In moderation, pickle juice is alright. Drink too much, and you may have some problems.
Pickle juice is mostly sodium, vinegar, and bacteria. Because of the high sodium content, you may experience some stomach discomfort if you drink too much - bloating, cramps, and diarrhea are all possible reactions. Sodium can put pressure on the cardiovascular system, too; it's not great for the heart, and it can cause problems in the long-term if you consume too much.
There's also some evidence that eating too many pickled foods can lead to stomach cancer - that comes from research which showed higher rates of stomach cancer in Turkey, Korea, and Japan, where pickled foods are commonly consumed.
To get there, however, you'd have to drink a lot of pickle juice. In moderation, it's good for a number of things. Something in pickle juice makes it a viable workout recovery drink - there's some early and limited research that indicates it can help to prevent muscle cramps. There's an interesting write-up of this at the New York Times; researchers saw lower rates of cramping when they fed pickle juice to research subjects. While still in the stomach, something in the pickle juice - the likely culprit is vinegar - limited the biological mechanism of that which causes muscle cramping.
The high sodium content in pickle juice makes it a good recovery drink, too; your body drains its salt reserves when it sweats, so you need something salty after a workout to help replenish that. Pickle juice, like Gatorade or chocolate milk, is high in sodium, so it works well for that purpose.
Pickle juice has bacteria in it - they're responsible for the actual fermentation that turns cucumbers into pickles. Luckily, these are good bacteria; they're the kind that you want populating your intestinal tract so that you have a vibrant and healthy community of microflora in your gut. In moderation, pickle juice can have a probiotic effect.
There's also some limited evidence that small doses of vinegar - another important ingredient in pickle juice - can have a moderating effect on blood sugar. That's good news if you have diabetes or at risk of developing diabetes. That's according to one study, so more research is still needed, but it's good news nonetheless. Small doses of vinegar also seem to have a moderating effect on weight, according to a study published in the journal Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry.
Possible short-term side effects
- stomach cramping
Possible long-term side effects
- sodium increases the risk of heart problems
- may be a link between cancer and heavily consuming pickled foods
Ingredients to be aware of
- helps to prevent muscle cramping
- replenished salt reserves after workout
- promotes a healthy gut
- may promote weight loss
- may help to regulate blood sugar