What Is Kombucha?
Kombucha, a fermented tea beverage, is rich in probiotics and antioxidants, which benefit your brain, heart and gut. The healthy bacteria found in kombucha and your digestive tract absorb nutrients and fight sickness. Eighty percent of your immune system is located in the gut and the gut is considered the second largest part of the nervous system after the brain. That means promoting gut health is critical. One way to do that is drinking kombucha regularly, which may help maintain good immune and overall health.
How Does Kombucha Help Gut Health?
Kombucha is a fermented drink that works as a functional probiotic, providing health benefits beyond traditional nutrition. To make kombucha, tea is combined with sugar, bacteria and yeast to begin the fermentation process. Once complete, most of the sugars have been consumed by the bacteria and yeast resulting in a carbonated beverage that contains vinegar, B vitamins, enzymes, probiotics, acids and cellulose-producing bacteria, which protect your cells.
How Will Kombucha Fit In My Diet?
While nutritional information of kombucha brands and homemade kombucha will vary, below is a baseline estimation of nutrition facts based on a popular brand of kombucha’s 16-ounce bottle.
- 60 calories
- 20 milligrams sodium
- 14 grams carbohydrate
- 4 grams of sugar
- 200 micrograms folic acid (50% DV)
- 0.68 grams riboflavin/vitamin B2 (40% DV)
- 0.8 milligrams vitamin B6 (40% DV)
- 0.6 milligrams thiamine/Vitamin B1 (40% DV)
- 8 milligrams niacin/Vitamin B3 (40% DV)
- 2.4 micrograms vitamin B12 (40% DV)
What’s The Difference Between Pasteurized And Unpasteurized Kombucha?
Pasteurization is a process in which foods and drinks are treated with heat to eliminate pathogens and extend shelf-life. But pasteurization does not necessarily make food and drinks healthier. In fact, the pasteurization process will kill the probiotic bacteria and yeast that promote gut health.
Shelf-life is another important determinant in the differences between pasteurized and unpasteurized kombucha. Be sure to drink unpasteurized kombucha within a short window after purchase. If unpasteurized kombucha is left too long, the alcohol content (usually below 0.5%) may rise.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Kombucha?
- Disease Prevention
Consuming processed foods and chemicals can lead to oxidative stress, which in turn contributes to inflammation. That’s where kombucha comes in. There is evidence that fermented drinks contain powerful antioxidants that can help detoxify the body and prevent illness and inflammation. Kombucha’s inflammation-reducing properties may even decrease the risk for certain cancers.
- Gut Health
Kombucha supports digestion because of its high levels of probiotics, amino acids and enzymes. Some research has shown kombucha may prevent and heal stomach ulcers thanks to the antioxidants it contains and its ability to shield the protective coating inside the stomach.
- Improve Cholesterol
Kombucha has been shown in some scientific models to lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides while increasing good cholesterol (HDL).
- Antibacterial and Antimicrobial
Studies have shown that kombucha contains both antibiotic and antimicrobial components. It has the ability to kill bad bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella, and shigella. Protection against these bacteria may help stave off food poisoning.
- Reduction of Diabetic Complications
Diabetes is associated with several oxidative stress-related complications such as retinopathy, nephropathy, and cardiomyopathy. Research suggests that the antioxidants in kombucha may help reduce the impact of oxidative stress caused by diabetes. This appears to be especially true in terms of liver and kidney function, which are generally weak in those with diabetes.
- Lung Protection
One lesser known benefit of kombucha is its use in treating silicosis, which is lung fibrosis caused by the inhalation of dust containing silica. Scientists discovered that kombucha could treat this lung disease and others caused by inhalation of dangerous material.
How to Make Kombucha
- 1 large very clean glass jar or bowl with a wide opening
- Boiling water (enough to fill your glass jar or bowl)
- 1 mixing spoon
- 1 large cloth, dish towel or even coffee filter
- 1 large elastic band
- 1 bottle of distilled white vinegar
- 8 cups of water
- ½ cup organic cane sugar or raw honey. Do not use aspartame or any other artificial sweeteners.
- 4 organic tea bags, usually black tea
- 1 SCOBY disk (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), which you can find in health food stores or online.
- 1 cup of pre-made, unpasteurized kombucha (homemade or store-bought)
- To disinfect your glass jar or bowl, very carefully fill it with boiling water. Let the water sit in the jar for 5 minutes and then carefully pour it out. Rinse the jar and any other equipment (mixing spoon, measuring cup, etc.) with the distilled white vinegar. Any time you’re handling a SCOBY, it’s important to sanitize your hands and tools. Regular dish soap and unsanitized hands may damage the SCOBY or contaminate the kombucha.
- Bring the 8 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Once boiling, remove from heat and add your tea bags and sugar or honey, stirring until the sweetener is completely dissolved.
- Allow the pot to sit and steep for 15 minutes, then remove tea bags.
- Let the mixture cool to room temperature; about one hour. Once cooled, add your tea mixture to your jar or bowl and drop add your SCOBY disk and 1 cup of pre-made kombucha.
- Cover your jar or bowl with your cloth or filter and secure using the elastic band. You want the cloth to cover the opening of the jar or bowl and stay in place, but be thin enough to allow air to pass through.
- Allow the kombucha to sit approximately 7-10 days. Less time produces a weaker, less sour taste, while more time allows the kombucha to ferment further and develop more beneficial components along with a stronger taste.
- Refrigerate and store your kombucha in clear glass bottles with tight fitting lids.
There are very few negative side effects of ingesting kombucha. A small percentage of people experience bloating, nausea, infections or allergic reactions when drinking kombucha. If you are concerned about how kombucha may affect you, start by drinking a small amount and gradually work your way up to see if you have any negative reactions to it.
Kombucha has many benefits to gut, brain and overall health. Drinking kombucha may help you, on your journey to a healthier lifestyle, but it is only one of many wellness choices. Talk to your clinician about other options.