Week 43- Kombucha

What is kombucha:

kombucha is from tea (usually black, though sometimes green) that is fermented with a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. During the fermentation process, the yeast breaks down the sugar in the tea and releases friendly probiotic bacteria.  Kombucha becomes carbonated after fermentation. Kombucha then has a slightly sour taste with a bit of fizz. This fizzy drink is probiotic-rich, meaning it contains live bacteria and yeasts or “healthy little microbes” that benefit your digestive system. Although it's sometimes referred to as kombucha mushroom tea, kombucha is not a mushroom. There are many brands and flavors. You may have to try a few to get a favorite!


Health benefits:


1.            Overall benefit- On the Cleveland Clinic website, dietitian Maxine Smith, RD, LD states “Much of kombucha’s gut-friendly accolades are likely due to the tea itself, and the polyphenols it contains. “Polyphenols are known to act as strong antioxidants in the body and decrease inflammation, which is the root cause of many diseases and conditions,” she explains. “And the fermentation process actually increases the number of polyphenols. ” Kombucha also provides B vitamins, a handful of essential minerals, organic acids (Think: like when vinegar ferments) such as acetic, glucuronic and D-Saccharic acids. These acids, Smith says, have been shown to be antimicrobial, so they fight against bacterial growth. They can also promote detoxification by helping the liver get rid of undesired compounds that it has to process. Last, these acids help transport polyphenols in the body. Let’s drink our daily kombucha to that!


2.            Gut health- Kombucha, like other fermented foods, is rich in probiotics. A diet that contains probiotics may help improve a person’s overall gut health. Probiotics may work by helping the body maintain a healthy community of microorganisms. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24290641/       Thus, it may support the digestive system. There is a clear link between gut health and immune system function. The article Aspects of Gut Microbiota and Immune System Interactions in Infectious Diseases, Immunopathology, and Cancer    published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology    suggests that having a healthy balance of gut bacteria can promote immune health and that consuming a healthful diet high in probiotic-rich foods and beverages (like kombucha) may help improve gut health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6104162/    So we drink kombucha to gut health and our immune function!


3.            Lowers Infection Risks: As kombucha ferments, the process produces a type of acid called acetic acid, which is also present in vinegar. Acetic acid has antimicrobial properties. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5079149/

Other studies suggest that kombucha is an antimicrobial and able to kill microbes and help fight a multitude of bacteria. Because of this, it may help prevent infections by killing the bacteria before the body absorbs them.  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1047279718307385?via%3Dihub     As usual, more studies are needed in humans. We drink to lower infection risks!


4.            Mental Health: Drinking probiotic-rich kombucha could help promote positive mental health.  There may be a link between probiotics and depression AND there are strong links between depression and inflammation.  The anti-inflammatory effect of kombucha may help alleviate some symptoms of depression.  The article The effects of probiotics on depressive symptoms in humans: a systematic review   in the Annals of General Psychiatry looked at a number of existing studies and concluded that there is strong evidence to suggest that probiotic supplements may help relieve depression.  I have to disclose that in the research, consuming probiotic-rich foods and beverages may benefit mental health, no studies have yet directly linked drinking kombucha specifically to improve depressive symptoms or any other aspect of mental health. I say the research does look promising! Let’s drink to our mental health!

5.            Heart Disease: As we have stated in past RefineMEnt episodes, elevated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels may increase the risk of heart disease. An article titled Protective effect of kombucha on rats fed a hypercholesterolemic diet is mediated by its antioxidant activity in Pharmaceutical Biology suggests that kombucha could help reduce the levels of cholesterol linked to heart disease in rats. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3109/13880209.2014.1001408        And in another study A review on health benefits of kombucha nutritional compounds and metabolites in the Journal of Food concludes “Kombucha beverage is a source of bioactive components, such as polyphenols and glucuronic acid. The beneficial outcomes of kombucha consumption are attributed to the synergistic effect between these components, making it a drink with potential beneficial health properties. It is apparent that its consumption can protect against the development of CVDs, mainly due to its polyphenol content that inhibits the oxidation of LDL, regulates cholesterol metabolism, and prevents high blood pressure by promoting smooth muscle relaxation.” More studies are being conducted and again look promising! Let’s drink to a strong heart!

6.            And other areas of studies: Kombucha is being studied in help protecting against drug-induced liver damage in animals and there is also some evidence to suggest that kombucha may also be helpful in managing type 2 diabetes in animal studies for now.


How Much daily: Too much of anything can be problematic. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that four ounces of kombucha can be safely consumed one to three times a day. You should not consume more than 12 ounces of kombucha a day. The average bottle of commercially prepared kombucha is about 16 ounces and that exceeds a daily, single serving.  Sheri’s Kombucha Klub recommends ¼ cup twice daily! Start with a smaller amount- 1-2 TBSP and work up to the ¼ c twice daily. NOTE: Drinking too much kombucha could potentially lead to reactions like headache, nausea, GI distress or going into ketoacidosis (a medical emergency where there’s too much acid in your blood).


You should skip the kombucha altogether if you are pregnant, are a young child, have certain chronic diseases (particularly liver or kidney disease or HIV), compromised immune systems and alcohol dependency. Again, these people should not include kombucha in their daily fueling routines.

Where do you get kombucha: I recommend commercially packaged kombucha at the grocery, health food or supercenters.  I would advise not buying kombucha from a random flea market, farmer’s markets or from your neighbor. There could be a question of proper sanitation when making it. Tainted batches can become contaminated with undesirable fungi and an overproduction of yeast. I think it is best to stick to a reputable source.