There’s no shortage of reasons why To All the Boys I Loved Before’s tender-bro heartthrob Peter Kavinsky is the internet’s new boyfriend, but we’re here to talk about his gut. No, not the six-pack of abs obscured by the steamy hot tub. We’re talking about his gut gut; his gastrointestinal tract; his bowels. We’re talking about his stomach lining, all the way down to his colon.
Part of Kavinsky’s charm is his twist on the obnoxious jock stereotype. He’s a lax bro, but he writes love notes. He dates the school’s mean girl, but he hangs out in hot tubs alone. Most importantly, while all his cultural predecessors existed on cheap beer, his diet appears geared strictly toward probiotic health. Swoon!
At a house party, Kavinsky hands over a party cup to his fake-but-totally-real girlfriend Lara Jean and for a second, we hesitate with her — her dad said not to drink, and what could be in this cup but beer? As she takes a sip, she asks, “Why is beer so vinegary?” It’s not, of course; it tastes like vinegar because our internet boyfriend drinks kombucha, the probiotic fermented tea beloved by gut health fanatics everywhere, in order to drive her home sober.
“It’s good for your digestion,” he says.
He’s not that far off. Kombucha is a lightly bubbly, vinegary drink made from the fermentation of sweet tea. Bacteria and yeast from a SCOBY (a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) break down the sugars in the drink, producing carbon dioxide bubbles and acetic acid (hence the vinegary taste). These live microorganisms are considered probiotic — good for the gut — because they’re thought to augment and rebalance the 39 trillion bacteria that naturally populate the GI tract, most of them residing in the large intestine.
Scientists have yet to determine to what extent kombucha contributes to the balance — that much likely depends on the strains used in the SCOBY — but it probably doesn’t hurt to drink it in reasonable amounts (according to the CDC, that’s no more than 12 ounces per day). As the Cleveland Clinic notes, kombucha’s gut-soothing benefits may also come from the tea it’s brewed from.
The first time Kavinsky drives Lara Jean to school, her sister Kitty offers him a little bottle of a “Korean yogurt smoothie,” more commonly known by its brand name, Yakult (actually a Japanese brand). He’s into it, of course: Not only is the tangy, creamy drink delicious, but it’s also considered probiotic because it, like kombucha, is full of live bacterial cultures that are also thought to balance out natural gut flora.
Probiotics have been shown, in some studies, to be especially helpful for people with specific gut ailments, like irritable bowel syndrome or chronic constipation. They’re also thought to be useful following a round of antibiotics, which wipe out bad bacteria in the gut but also tend to disrupt the balance of good bacteria as well.
Critics have pointed out that it’s still not clear how much of the “live” bacteria survive the perilous acidic gut to colonize the digestive tract, so the specific health benefits of drinking probiotic beverages like Yakult remain to be seen. Still, there seem to be fewer downsides than upsides to drinking it, so we can commend Kavinsky’s trek across town to fetch Yakult for LJ with an easy conscience.
Technically this isn’t about Peter Kavinsky but his real-life alter ego Noah Centineo, who apparently cares about gut health too. The oatmeal featured on his Instagram says it all.
The oats that turn into oatmeal are packed with fiber, which helps out the gut by adding heft and water to poop. Oatmeal, in other words, helps the bowels move regularly, preventing constipation, which can lead to a number of complications. As a Harvard School of Medicine report points out, oatmeal can boost the health of gut flora as well: “The breakdown and fermentation of beta-glucan oat fiber has also been reported to increase the diversity of gut microbiota,” it notes, citing a 2016 study.