What Is The Apple Cider Vinegar Detox — And Should You Try It?

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This Popular DIY Detox Is Probably A Waste of Your Precious Time
Health And Wellness

The current state of the wellness world is kind of like the Wild West. Every other day there’s a new potion, powder, or pill that promises to fix a litany of issues ranging from foggy brain to hair growth to libido.

“Detoxing” is a particularly popular category right now, and we wouldn’t be surprised if you felt inundated walking through health stores and even shopping your favorite beauty counters.

If that weren’t enough, there are countless blogs touting the magical curing and detox powers of DIY juices and cleanses. One of the most popular DIY detoxes right now is the apple cider vinegar detox, also called the ACV detox. 

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What is the ACV detox?

There are plenty of benefits of apple cider vinegar, but the classic detox recipe combines a cup of water with a tablespoon of unfiltered ACV, another of fresh lemon juice, and a 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and a bit of honey or stevia to mellow it out.

You’re supposed to guzzle the concoction down once or twice a day to help rid your body of “toxins” that you might have consumed via processed foods or inadvertently absorbed. In addition to claiming that it “detoxifies” your system, other claimed benefits of the ACV detox are that it bolsters your immune system, rebalances your pH levels, aids in digestion, and helps keep your tummy flat. How legit are these claims, though?

Does the ACV detox actually work?

Those are some pretty serious promises, but can a bit of diluted vinegar really live up to them? For the answer to that, we asked Rachel Berman, a registered dietician and the general manager of Verywell, a popular health and wellness website.

“The ACV detox is totally unfounded in research [regarding detoxification]. The body naturally ‘detoxes’ itself — that’s what your liver is made for. You do not need apple cider vinegar to do so,” Berman warns. “There’s not research to support the claims, and therefore you’re wasting your time.”

Ouch. The truth hurts.

We were still curious about some of the other claimed benefits of the apple cider vinegar detox, such as improved digestion and weight loss. Berman says that there’s some research on ACV’s ability to help control weight, but that “those studies have been in rats or very small sample sizes so it needs a lot more justification before trying this plan.”

Dr. Anthony Youn, a holistic beauty doctor and the author of The Age Fix, agrees with Berman about there being very minimal scientific literature supporting the ACV detox's ability to detoxify or greatly reduce weight.

"I believe that an apple cider vinegar detox isn’t an actual detox, per se, but a way for some people to lose weight and promote overall health," he says. "Also, it doesn’t taste or smell the best, so there are better ways to lose weight and support the microbiome, in my opinion."

He considers the ACV detox more of a fad than anything, and predicts the hype will die down over the next couple years. Fair enough.

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Here’s what you should do instead...

It’s easy to be drawn to quick fixes. Who wouldn’t want the ability to down a bunch of junk food and then magically rinse it all away with a funky vinegar concoction? If only.

Really, though, the best way to keep your gut healthy, your tummy flat, and your body free of processed chemicals and junk is to eat healthily and exercise regularly. A diet rich in vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats is the way to go.

While you’re at it, try eliminating foods that may be causing you inflammation — such as soy, dairy, and gluten — which can lead to poor digestion and, yes, a bloated belly. You can determine if you have an intolerance to these ingredients by removing them for several weeks, then reintroducing them one at a time to see how your body reacts. There are also straightforward tests your doctor can complete in-office.

As for exercise, get yourself signed up for a fun class that gets you excited to workout. Try boxing, aerial yoga, barre, or HIIT. There are lots of YouTube channels dedicated to creating this content, so take advantage of the zero cost and ability to work out in your own home.

The bottom line?

Will the ACV detox harm you? Probably not, though some people report nausea, upset stomachs, diarrhea, and heartburn.

If you do decide to try it anyway, Berman says, “You should always check with your doctor before adding ACV to your diet in case there is an interaction with any of your medications or supplements.”

Really, your efforts are better spent eating healthy, delicious foods and exercising regularly. The ACV detox may sound too good to be true, and that’s because, well... it is.

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Wendy Rose Gould is a freelance lifestyle reporter based in Phoenix, Arizona. She contributes to NBC, Refinery29, Brides, Allure, Spotlyte, Total Beauty, Soko Glam, and others.