I’ll just come right out and say it: My stomach has always been trouble. Fried food usually leaves me curled up on the couch for hours. Anything loaded with carbs or sugar? Cramp city. The older I get, the more sensitive my stomach becomes.
Over the years I’ve tried just about every gut remedy out there. My desk at work is well-stocked with ginger tea, I faithfully take a probiotic every day, I guzzle water, and I eat a lot of fiber. Still, though, my stomach doesn’t always cooperate. (I’ll spare you the details, but you know what I mean.)
The latest gut-friendly trend to make its way onto my to-do list: kombucha. The fizzy fermented drink—made by adding sugar, yeast, and bacteria to tea—has invaded the refrigerated section of even the most basic grocery store after winning over my fellow health nuts with its funky flavors and promise of probiotics. (These good bacteria live in our gut and help us digest food, destroy harmful microorganisms, and produce vitamins, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.)
A sucker for trendy health foods, I was already a fan of other probiotic-packed foods like kimchi, and I’d splurged on a bottle of kombucha here and there—but it wasn’t until after a belly-decimating, cheese and pastry-filled trip to Europe that I was ready to really commit to drinking it regularly. My gut needed some serious TLC.
Since I’d recently cut out dairy (yep, even my morning Greek yogurt got the boot), I wondered if it was time I find myself another fermented food to replace it with—and kombucha seemed like an easy way to bump up my daily probiotic intake. I mean, I wasn’t about to commit to eating kimchi every day, but I was already used to drinking lots of water, so why not throw some kombucha into my daily sips? Easy peasy.
So I stopped by the The Vitamin Shoppe in East Rutherford, New Jersey, to stock up on kombucha. (Complete with eight kegs of Aqua ViTea kombucha and refillable glass bottles and growlers, this place is like kombucha heaven.) I filled a growler with a mix of the ginger- and turmeric-flavored kombucha and headed home, ready to rock my gut’s world.
To find out if drinking this effervescent beverage on the reg would really make a difference, I decided to have a glass every morning for the next two weeks. (Aqua ViTea’s website recommended starting with four to six ounces a day, so I stuck with a small glassful.)
My first morning of the experiment, as I sipped my way through a glass of the bubbly tea while checking my email, I noticed that I felt super-full—but not in a heavy, just-ate-a-cheeseburger kind of way. Simply sated.
And I had a second realization: Kombucha could really get things moving. Not in a frightening Bridesmaids-movie-scene kind of way, but whoa.
The same pattern continued through the rest of the work week. I drank my glass of kombucha about a half-hour or so after breakfast, hit the bathroom sometime around mid-morning, and felt awake and satisfied until lunch. After a few days, I also noticed that I felt more awake and alert as I went about my morning routine. Placebo effect or not, I didn’t mind. (My kombucha was made from a blend of black and green tea—but I learned that very little of the caffeine in those teas survives the fermentation process. Kombucha does contain some B vitamins, which are associated with energy, though.)
I rationed out my 64-ounce growler so it’d last me the full week, and refilled it with my turmeric-ginger mix for week two. By then, I looked forward to my fizzy sips each morning, especially because my stomach felt so great.
As my gut got used to the daily bubbles, I didn’t feel quite as full after drinking them. Somewhere in the middle of week two, I started drinking a second glass around mid-afternoon, when an itch for something sweet and a dip in energy hit. I felt revitalized—and you know that slightly groggy, sloth-like feeling of a meal lingering in your stomach? (I call this the ‘after-lunch blahs’.) Gone.
I was becoming a kombucha-holic—with less than a third of my second growler left with four more days to go in my kombucha streak—so I started diluting my bubbly beverage in a little sparkling water to avoid yet another growler refill. My growler lasted through the end of week two, though just barely.
After two full weeks of kombucha-drinking, my toilet time was more regular than it’d been in a while and my stomach was moving and grooving—no gas, no bloating. A major win in my book, considering I was used to feeling like there was a balloon in my stomach at any point of the day.
I also no longer felt the need to brew up a double mug of green tea for a caffeine boost around lunchtime; my mind was clear and my focus steady. A splash of kombucha in plain bubbly water kept my taste buds happy (and made it much easier to stay hydrated) all day long.
I’ll definitely continue to hit up the kombucha bar at The Vitamin Shoppe for my weekly growler fill-up, and may even get myself a second growler to stash at home. Yeah, I love it that much.