Vinegar is a popular salad dressing ingredient, but it could very well be an effective treatment for a serious digestive disease called ulcerative colitis, according to previous studies.
Now—in a new study published in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers from Jilin University in Changchun, China, found that vinegar may fight ulcerative colitis (with gut bacteria playing an important role). The researchers also found that vinegar suppressed inflammatory proteins and improved the gut microbe in mice.
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects the inner lining of the colon and the rectum. Common symptoms include bloody diarrhea or stools, cramping, painful bowel movements, and abdominal pain. Severe ulcerative colitis can produce over six to 10 bloody stools every day.
Ulcerative colitis is thought to share similar features of another inflammatory bowel disease called Crohn’s disease, but Crohn’s will affect the entire digestive tract. In the U.S., approximately 1.4 million people suffer from IBD with an equal amount of occurrences between ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
For the study, the researchers gave vinegar and its key ingredient acetic acid to mice. The acetic acid found in vinegar helps improve digestion by increasing stomach acid and inhibiting the activity of several carbohydrate digestive enzymes.
The researchers added small amounts of vinegar and acetic acid to the drinking water of the mice. They discovered that both substances reduced ulcerative colitis symptoms in the mice. The vinegar had decreased inflammatory protein markers in the colon by suppressing the NLRP3 inflammasome, MAPK signaling activation, and Th1 and Th17 responses.
The researchers also examined the stools of the mice and found they had higher levels of good bacteria in the gut when treated with vinegar for a month. Previous evidence suggests that the bacteria strains Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus are beneficial in mice with colitis symptoms. Further studies are needed to prove the effectiveness of vinegar in humans.
There are several types of vinegar, such as wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, and malt vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is a popular health food used for digestive problems. Apple cider vinegar has also been used for other health conditions, including diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, sore throats, skin problems, and cancer.
There are also other natural ways to treat IBD and ulcerative colitis. One of the best treatments is a high-fiber, whole foods diet with lots of vegetables that excludes refined carbohydrates like processed breads and baked goods. There are also many important nutrients for IBD sufferers. It is a good idea that those with IBD take a multi-vitamin and mineral with zinc, folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin D. Other good supplements for the condition include a high-potency probiotic, curcumin, aloe vera juice or gel, coconut oil, Indian frankincense, green tea extract, grape seed extract, pine bark extract, and boswellia extract.
Interesting to note—vinegar has a long history that dates back to ancient Egypt, Rome, and China. During biblical times, vinegar was even used as medicine. Legend has it that ancient Babylonians discovered wine from unattended grape juice, which eventually lead to the discovery of vinegar as a preservative. Nowadays, vinegar is used in dressings, marinades, and sauces.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Shen, F., et al., “Vinegar treatment prevents the development of murine experimental colitis via inhibition of inflammation and apoptosis,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2016; doi: 10.1021/acs.jafc.5b05415.
Murray, M., N.D., et al, The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine: Third Edition (New York: First Atria Paperback, 2012), 456-470.