’s a good idea to call your doctor.

What Are the Complications of Constipation?

Chronic constipation can lead to complications, such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, or fecal impaction.

What Causes Constipation?

Constipation usually happens when waste moves through your system slowly. The longer it takes for stool to move through your digestive system, the harder it is to pass.

Older adults, particularly women, are at higher risk of developing constipation. Eating a poor diet, not drinking enough fluids, and not getting enough exercise can also lead to constipation.

Other possible causes of constipation include:

  • nerve issues or blockages in your colon or rectum
  • problems with your pelvic muscles
  • hormonal disturbances, which may result from diabetes, pregnancy, hypothyroidism, hyperparathyroidism, or other conditions
  • side effects from certain medications

Contact your doctor if you’ve noticed a major change in your stools or bowel habits. It’s important to rule out more serious conditions before treating the issue at home.

Using Apple Cider Vinegar to Treat Constipation

ACV is vinegar made from the fermented juice of apples. There’s no scientific research to support claims that ACV can ease constipation. People who promote ACV as a treatment for constipation often claim that it:

  • acts as a natural laxative
  • contains pectin, a water-soluble fiber that can help improve your overall digestion
  • contains digestion-friendly malic acid and acetic acid

ACV also contains small amounts of magnesium, a mineral that helps promote regular bowel movements.

Factors to Consider

The benefits of ACV for constipation relief haven’t been proven in research studies. As a result, there are no official recommendations for using it as a treatment.

Although ACV is considered a food, it’s still important to use caution when consuming it for therapeutic purposes. Speak with your doctor before using ACV to treat constipation or other health conditions.

There’s some evidence that ACV may interact with certain drugs. If you take any of the following medications, talk to your doctor before consuming ACV:

  • digoxin
  • insulin
  • diabetes drugs
  • diuretics, or “water pills”

Some parents incorporate ACV into their children’s diets or add it to their bathwater. Speak with your child’s doctor before using ACV to treat your child for constipation or other medical conditions.

Learn more: 6 Natural constipation remedies »

Possible Side Effects of ACV

Drinking small amounts of ACV is probably safe for most people, but you may experience some side effects. The following are some of the reported side effects:

  • ACV may cause more frequent urination. Speak to your doctor before drinking it, especially if you take diuretics, such as chlorothiazide or Lasix, or other medications.
  • Drinking ACV may make you queasy or gassy. Diluting it or consuming it with food may help prevent these side effects.
  • Regularly drinking ACV may affect your mineral levels and lead to low potassium. Consider taking a daily multivitamin and eating potassium-rich foods, such as bananas.
  • Like any acidic beverage, ACV may erode your tooth enamel or irritate your mouth or throat. Diluting ACV, drinking the mixture through a straw, and rinsing your mouth afterward may help prevent these side effects.
  • Regularly drinking ACV may reduce your bone density. If you have osteoporosis or you’re at high risk of developing it, speak with your doctor before drinking ACV.
  • Drinking ACV may lead to acne and skin redness in some people.
  • Some people have also reported headaches after drinking ACV.

If you experience itchiness, a runny nose, or other symptoms after drinking ACV, you may be allergic to it. Stop taking it and report your symptoms to your doctor.

The Takeaway

The longer your constipation lasts, the more difficult it may be to treat it with lifestyle changes or home remedies. If your constipation lasts several weeks or months, speak with your doctor. They may recommend lifestyle changes, over-the-counter medications, or other treatment options.

How to Prevent Future Constipation

You can adopt these lifestyle habits to help prevent and treat constipation:

  • Get regular exercise. For example, you can go for a walk most days of the week.
  • Eat a healthy diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other fiber-rich foods.
  • Drink lots of liquids, such as water, coffee, tea, or fruit juices.
  • Don’t resist the urge to have a bowel movement. Waiting to use the washroom can lead to constipation.
  • Incorporate a few tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran, psyllium husk (Metamucil), or other fiber supplements into your daily routine.

If you still experience constipation after adopting these lifestyle habits, contact your doctor. You may have an underlying health condition that’s causing your constipation. Your doctor can help diagnose the cause of your constipation and prescribe treatment. 

Read more: Smooth moves: Yoga poses for constipation »

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