Ancient Use of Rice Has Unexpected Gut Benefits


A cultural mainstay, fermented rice water is backed by research to help replenish good gut microbes and repair “leaky gut”

Could a food as simple as rice hold the key to healing your gut?

Fermented rice water is an ancient remedy especially common in Asian cultures. It’s also the subject of health research, including studies in the last couple of years, that show how it can help rid the body of pathogenic bacteria and heal damaged intestinal mucosal lining, a condition sometimes called “leaky gut.”

Luke Coutinho, an integrative lifestyle expert, and influencer in India, told The Epoch Times that most people with symptoms of gut distress can benefit from fermenting rice and adding it to their diets. It can even take the place of probiotic supplements—except in cases where there’s a severe gut issue and a proven beneficial probiotic.

It costs only a bit of your time—a few minutes to add water to cooked rice, cover and allow it to ferment overnight. You don’t need special equipment or knowledge to prepare it.

“Fermented rice water is a cost-effective remedy. Nearly every household has rice in their pantry,” Mr. Coutinho said in an email interview. “There’s little profit to be made from promoting simple, free, or inexpensive solutions, unlike selling supplements and drugs. Many people believe that complexity equates to effectiveness, which is untrue. In fact, some of our most successful cases have resulted from following simple practices.”

Ancient Answer for Gut Health

Called rice kanji in India, the same ferment goes by different names in other areas of the world. In Japan, it’s referred to as amazake and may be made with other grains and commonly used as a sweetener.

An author and health coach, Mr. Coutinho considers both new and traditional methods for healing the gut and repairing the gut microbiome—the community of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that contribute to a fortified intestinal lining and confer health when in proper balance. Fermented rice water is almost always part of his recommended protocol.

“Most cases that come to us involve compromised gut health, which serves as the epicenter of overall health—from brain function and hormonal balance to immunity, metabolic conditions, skin, hair, and more,” he said. “We observe that when we start addressing gut health, many other health issues also improve.”

An ancient practice in India, fermenting rice has been fundamental to healing a wide variety of conditions from simple stomach distress to complex health disorders, Mr. Coutinho said. The rice can be eaten with the fermented water, and often onions or green chilis are added to make it a dish. It can also be blended as a drink or the rice can be strained and the water can be drunk with a bit of salt.

Replenishing the Microbiome

Fermented rice water is considered a probiotic, meaning it’s full of beneficial bacteria that can promote good health and counter the effects of antibiotics and other products that deplete good gut bacteria.

Your gut microbiome might be out of balance if you are experiencing symptoms like bloating, indigestion, excessive gas, and weakened immunity.

However, simple, naturally fermented foods can boost commensal bacteria. An article published in 2024 in Biomolecules noted that many similar strains of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) were found to be present in different species of rice fermented in different locations. It claimed to be the first study to demonstrate how naturally fermented rice water is capable of benefiting the cells of the colon wall.

The article pointed out that recent research shows how LAB can improve immunity and gut barrier integrity. LAB have been shown to help modulate dysbiosis, or the imbalance of microbes that allows pathogens to proliferate. LAB contain bacteria from the beneficial genus Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, which have a long history of promoting health.

LAB is even made as a base for a homemade fermented soil treatment that can restore missing microbes from the earth.

Additional Benefits

Fermented rice water contains phenolic acids, a type of polyphenol, or natural antioxidant found in food.

A 2019 study in the Pharma Innovation Journal examined the phenolic acids in fermented rice water and found 10 compounds in unfermented rice water and 23 compounds in water fermented for 24 hours. Phenolic acids are naturally antibacterial and anticancer substances, the study noted.

Fermented rice water produces the metabolite butyric acid, which can reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a natural healing response that causes local increases of specialized immune cells in certain areas of the body, but chronic inflammation is associated with many autoimmune health issues.

“While numerous foods can help reduce inflammation or boost immunity, without a healthy gut, their benefits are limited,” Mr. Coutinho said. “The lactic acid bacteria in fermented rice water breaks down anti-nutritional factors in rice, improving the bioavailability of micronutrients and minerals such as iron, potassium, and calcium by several thousand percentage points.”

A review published in December 2023 in Fermentation on the nutritional benefits of fermented brown rice found that zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, and calcium levels all increased with fermentation. Fermented brown rice can lower cholesterol levels, and protect the body from liver damage, cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure. It’s also protective from chemotherapy-induced damage, blood sugar imbalances, and overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria.

Increasing Healing Nutrients

Sophia Eng, author of “The Nourishing Asian Kitchen,” likens fermented rice to fermented cabbage. Like rice, cabbage contains nutrients, but when you ferment it to make sauerkraut, you increase micronutrients.

A first-generation Vietnamese-American, Ms. Eng has a chapter in her book on fermentation and recently took a one-week course on Asian ferments. She uses LAB to nourish the soil on her homestead, too.

“This is such a huge part of the Asian culture, this type of traditional fermentation and fermenting everything. This is what I grew up with. My whole life we just fermented because it was the most economical way, and the most nutritious way,” she said.

Compared to freeze drying, which suspends bacteria, and canning, which kills bacteria, fermenting naturally multiplies bacteria. Ms. Eng said with the depletion of soil and nutrients in most grocery store food, fermentation makes sense to improve its health benefits.

Even just a tablespoon of rice water or sauerkraut juice could contain more probiotics than an average supplement, she said.

Make Fermented Rice Water at Home

Rice fermentation techniques vary, and many studies use only a 12 to 24-hour timeline. You may even ferment only the water used for soaking rice.


  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 cups water


  • Rinse, wash, and cook rice.
  • Place cooked rice in a non-metal bowl, cover with 2 cups fresh water. Set a lid over the bowl.
  • Allow the water/rice mixture to ferment at room temperature 12 to 48 hours—until it has a sweet smell.
  • Strain, then take one teaspoon to one tablespoon of the liquid on an empty stomach.
  • Save about 1/4 cup of the fermented rice water to make another batch without using rice.

Additional Uses for Your Rice Water

You can make cheese with the curds and dilute the liquid to spray on your soil.

  • Inoculate one quart rice water with a gallon of milk.
  • Cover with cheesecloth in a dark corner of your counter until it separates.

Simple Remedies for the Effects of a Toxic World

Ms. Eng said simple solutions like fermented rice water are vital because the food supply is increasingly contaminated with antibiotics given to animals and even toxins that act like antibiotics in the human gut, such as glyphosate and other chemicals.

“Heavy toxins … are destroying our gut bacteria. You can take supplement pills or this can be part of your daily life in a very cost-effective and easy way,” she said. “It’s so easy to do. That’s the exciting thing, and we don’t talk about it enough.”

Important Notice: This article was originally published at by Amy Denney where all credits are due.


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