Last Updated on November 12, 2023 by Otuebo Harrison
As is mostly the case with chronic health conditions, a large number of people with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) show interest in natural or alternative remedies that might help their condition. This is especially true when it comes to foods and dietary supplements, two areas that can have an impact on general health and inflammation throughout your body.
In several cases, there are valid scientific reasons to believe that certain foods or supplements could reduce the burden of your AS — either by reducing inflammation that could affect the disease process, or by improving your general health in a way that makes your AS feel less stressful or fatiguing. Sometimes there are even studies of people with AS or other forms of inflammatory arthritis to support these potential benefits, while in other cases the evidence on a food or supplement is limited to effects seen in the general population.
And then there are claims that have little to no basis in science that still provoke widespread interest. The idea thatapple cider vinegarcan help treat or manage AS falls into this category.
But having no basis in science doesn’t mean that a claim is necessarily completely without merit — it just means that it hasn’t been studied or proven yet. And while there are reasons to doubt that taking any type of vinegar would be helpful for AS, that doesn’t mean certain people won’t feel better if they do.
Here’s where the evidence stands on apple cider vinegar and AS — and some other dietary measures that may be more effective at lowering inflammation.
No Validated Studies on Apple Cider Vinegar for Ankylosing Spondylitis
Let’s begin with the most notable point: “There really aren’t any plausible studies looking at the benefit of apple cider vinegar in joint disease,” says Sheryl Mascarenhas, MD, a rheumatologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.
What’s more, she says, there isn’t even much of a theoretical reason to believe that taking apple cider vinegar would help AS or any type of inflammatory arthritis.
“We know that when you have an inflamed joint, it’s a very acidic environment,” she says. “I think there was some thought years ago that [apple cider vinegar] has some ingredients that can alkalinize the joint,” but this idea hasn’t been supported by any published studies.
Still, Dr. Mascarenhas leaves open the possibility that apple cider vinegar could be beneficial to at least some people with inflammatory conditions. That’s because there’s a lot we don’t know about therole our gut bacteria plays in inflammation.
“There’s a lot of growing evidence that our gut microbiome — the bacteria that’s naturally harbored in our intestines — probably does play a role in our body’s inflammation, and may have a role in ankylosing spondylitis,” says Mascarenhas.
But, she notes, “I don’t know what effect vinegar would have on that. There are probably more questions than answers.”
Mascarenhas says that there are ongoing studies on the role of gut bacteria in ankylosing spondylitis, but these are still in fairly early stages, and it may be a while before we can draw any firm conclusions about how this factor affects the AS disease process or symptoms.
There is a little shred of evidence that vinegar could have anti-inflammatory effects in some animal models. For example, a study published in July 2017 in the journalScientific Reportsfound that in obese mice that were fed a high-fat diet, consuming two different types of vinegar reduced storage of body fat and lowered certain measures of inflammation.
Of course, it’s beyond a stretch to suggest that a study of obese mice has any particular relevance to AS or joint disease more generally.
Other Ideas for Dietary Skills to Reduce Inflammation
The good news is that while there isn’t much evidence to support taking apple cider vinegar, several other dietary strategies are widely believed to help reduce inflammation.
One of those strategy, says Mascarenhas, is to focus on consuming mostly whole, unprocessed foods.
“What I usually tell people is, eating as naturally and as clean as possible is usually a good tip,” she notes. “Look at the outer edge of the store, and avoid foods that are processed and have a lot of preservatives.”
In addition, you may want to focus on including foods in your diet that have known anti-inflammatory effects. These foods include:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Oranges and other citrus fruits
- Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, herring, and sardines
If you also would like to cook with apple cider vinegar for good measure, there’s likely no good reason to avoid it — just remember that vinegar can be corrosive.
“The costliest side effect you should worry about would be on your dentition,” says Mascarenhas. “Vinegar really can wear away tooth enamel.”
So having these warnings in mind, be free to add some apple cider vinegar in your diet — just don’t expect much, if any, effect on your AS.