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Arthritis is a broad term that refers to a group of degenerative musculoskeletal conditions whose primary symptom is joint pain with or without inflammation.
The pain, swelling, and deformity associated with arthritis tend to get worse with age, especially in the absence of proper treatment. (1) As of now, there is no permanent cure for this condition, but it can be managed through a variety of interventions.
A lot of patients use home remedies for arthritis, including apple cider vinegar (ACV), to reduce their reliance on pain medication. If anecdotal evidence is to be believed, ACV may exhibit anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce joint inflammation and pain, but this is yet to be verified by science.
Types of Arthritis
There are more than 150 types of arthritis, which can be inflammatory or non-inflammatory. The distinguishing feature between the two is visible signs of swelling or tenderness over the affected joint.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is regarded as the most frequently occurring type of non-inflammatory arthritis and is caused by the gradual breakdown of joint cartilage. (1) OA occurs when this protective cushioning wears away, exposing the hard bone surface underneath it and causing increased friction when you move the joint. (2)
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is typically inflammatory and is triggered by an autoimmune response, wherein the body destroys its own healthy tissue by attacking the synovial lining around certain joints in the body. (3)
Although OA is relatively more prevalent than RA, the latter is generally associated with a greater degree of inflammation and a higher risk of joint deformity if untreated.
Other less common forms of arthritis include:
- Juvenile arthritis
- Viral-associated arthritis, such as that associated with hepatitis C, HIV, and parvovirus (4)
- Seronegative spondyloarthropathies, which include ankylosing spondylitis, reactive arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis
- Crystalline-based arthritides, which include gout and pseudogout
What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?
ACV is an acerbic liquid that is commonly used in cooking but also possesses significant medicinal potential, which explains its widespread use in home remedies.
However, keep in mind that proper dosage and precaution are necessary for any remedy to yield the desired results without causing adverse effects.
How Is ACV Produced?
Like any other vinegar, ACV is also produced through a double-stage fermentation process.
The base product is apple cider, which is derived by crushing whole apples, distilling the liquid content from the mash, and then adding yeast and bacteria to the apple juice for the initial stage of fermentation. These fermenting agents break down the natural sugars in the apple juice to produce ethanol (ethyl alcohol).
The first stage is followed by a second round of fermentation by introducing acetic acid-forming bacteria into the mix. The Acetobacter bacteria convert the alcohol into acetic acid, which is the main component of any kind of vinegar.
Note: Vinegar gets its characteristically sharp taste and pungent smell from its acetic acid content, which tends to be higher in cider vinegar than in white distilled vinegar.
The “Mother” in Apple Cider Vinegar
Aside from acetic acid, ACV also contains amino acids, mineral salts, and other non-volatile organic acids, along with a combination of yeast and bacteria that are formed during the fermentation process and are collectively termed as the “mother.”
Raw, unfiltered ACV contains strands of this beneficial microbial culture, which can be seen floating around in the bottle. Because the “mother” contains health-friendly bacteria, it is recognized as a probiotic.
The medicinal virtue of ACV is often traced back to the mother, but there is still not enough evidential support to conclusively establish the health claims.
Apple Cider Vinegar for Arthritis: What the Internet Has to Say
A lot of proponents of home remedies vouch for the effectiveness of ACV in treating a host of ailments, including arthritis. (5) They claim that oral administration of a few tablespoons of diluted ACV daily may help curb joint inflammation.
It may also speed up weight loss, which is another major plus for people with arthritis. Excessive body weight not only makes one more prone to arthritis, but it can also exacerbate the condition once it occurs.
Although it may seem like a good idea to take a few spoons of ACV to get back in shape and ease the arthritic pain, there is no scientific evidence to validate the anti-inflammatory properties of ACV or its role as a weight loss agent.
Much of these assertions derive their legitimacy from anecdotal support rather than research. Yet another unsubstantiated claim that is often used to advocate the use of ACV for arthritis management pertains to its nutritious content. It is believed that ACV has a detoxifying effect on the body brought on by its high amounts of pectin.
Pectin is a water-soluble starch like fiber, which is naturally present in most, if not all, fruits. When inside the body, pectin works as a purifying agent. It absorbs toxic substances and contributes to their increased rate of excretion through urine.
Fresh apples are loaded with pectin, but most of this plant fiber is eliminated when the fruit is processed to make ACV. (6) So, ACV contains only trace amounts of pectin, if at all.
Learning to live with such a painful condition requires a multidimensional treatment approach that includes the doctor-recommended medication, physical and behavioral therapies, mental health counseling, and some important lifestyle and dietary changes.
Home remedies may be tried as adjunctive tools in combination with the standard treatment, provided that your doctor approves them first. However, as far as ACV is concerned, the medical community is largely dismissive of its potential benefits for treating arthritis.
Because arthritis is a lifelong condition without a permanent cure, the best you can do is manage the condition.
How Much Apple Cider Vinegar Is Acceptable?
The medicinal intake of ACV is considered safe, so long as it is kept within prescribed limits. It is always recommended to confer with your doctor before trying any new remedy, especially if you plan to use it regularly.
There is no set dosage when it comes to the oral administration of ACV for arthritis, but the general recommendation is 1–2 teaspoons a day, which can be taken before a meal or as part of it.
Even though ACV is mildly acidic, it is better to water it down a little before consumption. Undiluted ACV, when consumed daily, can increase the risk of tooth erosion, stomach acidity, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
You can add a few drops of water or some other liquid to subdue its inherent acidity. If you do consume undiluted ACV, make sure to rinse your mouth with water thereafter to wash it off your teeth.
Some people suggest mixing ACV with honey or baking soda to double its therapeutic effects. But to be completely certain about the correct dosing and preparation, you should consult your doctor.
What Are the Side Effects of Apple Cider Vinegar?
The regular intake of small quantities of ACV should ideally be safe, but the possibility of certain side effects cannot be ruled out completely. The prolonged, undiluted, and excessive consumption of this acidic liquid can:
- Erode your teeth enamel
- Exacerbate acid reflux in people who already have this condition
- Make it difficult for your kidneys to filter out the excess acid if you have chronic kidney disease
While there is virtually no scientific legitimacy to the benefits of ACV in the context of treating arthritis, it is widely popular as an anecdotal remedy. A significant number of people who have tried ACV for relieving joint inflammation reported experiencing some degree of relief without any untoward side effects.
So, there is no harm in giving this remedy a go, provided that you use it sparingly and do not expect guaranteed results. Consult your physician before taking ACV to ensure that it is safe for you to try.