Is Kombucha Actually Healthy For You? Here's What a Doctor Says

POPSUGAR Photography | Anna Monette Roberts
POPSUGAR Photography | Anna Monette Roberts

Kombucha has exploded as the of-the-moment wellness beverage; the trendy glass bottles line store shelves and some health food stores and restaurants even offer it on tap. Kombucha is supposed to help with bloating, digestion, and help fight inflammation. But are these lofty claims accurate, or is kombucha just gimmicky wellness hype? We asked gastroenterologist Sarina Pasricha, MD, MSCR, for the science behind this trendy drink.

Kombucha is a fizzy tea that's been fermented using cultures of bacteria and yeast. It contains probiotics and prebiotics, which help increase the good bacteria in your gut, explained Dr. Pasricha.

"There is little doubt that good gut health is critical in maintaining good overall health," she told POPSUGAR. Since your gut has 100 trillions of bacteria cells, feeding your gut bacteria impacts other systems in your body. For instance, your gut contains 70 percent of your immune system.

"Dysbiosis, or imbalance in our good and bad gut bacteria, has been linked to chronic inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease and even obesity," she said. Kombucha, like other fermented foods, also improves digestion and strengthens your immune system.

Plus, since kombucha is made from tea (usually green or black tea), it also contains polyphenols, which are antioxidants that can help fight free radicals, she explained. Polyphenols have also been shown to reduce the risk of cancer — another perk of loading up on the powerful antioxidant.

But if you're new to kombucha, or fermented foods in general, don't jump into drinking a lot of it at once. "I usually recommend starting with four ounces of komubucha, and increase this amount slowly eight to 12 ounces to allow your gut microbiome time to adjust to the sudden consumption of billions of gut bacteria," Dr. Pasricha said. "Otherwise, people can develop symptoms of diarrhea and bloating."

So while kombucha isn't going to magically make you lose weight or fix your digestive system overnight, it will help feed the bacteria in your gut, which in turn translates to overall health. So go ahead and drink up!