Does Kombucha Help You Poop?

Photographed by Anna Jay.
Whether it's kale, oatmeal, or a cup of cold brew, most of us can pinpoint the foods and drinks that we know always make us have to go. There are a few physiological reasons why certain foods make you poop. Fibrous foods, for example, add bulk to your stool, which allow your bowels to move more smoothly through your gastrointestinal tract. Caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, have been shown to stimulate bowel movement, too.
Other poop-inducing foods might be a little more subtle. Take kombucha: some fans of the trendy tea drink claim that it's basically a GI elixir that helps to keep you regular and reduces bloating. Since kombucha is fermented, technically it contains probiotics, aka "good" bacteria that could help balance your gut microbiome. The tea also provides good-for-you antioxidants. So, does that mean that it really could help you poop, too? Maybe, but maybe not, according to Rita Knotts, MD, gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health.
It's hard to predict how your body will react to kombucha, because "every individual responds differently to the same probiotic product, depending on their own diet, genetics, microbiome, a and other aspects of health," Dr. Knott says. Research on probiotics is still a little hazy, and so we don't quite know which strains of bacteria are best for whom and under what conditions, she adds. While some people might find that kombucha quells their tummy troubles, tones down uncomfortable bloating, and even improves their bowel movements, it might not solve your poop issues.
The other thing about kombucha — and any probiotic supplement, TBH — is that the products aren't thoroughly regulated, so there's no telling exactly what strain of probiotic is in the drink, Dr. Knotts says. "It's not in its purified form, so there's different quantities of it in every single drink or supplement," she explains. And if you're drinking homemade kombucha, then it's possible that your drink could get contaminated with harmful bacteria that could make you really sick. For all of these reasons, gastroenterologists aren't 100% on board with recommending or prescribing kombucha as a general treatment for anything stomach-related, such as constipation.
If you find that a bottle of 'buch made you feel queasy or gives you the runs, then you might want to bring the bottle into your doctor or healthcare provider so that they can do some research and tell you if it's decent, or something that could be harmful, Dr. Knotts suggests.
That said, if you enjoy the taste of kombucha and want to have a bottle every now and then because you like the effervescent, vinegar-y taste and the way it makes you feel, then you should keep doing you. "A lot of times there really is no additional harm," Dr. Knotts says. "It's just like having a trial of probiotics: as long as you're a healthy person, if it's helping you, then it's okay." But, if you're experience significant GI symptoms, then a probiotic drink like kombucha is probably not going to be the solution that will help you, she says. "So, it's important to get medical attention when you're having prolonged symptoms."
Next time you're trying to get your bowels moving again, you might be better off turning to a different poop-inducing food, and save the kombucha for another day.

More from Diet & Nutrition