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?”  

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.

What is kimchi? 

Kimchi is basically a Korean-origin dish that is made by the fermentation of salted vegetables, especially cabbage and Korean radish. These vegetables are fermented and then seasoned with fish sauce, scallions, oysters, chilli powder, salt and garlic. The fermented mixture is further seasoned with a thick paste of rice flour. Kimchi can be made of two types- vegetarian and non-vegetarian. 

Harmful effects of eating kimchi?

  1. If the kimchi that is ingested has mold growing over it, the poisonous mycotoxins can cause food poisoning and result in symptoms like diarrhoea, nausea and food poisoning. This occurs when kimchi is not stored properly and contamination occurs during the packaging and storage process.
  1.  While most fermented foods are safe to eat, kimchi may get contaminated by bacteria like E coli that is not gut-friendly, resulting in serious cases of food poisoning that can even be fatal.
  1. 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, history of stroke and heart disease. Long-term eating of kimchi has been associated with the occurrence of gastric cancer according to studies conducted in Korea.
  1. As kimchi contains a high content of garlic, it may be unsuitable to eat for people who have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). This is due to the fermented oligosaccharides that are present in garlic, which are difficult to digest by people who have IBS. This can result in bloating, diarrhoea, and gas in people with IBS. 
  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, irregular heart rate and psychological changes like aggressiveness, anxiety and dizziness.
  1. 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 deficiency. Pneumonia, endocarditis  and sepsis are some complications that could occur in such cases.
  1. Since probiotics may also contain antibiotic resistance genes which act against antibiotics like erythromycin and tetracycline, consuming kimchi can lead to antibiotic resistance against antibiotics that are useful to treat respiratory infections as well as sexually transmitted diseases. 

Benefits of eating kimchi:

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

  1. Kimchi contains probiotics which can improve the condition of our gut. These probiotics are useful to balance the bacteria in the gut, consequently easing the digestion process.
  1. Consuming kimchi can reduce cholesterol, according to some studies conducted by scientists. However, it is not known exactly what ingredients help in reducing cholesterol.
  1. Kimchi can improve brain health. This is because the enteric nervous system is located in the gut, and it communicated to the brain. Therefore, if the gut health is improved, consequently the brain’s health is also improved.
  1. It can help reduce blood sugar and reduce weight. This is because it is high in fiber, more filling and serves as a low-calorie snack.
  1. Because kimchi is rich in beta-carotenes, it supports good eye health. Cabbage, which is an essential ingredient of kimchi, is a good source of Vitamin A that is good for eyes.

 How to eat kimchi safely?

  1. Moderation is the key.  Consuming 15-21 grams of kimchi safely has been linked to lowered blood sugar levels. 
  1. 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.
  1. 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 to eat kimchi safely.

References:

  1. https://theconversation.com/kombucha-kimchi-and-yogurt-how-fermented-foods-could-be-harmful-to-your-health-126131
  1. https://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/food-nutrition/facts/kimchi.htm
  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20360016#:~:text=Irritable%20bowel%20syndrome%20(IBS)%20is,need%20to%20manage%20long%20term.
  1. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/fermented-food-gut-health-digestion-kimchi-kombucha-sourdough-a9204226.html
  1. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/food/a29892608/health-benefits-of-kimchi/

Mahnoor Asghar is a Clinical Nutritionist with a bachelor's degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. She is compassionate and dedicated to playing her part in the well-being of the masses. She wants to play a fruitful role in creating nutrition and health-related awareness among the general public. Additionally, she has a keen eye for detail and loves to create content related to food, nutrition, health, and wellness.