If you're an avid health tip pursuer, you've undoubtedly heard of incorporating apple cider vinegar as a pre-meal aperitif or drinking lemon water upon rising and the multitude of health claims behind it.

Are these claims legit? Are apple cider vinegar and lemon water actually healthy? Is it something you should be incorporating day-to-day?
Read on for the science and rationale.

Photo by Melissa Walker Horn on Unsplash

Photo by Melissa Walker Horn on Unsplash


Similarly, both of these suggestions are based on the premise of acid begets acid...

Let me explain.

Digestion is a cascade of events. Digestion actually starts in the brain with the sight, smell, or even thought of food. 

Our stomach cells that make acid, need acid to start the process. The more stomach acid there is, the more stomach acid that is made.
When digestion is impaired, such as eating on the go or not switching the nervous system to "rest and digest", this lack of acid hampers the digestive process.

So, if we ingest an acid, such as apple cider vinegar or lemon water, it kickstarts the process for our stomach to make more acid.


Apple Cider vinegar

This can be a life-changer for some people. It may significantly reduce bloating, simply by increasing the amount of stomach acid you make to better digest your food. This is especially true for proteins where their primary digestion starts in the stomach. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is typically taken first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, or prior to meals (generally a teaspoon in warm water).

I will use apple cider vinegar in cooking, but I’ve personally found it's a food that doesn't agree with my body. One of the downsides to incorporating the new hottest health trend is that it may not be right for you. This is an important point the I really want to stress... because something is "healthy", doesn't mean it's the right intervention for YOU.

ACV might actually worsen some people's digestion. Vinegar is a fermented sugar that can grow yeast within the digestive tract; for most people, added to cooking and used in moderation it can be fine, but when there is dysbiosis ACV can worsen the condition.

Image by Lauren Mancke on  Unsplash

Image by Lauren Mancke on Unsplash

Lemon water: 

As mentioned above, as an acid, lemon will have an additive effect on acid production. Personally, I love lemon water. It agrees well with my body and I tend to crave more sour & citrusy foods.

Interestingly, lemon is alkaline in the body when metabolized. While “alkalizing” is a rather contentious concept and beyond the scope of this article, in general most people could benefit from eating more alkaline foods because the Standard American Diet is very acidic/acid forming. These types of food include sugar, dairy, gluten, red meat, and alcohol.

Add fresh lemon to warm to hot water and drink first thing in the morning to kick-start digestion.

Dr. B’s tip: if you sip on lemon water all day, make sure to rinse your mouth out with fresh water. The constant acidic exposure on your teeth can degrade your enamel.


For the best overall benefit for digestion, I prefer the use of bitter foods and herbs, or “bitters”.

While acidic foods will support stomach acid formation, bitters will increase whole digestive function. Bitters increases appetite and salivation, stomach acid, digestive enzymes, bile production and use, and gut motility.

Read more on digestive bitters, and how you can incorporate them in your life.