Kombucha - What Is It and Should You Drink It?
If you've never heard of kombucha, you aren't alone.
Kombucha is a fermented drink that's made from green or black tea, sugar, bacteria, and yeast. If reading that made you wince a little bit, the resulting liquid after it ferments contains vinegar, B vitamins, and various other compounds.
Related - Digestive Health Support Supplements
Kombucha tea has been claimed to prevent and manage some serious health conditions such as blood pressure and even cancer. While not backed by science, the limited evidence does suggest that kombucha tea offers many other benefits similar to probiotic supplements.
Presently, the medical studies are limited for kombucha - so there are some risks to consider.
Something worth noting, however, is that PepsiCo took notice of the promising future of kombucha by purchasing the leading kombucha brand KeVita.
Kombucha has been around for centuries in many cultures, so let's dive deeper into what kombucha is. I'll also talk about the 7 reasons why you should drink it a little later on.
So What Is Kombucha?
Like I said earlier, kombucha is a fermented beverage that has black tea or sometimes green tea in it. The sugar can come from various sources, including cane sugar, fruit, or honey.
It's a functional probiotic food that contains a colony of good bacteria and yeast, which is responsible for initiating the fermentation process when combined with sugar.
After kombucha ferments, it becomes carbonated and contains a high concentration of acid (acetic, gluconic, and lactic), along with vinegar, B vitamins, enzymes, and probiotics. The bacteria that is produced is known as a "cellulose-producing bacteria" which means it produces cellulose - acting as a shield to cells.
Some people drink kombucha as a healthier alternative to sodas. The satisfying fizzy drink can also come in some soda-flavored varieties... But you need to beware of their sugar content.
Kombucha Nutritional Facts
Depending on the ingredients used to make kombucha, calories and other nutritional facts may vary. So for this example, we will break down a popular brand of a 16-ounce unpasteurized bottle of organic kombucha.
- 60 calories
- 20 milligrams of sodium
- 14 grams of carbohydrates
- 4 grams of sugar
- 100 micrograms of folate - 25% of your daily value
- .34 grams of riboflavin/vitamin B2 - 20% of your daily value
- .4 milligrams of vitamin B6 - 20% of your daily value
- .3 milligrams of thiamine/vitamin B1 - 20% of your daily value
- 4 milligrams of niacin/Vitamin B3 - 20% of your daily value
- 1.2 micrograms of vitamin B12 - 20% of your daily value
Pasteurized vs Unpasteurized Kombucha
The 20th/21st-century notion that pasteurization makes drinks "healthier."
It's not true for milk, and it's the same for kombucha.
When pasteurizing, the bacteria killed during the process is the same bacteria that helps your gut function efficiently.
Basically, "pasteurized kombucha" should just be called "kombucha-flavored tea" due to losing many of the healthy bacteria through pasteurization.
Before buying unpasteurized kombucha, find a trustworthy source. Unpasteurized kombucha, if left on a shelf too long, will have a higher alcohol content. Initially, it is below .5 percent for most products.
This means you need to also drink your kombucha in a shorter period after purchasing.
Potential Risks and Side Effects of Kombucha
Like I said earlier, there can be a few downsides to kombucha. Let's go over those now:
It Contains Sugar and Caffeine
First of all, everyone should talk to their doctor before consuming. This tea contains caffeine and sugar, so anyone who is sensitive to them needs to beware.
Sugar and caffeine also need to be limited during pregnancy, so pregnant or nursing moms need to talk to their doctor before drinking.
Bloating Can Occur
The presence of probiotics and the potential change in your gut bacteria can cause some people to bloat. I invite anyone who has any digestive disorder needs to consult with their doctor before drinking.
If kombucha is made incorrectly, there could be harmful (instead of helpful) bacteria. This is rare in commercial brews, but common with homebrews.
Preparing kombucha in a ceramic vessel may be dangerous due to the acidic tea leaching lead from this vessel.
7 Reasons You Should Have Kombucha Every Day
1.) It Helps Prevent a Variety of Diseases
Kombucha improves and heals your gut. This itself will contribute to a boosted immune system.
Kombucha contains powerful antioxidants and can help detox your body and prevent disease.
The antioxidants also reduce inflammation, which is at the root of most diseases.
The University of Latvia completed a study in 2014 and claims that drinking kombucha can be beneficial to many diseases and infections.
The study goes on to say "due to four main properties: detoxification, anti-oxidation, energizing potencies and promotion of depressed immunity.”
2.) Keeps Your Gut HealthyDue to the high levels of beneficial acid, probiotics, amino acids, and enzymes - this drink helps calm your gut. Research also shows that kombucha can prevent and heal stomach ulcers. Have candida? Kombucha can help heal it by overpopulating your gut and restoring a balance to your digestive system.
3.) It Can Improve Your Mental State
A blast of B vitamins from kombucha can help protect your mind.
B vitamins, especially B12 increase energy levels and contribute to an overall sense of well-being.
In fact, a 2012 study published in Biopolymers and Cell examined kombucha as a functional food product for... get this... long-term space exploration. The study states that is regulates the "communication of the gut-brain axis" and suggests it would be useful in minimizing the effects of anxiety and depression.
4.) It's Actually Beneficial to Your Lungs
Chinese scientists discovered that inhaling kombucha can be a way to treat diseases of the lungs caused by the inhalation of dangerous material.
While I don't recommend that you inhale kombucha, I thought it was worth noting.
5.) It Is a Powerful Antibacterial Agent
A drink full of bacteria being a powerful antibacterial agent just sounds weird, right?
The type of bacteria found in kombucha actually destroys the bad bacteria that is responsible for infections. Kombucha has been found to have antibacterial effects of:
- E. coli
- Sh. sonnei
- Two strains of salmonella
- Campylobacter jejuni
I had to look up what Campylobacter jejuni is and it is one of the most common forms of food poisoning in the US. Known as C. jejuni, the FDA is very interested in potential treatment methods - including kombucha.
C. jejuni can sometimes be followed by a condition called Guillian-Barré syndrome where your immune system attacks your nervous system.
6.) It Helps Manage Diabetes
Professionals and research have some conflicting issues when it comes to kombucha and diabetes.
Many professionals warn against kombucha for diabetics due to the higher sugar. Research suggests the opposite. The antioxidants in kombucha seem to help alleviate diabetic symptoms, more efficiently than the anti-diabetic black tea from which it was fermented from.
This is especially true in terms of your liver and kidney functions - which are generally poor for those with diabetes.
7.) It Also Maintains a Healthy Liver
You saw just above that kombucha improves liver functioning. Since your liver is a filter to get rid of harmful compounds, your liver is also a vital component in digestion and overall health.
The antioxidant profile in kombucha may protect your liver from oxidative stress and help your liver from damage induced by an acetaminophen overdose.