Can you get sick from eating kimchi? (+3 tips)

In this article, we are going to answer the question, “Can you get sick from eating kimchi? And 3 tips to eat kimchi safely.

Can you get sick from eating kimchi?

Yes, you can get sick from eating kimchi. As kimchi is prepared by the process of fermentation, there is a possibility of contamination of the kimchi by microorganisms such as E. coli and Salmonella during the same process, leading to food-borne illnesses such as food poisoning (1).

Kimchi is essentially a dish with Korean origins made by fermenting salted vegetables, particularly cabbage and Korean radish. These vegetables are fermented and then seasoned with fish sauce, scallions, oysters, chili powder, salt, and garlic. The fermented mixture is further seasoned with a thick paste of rice flour. 

 What are the risks associated with eating kimchi?

Following are a few risks associated with eating kimchi (1, 7–10):

If the kimchi that is ingested has mold growing over it, the poisonous mycotoxins can cause food poisoning and result in symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. This occurs when kimchi is not stored properly,  and contamination occurs during the packaging and storage processes.

When most fermented foods are safe to eat, kimchi may get contaminated by bacteria like E. coli, which is not gut-friendly, resulting in serious cases of food poisoning that can even be fatal (8).

Eating kimchi can lead to short-term effects like bloating. This happens when the probiotics present in kimchi kill the harmful bacteria in the gut, resulting in the release of excess gas. Some people might experience severe bloating that can even be painful (1).

The high sodium content of kimchi makes it unsuitable to eat for people with high blood pressure, a history of stroke, or heart disease. Long-term consumption of kimchi has been associated with the occurrence of gastric cancer, according to studies conducted in Korea (1).

People who experience histamine intolerance cannot eat kimchi without getting migraines and headaches. This is because fermented foods are high in histamine. Intolerance to histamine is also associated with more severe symptoms such as low blood pressure, an irregular heart rate, and psychological changes like aggressiveness, anxiety, and dizziness (10).

Some people with compromised immune systems can have adverse reactions to probiotics. Since probiotics are an essential component of kimchi, eating kimchi can lead to severe complications in people with immune deficiencies. Pneumonia, endocarditis, and sepsis are some complications that could occur in such cases (9).

What are the health benefits of eating kimchi?

Kimchi, eaten in moderation and daily, can be quite beneficial for our health. 

Provides probiotics

One of the most noticeable health benefits of kimchi is its probiotic action. Probiotics are living microbes and bacteria used in the fermentation of dairy, vegetable, and soy products.

 A lacto-fermentation process occurs in kimchi that makes it unique, for instance, it gives it a long shelf life and an improved taste and aroma. In lacto-fermentation, the Lactobacillus bacteria break down sugars into lactic acid, which gives kimchi its unique sour taste (3).

The process of fermentation also enables other beneficial bacteria to survive and propagate. These include probiotics, which are live microorganisms that provide many benefits when used in sufficient quantities.

Gut health

Kimchi contains probiotics that can improve the condition of our gut. These probiotics are useful to balance the bacteria in the gut, consequently easing the digestion process.

Studies reported that Napa cabbage, the main ingredient in kimchi, has been shown to be useful in reducing stomach cancer and colorectal carcinogenesis due to its high dietary fiber content (2).  

Kimchi consumption aids in the treatment of IBS by boosting dietary fiber intake while decreasing serum inflammatory cytokine levels and damaging fecal enzyme activity (11). 

Weight management

Fresh and fermented kimchi are both low in calories and may boost weight loss. It can help reduce blood sugar and weight. This is because it is high in fiber, more filling, and serves as a low-calorie snack.

A 4-week study of 22 overweight people revealed that consuming fresh or fermented kimchi helped reduce body weight, BMI, and body fat. Furthermore, the fermented variant reduced blood sugar levels (4).

May support heart health

Kimchi has also been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It has been found that eating 15 to 210 g of kimchi every day reduces blood sugar, total cholesterol, and bad cholesterol levels to a great extent, all of which are risk factors for cardiovascular diseases (2).

Improves Brain Health

Kimchi can improve brain health. This is because the enteric nervous system is located in the gut and communicates with the brain. Therefore, if gut health is improved, the brain’s health is also improved.

Studies reported the abilities of kimchi and its bioactive compounds to ameliorate amyloid beta (Aβ)-induced memory and cognitive impairments (12).

Other potential benefits

  1. It can help reduce blood sugar and weight. This is because it is high in fiber, more filling, and serves as a low-calorie snack.
  2. Because kimchi is rich in beta-carotene, it supports good eye health. Cabbage, which is an essential ingredient of kimchi, is a good source of Vitamin A that is good for the eyes.
  3. The Lactobacillus bacteria in kimchi helps to boost immunity (1).
  4. Probiotics present in kimchi may decrease inflammation.

How to store kimchi properly?

The following steps will help you keep your kimchi safe, whether it’s homemade or store-bought (1):

  1. When it comes to pasteurized unopened kimchi, you can easily store it in a cool, dry, and dark corner of your pantry, away from direct sunlight and heat.
  2. But once you open the jar of your kimchi then it is recommended to store it with its lid tightly closed in the fridge at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (8). 
  3. In the case of the unpasteurized kimchi, it is recommended to store it in the refrigerator at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

 How to eat kimchi safely?

The following three tips will help you consume kimchi safely (1):

  1. Moderation is the key.  Consuming 15-21 grams of kimchi safely has been linked to lowered blood sugar levels. 
  2. If you are a first-time eater of kimchi, start by eating one tablespoon only. It is a good idea to let your body get used to the probiotics before eating more servings of kimchi.
  3. Make sure that after the preparation of kimchi, it is stored in sterilized containers, refrigerated after opening, and not consumed after a month. 


In this article, we have answered “Can you get sick from eating kimchi?” as well as provided 3 tips for eating kimchi safely.


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  1. Kim HY, Park ES, Choi YS, Park SJ, Kim JH, Chang HK. Kimchi improves irritable bowel syndrome: results of a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study. Food Nutr Res. 2022;66.  
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