As the leaves change color and a chill drifts through the air, are you beginning to crave pumpkin pie or hot chocolate with whipped cream? This time of year heralds rich meals and desserts for many, so a strong, robust digestive system is just what you’re in need of – although, healthy digestion is beneficial regardless of the season! After all, 70% of all the immune cells in the body live in the intestinal tract. A healthy gut is also a protective one. And recent discoveries have shed light on how closely entwined the brain and the gut are. Turns out, nerve cells lining the entire gastrointestinal tract (from the esophagus to the colon) have been found to interact with the brain in a BIG way, and researchers have made interesting connections between illnesses such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and anxiety and depression. Could healthy digestion also feed a better mental outlook? More studies are needed to verify this theory but what is clear is that the digestive tract plays a more vital role in a healthy body – so why not give it an extra dose of nutritional support with a fermented brew like apple cider vinegar?
First of all, what is Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)?
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is made in a 2-step process:
- Crushed apples (or apple cider) are exposed to yeast (a fungus), which eat the sugars present in the cider and turns them into alcohol.
- Bacteria are added and consume the alcohol, turning the alcohol into acetic acid, one of the main active compounds in ACV.
The combination of this yeast and bacteria is called the “mother” and is considered a probiotic, giving organic, unfiltered ACV a murky, cobweb-like appearance, while it provides your internal microbiome with a boost of beneficial organisms.
What are Some Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar?
Exercise and sometimes extreme or prolonged stress can cause lactic acid to build up in muscles throughout the body, causing soreness, fatigue, and general sluggishness. ACV contains potassium which helps to balance the pH in the blood, flushing lactic acid from the body, as well as delivering B vitamins, which boost your body’s natural energy production, stamina, and strength.
Appetite Suppression and Enhanced Nutrient Absorption
The acetic acid present in ACV has been found to suppress appetite, increase metabolism, and reduce water retention. ACV inhibits the body's ability to digest starch, which means fewer calories enter the bloodstream. It can also enhance the feeling of fullness or satiety, helping you avoid overconsumption - many people will have a teaspoon of APV in a glass of water half an hour before eating lunch or dinner. Acetic acid can also increase your body's absorption of important minerals from the foods you eat. So, it’s possible that drinking a mild tonic of vinegar and water might help you get more out of your leafy greens!
Balanced Blood Sugar
By far the most successful application of ACV to date is in patients with Type 2 Diabetes. This type of diabetes is characterized by elevated blood sugars, either in the context of insulin resistance or an inability to produce insulin. However, elevated blood sugar can also be a problem in people who do not have diabetes – it is believed to be a major factor in heart disease and stroke, as chronically elevated levels of blood sugar in the blood damage vessels and nerves. This is also why diabetes can lead to glaucoma and limb amputations. However, one study found that by consuming 2 tablespoons of ACV before bedtime, people with diabetes reduced their fasting blood sugar by 4% the following morning. Another study at Arizona State University found that insulin-resistant people who drank a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water before eating a high-carbohydrate meal had lower blood sugar afterward. Researchers believe the low-glycemic effect of acetic acid is the key.
Apple cider vinegar can help kill pathogens, including bacteria such as Salmonella and fungi such as Candida. As soon as you feel the prickle of a sore throat, employ germ-busting ACV to help head off the infection at the pass. Interestingly, most germs cannot survive in the acidic environment vinegar creates. Gargle with a teaspoon of ACV in 8 ounces of water every hour or so. Traditionally, it has been used for cleaning and disinfecting, treating everything from nail fungus to hair lice. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, used vinegar for wound cleaning. During the time of the Greeks, he took all superstition out of the medical field (no longer was it about the Gods), helped save many lives by promoting moderation, cleanliness, and exercise, and created the Hippocratic Oath which changed the way doctors interacted with their patients. He also prescribed oxymels – which are herbs infused into honey and apple cider vinegar, both antibacterial agents.
By itself, ACV doesn’t taste too bad, but infuse it with herbs and honey and it can taste fantastic, such as in the refreshing and tangy Citrus Basil Sipping Vinegar. The digestive support present in ACV is enhanced in this sipping vinegar (or what Hippocrates would call an oxymel) with the presence of Orange and Lemon Peel, both of which contain pectin, a dietary fiber that supports digestion and acts as a prebiotic, and citric acid, which slows down the speed that food leaves the stomach and improves the way it’s broken down. Lemon Verbena and Lemon Balm further strengthen the citrus notes but add a calming and relaxing effect, while helping to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in your body due to Verbena’s terpenoids and phenolic compounds. Basil Leaf adds a spicy flavor while acting as an aromatic digestive aid as well as helping to lower blood sugar, and finally Honey brings sweetness, antibacterial action, and minerals like calcium, iron, sodium, magnesium, and potassium.
Incorporate Citrus Basil Sipping Vinegar into your favorite recipes, as a salad dressing, with soda water, in a cocktail, or on its own before or after a meal to help aid in digestion. With heavier meals often following cooler temperatures, this oxymel can help you enjoy the holidays with fewer regrets!