When people are plugged up and haven’t pooped in days, they’ll try almost anything to find sweet relief—like drinking an ancient beverage made from fermented bacteria.
Among the endless list of elixirs that are supposed to quell your tummy troubles and trigger a bowel movement, you’ll find kombucha: a fizzy drink that many people swear keeps them regular. However, doctors aren’t so sure kombucha is the best option to flush your gut.
Kombucha is packed with probiotics, which are essential for digestive health. But before we explore whether kombucha makes you poop, here’s a primer on what this stuff actually is.
What Is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a fizzy, fermented tea drink. It’s made by brewing sugar, black or green tea, and a “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast” (SCOBY) which is a gelatinous organism that looks like a mushroom.
After this mixture sits for about a week, it produces a liquid that’s tangy, refreshing, and loaded with probiotics, antioxidants, and B vitamins. The fermentation process leaves a trace amount of alcohol in kombucha (usually less than 0.5%), so it’s not a federally regulated beverage.
The origins of kombucha aren’t clear, although it’s thought to have come from the Bohai Sea district in China more than 2,000 years ago. Today, Kombucha can be brewed at home or purchased in bottles at retail stores. The global kombucha market is expected to reach a whopping $2.4 billion by 2027. That’s due in large part to the claims that kombucha can manage and prevent all kinds of health conditions.
What Are the Health Benefits of Kombucha?
Kombucha enthusiasts claim this drink can help with weight loss, reduce cravings, boost your immune system and more. But for now, we’ll focus on its potential benefits for your digestive system.
Like many fermented foods (yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi), kombucha has lots of probiotics, the gut bacteria that keeps your digestive tract running smoothly. Probiotics have been shown to relieve diarrhea and reduce inflammation in the gut. They can also alleviate the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a chronic condition with symptoms including bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.
Based on that information, it seems obvious that drinking kombucha should help you poop. However, those studies examined the effects of probiotic supplements, not kombucha or other probiotic-rich foods.
Does Kombucha Make You Poop?
There aren’t enough clinical studies to suggest kombucha will make you poop or ease constipation.
“Limited evidence suggests kombucha tea may offer benefits similar to probiotic supplements, including preventing constipation,” says Brent A. Bauer, M.D., director of the Mayo Clinic Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program. At present, however, valid medical studies of kombucha tea’s role in human health are very limited.”
As Dr. Bauer points out, the probiotics in kombucha may get your bowels moving if you drink it as part of a healthy diet (with plenty of fiber and water). In fact, one study found that probiotics decrease constipation in older adults by up to 40%.
The problem is that kombucha has different quantities and strains of probiotics depending how it’s brewed. Also, your body may process kombucha differently depending on your genetics, diet, microbiome, and other aspects of your health.
One way kombucha might make you poop is the placebo effect: if a nutritionist tells you that sipping kombucha will send you straight to the toilet, you might feel the urge to drop a deuce even if there’s not much action happening in your gut.
Bottom line: the probiotics in kombucha may help support gut health, but kombucha likely won’t have nearly the same effect as an over-the-counter laxative, stool softener, or your morning coffee.
There Are Better Ways to Make Yourself Poop
Whether you’re struggling with vacation constipation, nervous bowels, or just want to keep your digestive system running like a well-oiled machine, you’ve got to put the right stuff in your body if you want it to come out easily on the other end.
Kombucha might give your bowels a little boost, but don’t go expecting a miracle cure for constipation. Before you drop a bunch of cash on a six pack of kombucha, make sure you cover the basics:
- Drink enough water (about 15 cups per day)
- Get enough fiber (30-38 grams per day)
- Move around throughout the day to stimulate your digestive system (try these 4 exercises)
- Try these drinks that can make you poop fast
When your poo finally works its way out, make sure you have plenty of flushable wipes on hand for the aftermath.