You’ve probably heard about the apparent wonders of apple cider vinegar – from treating sore throats to improving weight loss, many have claimed to benefit from drinking a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar a day. But can apple cider vinegar really help to treat your kidney stones?
While success stories may sound promising, prior research suggests that apple cider vinegar is not effective at dissolving existing kidney stones, especially as a primary treatment. Apple cider vinegar does show some promise in preventing the formation of crystals in the kidney, though proven preventative steps – such as implementing the necessary lifestyle changes – are likely to be significantly more effective.
What is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar is made from the process of fermenting apple juice, which converts the natural food sugars into alcohol and acetic acid1 – which causes its pungent smell and sourish taste. It is the acetic acid in apple cider vinegar that is often credited for its health benefits.
Can Apple Cider Vinegar dissolve my kidney stone?
The short answer: No.
When the term “acid” comes to mind, many of us imagine an acid dissolving and destroying objects and materials. In the case of acetic acid, this may only occur at extremely high concentrations. The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar typically has a very low concentration of 4-6%, and undergoes a different mechanism when ingested in its dietary form (i.e. through apple cider vinegar). In short, acetic acid cannot dissolve your kidney stones simply because it’s an acid.
Furthermore, uric acid stones are the primary type of kidney stones that can be dissolved, and only through medical therapy2. Consult your physician for further advice.
Will Apple Cider Vinegar prevent kidney stone formation?
It could. But there are more effective ways to prevent kidney stone recurrence!
In 2017, researchers in China conducted a study to discover the association between diets and kidney stone risk. They found that people who consumed more fermented vinegars (not necessarily apple cider vinegar) had a lower risk of kidney stone formation3. A follow-up study conducted on rat subjects found that vinegars can affect the expression of certain proteins in kidney cells, which may help to regulate citrate and calcium excretion. The same researchers later ran a pilot study 79 human patients, and found that patients who consumed mature vinegars for 6-12 months had a relatively lower risk of stone recurrence, due to improved urinary citrate excretion, higher urine pH and lower urine calcium levels3.
However, note that pilot studies are small-scale, preliminary studies and are considered the first step of much larger research. Further, larger-scale studies have to be conducted before it can be definitively concluded that apple cider vinegar is effective at preventing kidney stones in humans.
Apple cider vinegar cannot treat your existing kidney stones, but could be helpful in preventing stones from developing. If you’re looking to prevent kidney stones, we’d recommend going back to the proven basics of staying hydrated and tailoring your diet based on your stone type!
Johnston, C. S., & Gaas, C. A. (2006). Vinegar: medicinal uses and antiglycemic effect. Medscape General Medicine, 8(2), 61.
Gridley, C.M., Sourial, M.W., Lehman, A. et al. Medical dissolution therapy for the treatment of uric acid nephrolithiasis. World J Urol 37, 2509–2515 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00345-019-02688-9 https://bjui-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/bju.13828
Zhong, W., Zhu, W., & Zeng, G. (2019). Dietary vinegar prevents kidney stones recurrence via epigenetic regulations. European Urology Supplements, 18(7). https://doi.org/10.1016/s1569-9056(19)32987-2