Last Updated on February 18, 2021
Apple cider vinegar is a popular health food, with many touted benefits—including weight loss, a boosted immune system, and improved skin health. It’s even been cited as a way to help your body recover from alcohol misuse. But are vinegar-based cleanses really helpful in recovery? Does apple cider vinegar detox alcohol from your body after you drink?
Below, we’ll discuss the science behind apple cider vinegar, alcohol detox drinks, and whether it’s worth it to add this natural food to your recovery diet.
A Little Bit About Vinegar
Vinegar is essentially a fermented juice1. During fermentation, different types of bacteria and yeast metabolize the sugar in this juice into something called acetic acid. Most food-grade vinegars are about five percent acetic acid—which is what makes them tangy and sharp.
Acetic acid, or acetate2, is a molecule your body is already familiar with. Your cells break glucose and fat into acetate to help power your cells. Acetate is also very similar to alcohol. (You may have guessed this if you’ve ever left a wine bottle open overnight.) In fact, your liver also eventually turns alcohol into acetate as it processes it out of your system.
Can Apple Cider Vinegar Help You Detox From Alcohol?
Since alcohol and vinegar eventually become the same chemical inside your body, you might guess that vinegar isn’t really ideal for detox—and you’d be right. It may not really hurt, but it won’t do much to boost you either. In fact, if your body already has too much acetate from processing alcohol, adding more acetic acid might even slow things down.
But what about the other components of vinegar? Could there be different properties that help in the process?
While this is possible, there remains a shortage of research on “detox diets3” in general. And as of this moment, there’s little evidence that apple cider vinegar can do anything to help clear alcohol, or related toxins, from your system. But that doesn’t mean it is completely without benefits.
The Probiotic Effects of Apple Cider Vinegar
Though it may have little measurable effect on alcohol detox, there is one one way apple cider vinegar may help your body recover from drinking too much: by supporting your gut.
Most types of apple cider vinegar—especially those containing the “mother” at the bottom—have probiotic properties. This can support the growth of positive bacteria in your intestines, and aid in reestablishing a healthy gut balance.
While research is ongoing, it seems that a poor balance of gut bacteria has a role in many common ailments—and that alcohol can aggravate this issue4. Intestinal inflammation, oxidative stress, and even alcoholic liver disease5, may all be connected to both excessive drinking and poor gut health.
Quitting or cutting back on alcohol can help with each of these issues. But restoring your intestinal health can definitely speed up the process. Probiotic foods, including apple cider vinegar, have been shown6 to give your gut that needed boost.
So, even though it may do little to “detox” you, there could still be some benefit to including apple cider vinegar in your recovery diet.
What Is the Best Drink for Alcohol Detox?
While apple cider vinegar and other “cleanses” may seem like a more exciting option, water is ultimately the most important drink for alcohol detox.
There are several reasons for this. First, alcohol is a diuretic, and therefore dehydrates your body. Second, drinking water dilutes alcohol and its metabolites, hindering their negative effects. Third, water is an important part of the biochemical reactions of your liver—and your whole body.
You have your own expert detox team within you already; keeping your liver and kidneys hydrated will help them do what they do best.
Summary of Apple Cider Vinegar for Alcohol Detox
To sum things up, although apple cider vinegar may have some health benefits, and is pretty harmless, it’s not an especially effective way to detox from alcohol. Staying hydrated, eating healthy, and—most importantly—cutting back on alcohol consumption, are the best ways to reset your body after drinking too much.
Of course, this can be easier said than done. And if you’ve been drinking heavily for some time, alcohol detox can be very unpleasant—or even dangerous. If you think you might have a strong withdrawal reaction to quitting alcohol, talk to your doctor before you start.
There are also ways to taper off alcohol gradually, including several effective anti-craving medications. Ria Health is one online program that gives you access to these, as well as regular coaching meetings, expert medical support, and more—all from your smartphone.