These days, it seems that just about any food is claimed to help with migraine at one time or another. And apple cider vinegar is a folk remedy that’s been around for thousands of years, and is supposed to help with everything from warts to weight loss.
Investigating apple cider vinegar (ACV) can be pretty frustrating. In spite of all the claims, there are surprisingly few good studies that have been done. When it has been studied, the claims turn out to be either wrong or perhaps weak (meaning that although ACV may help with this or that, there’s probably something else that will help a lot more).
I’m not aware of any decent studies that have been done relating ACV with headache conditions. However, there is reason to believe it could help certain people, because of the way it might impact your body’s reaction to foods.
Apple Cider Vinegar – nutritional powerhouse?
First, let’s debunk one common myth. ACV does not seem to be the nutritional powerhouse that some people claim it is. For example, let’s consider a 2 teaspoon dosage. That will give you 0.001% of your daily recommended calcium, phosphorus and iron, and a whopping 0.002% of your daily potassium. It won’t give you any significant vitamins at all.
This doesn’t mean that there’s no value in APC (as we shall see). And in fact, it’s very likely that there are some undiscovered traits that will benefit your body. But if you’re thinking that it’s like eating an apple, but more concentrated, you’ll be disappointed. (Just one apple with the skin is packed with vitamins and minerals – more than 10x the calcium, 25x the phosphorus, and 34x the potassium!)
(Based on information from the National Nutrient Database and other related articles)
The Value of Vinegar
Ok, so it’s not a miracle food when in comes to vitamins and minerals. But it still has a lot of value.
For example, like all vinegars it’s high in acetic acid. That acid, along with other components in the ACV, may have benefits particularly when it comes to digestion.
For example, it could help your body absorb the nutrients in the foods you eat, if you’re eating the vinegar with your meal or right before it. It also could slow down digestion – meaning that it will slow the release of sugars into your system, avoiding sugar spikes (at least when you’re eating a meal high in carbohydrates).
Of course, if you already feel like your diet is too acidic, adding more acid won’t help!
Although the evidence isn’t yet strong enough for many doctors and researchers, many use ACV for weight loss. At the very least, it could make you feel fuller (and therefor eat less). But there is some evidence that it has at least a mild weight loss effect for other reasons.
What about Migraine?
If you know a lot about migraine disease, you already know that migraine is related to digestive health. So yes – improving digestion and absorbing more nutrients and slowing blood sugar release could help minimize migraine attacks in some people.
We are, however, going on very little evidence here. And my concern is that “popular” folk remedies like this one can easily eclipse the many well researched migraine treatments (including natural non-drug ones) that most people should be trying first. So this one is going to be far down the list after many other supplements and foods.
That being said, if you have a list of migraine-fighting foods that you try to incorporate into your diet, this could certainly go onto the list and into your salad.
One thing to be aware of, though. Apple cider vinegar also contains tannins, which may trigger migraine attacks. Some actually consume a low-tannin diet for migraine. So you may find that what you hoped would fight migraine may actually make things worse, depending on the rest of your diet.
If you’re going to try AVC, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- If you’re going to do more than just add it to your salad, talk to your doctor. This particularly goes for those with diabetes, since ACV could upset the blood sugar balance.
- Always dilute. ACV can damage the tissues in your mouth and throat, and damage tooth enamel. Also, be sure to rinse out your mouth afterwards.
- Long term use could lower potassium levels and impact bone density. If your family has a history of osteoporosis, think twice before consuming significant amounts over a long period.
- If you’re taking medications such as diuretics, laxatives, or meds for diabetes or heart disease, talk to your doctor first.
- If you’re thinking of a supplement, buy from a brand you trust. A 2005 study in the USA testing 8 brands found that dosages varied greatly and ACV was frequently mislabelled.
The scientific evidence for apple cider vinegar as a migraine-fighter is almost non-existent. However, it could help indirectly when used as a part of a healthy diet. For most people, trying it in their diet will be a healthy choice. Adding flavour to your food, you should be able to cut down on bad fats. You can even use vinegar (of any kind) to wash your fruits and vegetables, which should get rid of some common pesticides and bacteria.
However, do think twice before going hard-core into ACV supplements, or relying on ACV before the many other better proven migraine fighting foods and supplements.
And hey – go eat an apple. An apple a day can do you a lot of good – maybe a lot more than an expensive supplement.
Other useful information on ACV:
Apple Cider Vinegar (WebMD)
Apple cider vinegar for weight loss: Effective? (Mayo Clinic)
Health Benefits of Vinegar (HowStuffWorks.com)
Examination of the antiglycemic properties of vinegar in healthy adults. (Arizona State University)