Good health, to a certain degree, is achieved and maintained in the human body when there is equilibrium or balance between all the various substances that affect and take part in the reactions that keep us alive.
The cells in our bodies are constantly exchanging fluids. The rate of exchange, the volume of exchange, and the direction of the flow is a result of how salty these fluids are. The various organs in our body also depend on the specific acidity and alkalinity of different substances in order to perform their functions properly.
Apple cider vinegar is able to benefit our health because of its effectiveness in being able to balance these acids and alkalines, along with helping to maintain the equilibrium between fluids and salts.
Getting to Grips with the Acid/Alkaline Balance
Whether a substance is an acid or an alkaline base is one of its most basic properties. In most reactions and processes that occur in animals and plants, acids and alkalines are formed to balance each other out.
Many physicians and nutrition researchers promote theories related in some way to the acid/alkaline balance in our bodies. The foremost of these being Elson Hass along with James Balch and his wife Phyllis Balch. However, although they all agree that the acid/alkaline balance is very important to maintaining good health, they do not agree on whether the human body’s natural/best state is to be slightly acid or slightly alkaline. Doctor DeForest Clinton (D.C.) Jarvis, who was practicing medicine more than a hundred years ago, was particularly interested in the acid/alkaline balance in the human body and how apple cider vinegar was able to help achieve such a balance.
The basic premise of the acid/alkaline theory states that when foods are ingested and metabolized in our bodies they create either an acid or an alkaline ash. The pH measurement or the level of acidity or alkalinity of the ash does not necessarily correspond to whether the food itself is considered highly acidic or not. An example of this is lemons; they are acidic when we eat them but the ash they leave behind after being digested is alkaline. Diets high in refined carbohydrates, wheat, fats, and meat are considered to increase the body’s acidity. In this state the human body is more susceptible to illness and many chronic ailments such as frequent colds, infections, congestion, and migraines. Alkaline-producing foods include fruits and vegetables, but since most people eating a western diet tend to eat too few of these, the problem of over-acidity is much more prevalent than over-alkalinity.
Acids are not all bad though; they are essential for digestion. Hydrochloric acid combines with enzymes in our stomachs to break down protein in the foods we eat. As we age, we tend towards producing less hydrochloric acid than we need to digest proteins completely. It is thought that getting indigestion might be as much a problem of having too little stomach acid as having too much. This is why it is suggested that you take a little apple cider vinegar before you eat. The apple cider vinegar promotes acidity in the stomach and aids digestion, enabling you to obtain all the nutrition available from the food you eat. In addition to this, apple cider vinegar contains tartaric acid and malic acid. These acids deter the growth of disease-promoting bacteria in the digestive tract and also food-borne pathogens, thus promoting good long-term health.
Fruits and vegetables are good sources of minerals such as magnesium, calcium, sodium, and potassium. They are important because they bind with acids and neutralize them. They are therefore an important part of maintaining the acid/alkaline balance of the body at a health-promoting level. Apple cider vinegar can help in maintaining the acid/alkaline level by supplementing our supply of these alkalizing minerals and as has already been noted, it is especially high in potassium.
A healthy acid/alkaline balance is not only important to our digestive system. Vinegar has been used for a very long time in douches as an effective remedy for vaginitis and yeast infections. Apple cider vinegar has also been used as a remedy for many skin problems. This is because the pH of apple cider vinegar is very close to the pH of human skin, in that it tends to be slightly acidic.
Acids also have strong preservative abilities. This is because most bacteria and molds cannot survive in a highly acidic environment. This is why vinegar and other naturally occurring acids have been used through the ages to preserve food. The most widespread examples of this are pickling and canning. Apple cider vinegar is particularly popular for pickling as it adds a delicious fruity flavor to relishes, pickles, and other preserves.
Getting to Grips with the Fluid/Salt Balance
One of the most important equations in the interplay of body chemistry is the relationship between salty fluids and water. It is basic biochemistry that if there is a salty solution on one side of a membrane and water on the other side, the water will be drawn in the direction of the salt solution. This process is known as osmosis. One of the most common examples of this effect is the drying and curing of meat with salt.
Using the same principles, two of the major electrolytes, potassium and sodium salts, perform a balancing act with water on either side of our cell walls. If we had a deficiency of potassium, the sodium solutions outside our cells would draw water out of them and we would eventually dehydrate. Electrolytes act as conductors for our nerves’ electrical impulses, which is why dehydrated people lose coordination and have muscle twitches. Water retention is also a symptom of low potassium, rather than too much sodium. Because there is not enough potassium to keep the correct level of water inside our cells, the higher concentration of sodium outside the cells draws the water out of the cells and into the tissues around them. Our skin is the largest body of tissue we have and it then swells from this extra-cellular water. This is what we call bloating. The best course of action a healthy person can take when they experience intermittent bloating, as with menstruation, is to supplement their diet with a little potassium as found in apple cider vinegar. This is far healthier than the drastic, commonly espoused treatment of cutting out salt and overhydrating. This can lead to electrolyte imbalance and negatively affect other vital reactions taking place in our bodies.
Over the thousands of years that our bodies evolved and adapted to the food available in the environment, salt (sodium chloride) was hard to come by. In modern times we enjoy a state of dietary affluence where salt is plentiful. Our body chemistry has, however, not changed. In addition to this, the proportion of leafy greens and fruit in our diets, our source of potassium, has fallen. Besides its role in maintaining our fluid/salt balance, potassium also makes it more difficult for bacteria to get enough moisture from our cells in order to grow and multiply. As potassium works to keep water in our cells, it helps to keep tissues soft and healthy. Potassium also aids kidney function by moving the water in our bodies to them.
Potassium is vital in maintaining a healthy, properly functioning metabolism. This is because it affects the utilization of carbohydrates and proteins. As we get older we unfortunately have a more difficult time extracting and retaining the potassium from our diets. A deficiency in potassium can lead to abnormal or even a lack of cell growth. This often leads to disturbances in heart rhythm, elevated blood sugar, dry skin, muscle weakness, and fatigue. In severe cases, a lack of potassium can lead to changes in the central nervous system, kidney problems, and fragile bones.
Apple cider vinegar is a great source of potassium with 15 mg per tablespoon, as well as containing other important minerals. Another very good reason to include some apple cider vinegar in your daily diet.
Is Apple Cider Vinegar A Probiotic?
A common misconception about apple cider vinegar is that it is a probiotic, when in fact it is a prebiotic. Prebiotics promote healthy digestion by encouraging and aiding the growth of good bacteria in our guts. Probiotics on the other hand are the good bacteria. The key ingredient in apple cider vinegar is the pectin from the apples it is made from. Pectin slows nutrient absorption because it binds to products in our digestive tract that our bodies cannot make use of, such as cholesterol, toxins, pathogens, and harmful bacteria. Once the pectin from the apple cider vinegar binds to the unwanted product, it carries it from our bodies by way of our regular bowel movements. This leaves the probiotics in our digestive systems to grow, flourish and keep us healthy.
Apple Cider Vinegar—Your Personal Medicine Box
I am sure by now you are coming to the realization that there is something special about this simple liquid—and you are quite right! As one of the earliest recorded remedies, apple cider vinegar has literally stood the test of time as a healer for centuries. Its continued use all these years later is testimony to the amazing qualities and powerful nature inherent in it. Furthermore, apple cider vinegar has held up under modern scientific scrutiny and while, as with anything, there is contention over the finer details, among the experts there is a general consensus in the effectiveness of a simple tonic made with apple cider vinegar. It is recommended to drink this tonic three times a day, preferably before or during meals. If, however, you find that consuming the tonic at mealtimes upsets your stomach, you can try drinking it a little while after your meal. If mealtimes are just not conducive to this because of a busy lifestyle, or perhaps you don’t stop your day for the customary three meals a day, you can drink a glass upon waking, one when you are going to bed, and simply mix up this easy formula in a flask or shaker and have it on the go sometime during the course of the day. Whatever works best for you, just so long as you drink it!
So what is this magical concoction?
Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic:
250 ml water
1–2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Raw organic honey to taste (optional)
Mix the ingredients together in a large glass.
Sip it at your leisure.
Feel the difference!
Try this basic formula to start experiencing the benefits of apple cider vinegar. Experiment with the amount of vinegar you add, starting with the least and building up your tolerance over time until you find a level that works for you. As it can be quite a tart taste, you can add a little raw honey to the mixture. And I am sure you have all heard about the wonders of raw honey, so this gives your body a double whammy in health-giving properties! This tonic is better tolerated and more effective if sipped slowly, so use this as your excuse to put your feet up and relax for a few minutes!