Archive for November 15th, 2011

November 15, 2011

Ask the RD: Apple Cider Vinegar for Acid Reflux?

Dear Syrah:

I have now heard from several people that a good way to balance digestive and acid reflux problems is by taking RAW UNFILTERED apple cider vinegar. Problem cases should take 1 tbsp in 5oz water in morning, noon and night. It is also supposed to help with weight loss. I’m thinking about incorporating it into my regular routine, what do you think about that?

Maggie in Minnesota

Dear Maggie,
This is a ‘folk claim’ that has gone back decades if not centuries and I think that it is fine if you want to incorporate it into your regular routine, but since you asked, here are my thoughts on the observed benefits of drinking vinegar (I have not done any first hand research on this topic, these are just my initial thoughts).

Low pH.  As you know, vinegar is an acid. Inside our stomachs we need an acidic environment to facillitate digestion – it helps convert minerals like Iron into the absorbable form and activates some enzymes, particularly those that digest proteins. You also already know that in healthy people, the stomach makes and secretes its own acid, Hydrochloric Acid (HCl). In healthy individuals, there is no harm in eating more acidic foods because the GI, respiratory and renal systems

are pretty good at regulating the amount of acid and base in the body and adjusts according to environmnental conditions. I suppose it may help with some digestion. The ability to make HCl becomes less efficient as you age, so eating acidic foods with high-protein or foods high in iron could help you absorb the nutrients, and that could improve your health and even help you lose weight, I suppose. Iron is crucial for carrying oxygen around the body and helping extract the energy from foods.

Effect on heartburn. I don’t see how this would help Acid reflux/GERD however. When someone has acid reflux, the problem stems from malfunction of the sphincter at the end of the espophagas that enters the stomach. Usually it becomes too lose for some reason and acid in the stomach is able to escape up the esophagus, causing heartburn. This can be caused by things that loosen the sphincter – commonly coffee, alcohol, chocolate, mint, eating too much, and/or laying down or bending over after eating. I think drinking vinegar would not affect the function of the sphincter either way. I have read that food intolerances like gluten and casein (the protein in milk) and sometimes even soy can contribute to acid reflux. It is possible that the vinegar could help break down these proteins and mitigate their effects on heartburn, but I would have to do some more reserach on that.

Weight loss. I suspect that drinking vinegar in the morning with water could promote weight loss, but not because of anything magic in the vinegar however. Remember, a weight (fat) loss depends on energy balance- consuming less energy that we use causes the weight loss. Ultimately, a Calorie is a Calorie is a Calorie. People do have control over how much energy they take in and how much they use/ burn. The weightloss from drinking vinegar would depend on if it was added to a persons diet or if it was substituted for other foods and drinks. Vinegar is a relatively low Calorie food. Think about the displacement of food that would occur in a person who usually ate breakfast, lunch and dinner and a few snacks and then switched to drinking 16.5 oz of vinegar-water mixture daily (you said “1 tbsp/5oz water in morning, noon and night”) in addition to their normal diet. This vinegar-water mixture would maybe help their stomach digest some protein and minerals, and would add some fluids, about 10 Calories and maybe a trace amount of minerals to their diet. If the vinegar-water mixture was not added but substituted in the persons diet because it made them very full from drinking a lot of fluid (and maybe even decreased their appetite because it is not very palatable), it would displace some of the food that they normally eat and cause them to take in less Calories overall, which could ultimately end up in a negative energy balance and weight loss. It would still depend on the rest of the persons diet and their energy use.

There are a lot of factors I have not considered here but overall I don’t think it will harm you, but not certain how much it will help.  Let me know if you have any other questions about this.

Syrah McGivern, MS, RD

November 15, 2011

Choosing whole grain bread in the supermarket

You’ve heard the phrase “Make Half Your Grains Whole”, meaning that the average American should be eating about 6 servings of grains per day, half of them consisting of whole grains.

Have you ever wondered how to make this happen for you and your family? The USDA has some great ideas to get started. The problem is, with all the words on the label, oftentimes it can be difficult to identify the whole grain foods from the refined grain foods in the supermarket. This article will help you identify whole grain breads next time you go shopping.

You cannot judge a book by it’s cover when it comes to choosing a whole grain bread. Breads can be colored brown to resemble whole grains even though they are actually made with refined wheat. Choose a fresh looking loaf, flip over the package and check out the nutrition label (don’t forget your glasses!). The most important thing to look for is the phrase “whole wheat” as one of the first ingredients. If it just says “wheat,” “7-grain” or “enriched wheat” that is not a whole grain. Enriched just means that a vitamin that was lost during processing was added back to the flour afterwards. (This has been required by US law for B-vitamins since 1942).

Image courtesy of

The ingredients that are listed first in the ingredient list are those that make up most of the product, so it is important that “whole wheat” is one of the first ingredients. Congratulations, you have found a whole grain bread! This bread will be superior to refined wheat breads because the whole grains contribute important vitamins, minerals and fiber. If you identify a few whole grain breads, compare the prices, the number of slices per loaf, check out the labels, the amount of fiber per slice (5 grams per slice is excellent) and the freshness date.

Always inspect the bread for mold and make sure to buy the one with the most recent date on the tag.

“Make Half Your Grains Whole” Image courtesy of South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (

A version of this was originally posted on