Perhaps you have noticed a variety of kombucha teas at your local grocery stores. But, have you dared to try the fizzy drink like I have? Here is one reason to give it a try if you haven’t already. Kombucha teas help you have a healthy gut! Kombucha teas contain live and active cultures of microorganisms that when administered in adequate amounts, might confer a health benefit. That may sound gross and technical, but I encourage you to keep an open mind, because let’s be real, your gut needs love too! I honestly believe that when your gut is healthy, you are healthy. We have to eliminate waste, it’s not only natural, it’s necessary! Let’s discuss the lack of scientific evidence for fermented food products that contain microorganisms, which is the reason why some people are skeptical of kombucha teas. I’ll also discuss the known benefits of probiotics and the potential health benefits from drinking kombucha teas. So, what is kombucha?
Kombucha is a fizzy tea, made with black or green tea, sugar, bacteria, and yeast. The mixture is fermented for a few weeks, resulting in a tea fungus or jelly-like pancake culture of bacteria and yeast called a SCOBY — a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast – floating on the top of the tea. Most commercial businesses call the tea fungus a SCOBY or mushroom, but scientist call it like it is, a tea fungus. The kombucha teas sold commercially have tiny microorganisms floating at the bottom of the tea, which are good for your gut. In addition, a small amount of alcohol is produced during the fermentation process. Please be mindful, if you are sensitive to alcohol. And no, you will not get a buzz from drinking kombucha! The thriving colony of microorganisms are similar to probiotics, which have known digestion health benefits.
How do probiotics promote wellness in our bodies? Probiotics rebalance the normal microflora (including bacteria and yeast) in our large intestine or colon. Studies show that probiotics reduce diarrhea, especially infectious diarrhea (e.g. the stomach flu) and diarrhea associated with antibiotic use. Additionally, studies show improved health related to gut transit (i.e. improved stool consistency and frequency of bowel movements in people with constipation), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), abdominal pain and bloating. Please note that these studies did not analyze kombucha specifically. Overall, probiotics are scientifically proven to improve digestive health.
What are the side effects of probiotics? The short-term side effects include mild gas and bloating. Probiotics are considered safe for healthy people. Please consult your doctor before you start taking probiotics in pill or food form. If you are immune-compromised, have bowel problems, or not overall healthy, please be mindful of the physiological effects probiotics have, such as potentially overstimulating the immune system or adversely affecting metabolic pathways.
The health benefits related to kombucha tea are not as straightforward due to limited scientific studies. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO), studies have shown that fermented dairy products (e.g. yogurt) have been associated with a reduced risk for type 2 diabetes or improved glucose (sugar) homeostasis (your body’s equilibrium or stable condition); less weight gain over time; and reduced risk of overall mortality. Additionally, a study that observed people who ate yogurt showed a reduced level of triglycerides (fat) and glucose (sugar), and a reduced systolic blood pressure (pressure in your arteries) and insulin resistance, compared with people who did not eat yogurt. Due to these studies, FAO/WHO believe that eating foods containing live microbes might be a beneficial dietary recommendation. However, fermented foods containing live microbes such as fermented dairy products and beverages fall short of meeting the criteria needed to be considered a probiotic by the scientific and medical communities. Therefore, it is difficult to clearly distinguish the contribution of live microbes in food studies, and thus, the known health benefits of probiotics do not currently apply to fermented foods containing live microbes.
The bottom line is that there is not a lot of research about the health benefits of kombucha and other fermented foods containing microorganisms. So why did I try this bizarre tea? Because it is plausible that one day the scientific community may recommend probiotics to treat and prevent many disorders. For now, there is no solid evidence that the rebalancing of normal microflora supports good digestive health or improves overall health and wellness.
The lack of scientific studies is not deterring me from drinking kombucha because, it continues to help me keep my colon moving, which is a known benefit of probiotics. It is difficult to know if this result is because of my other healthy health behaviors such as eating a well-balanced diet, drinking a lot of water, and exercising regularly. But, I noticed that I feel more balanced after drinking 8oz of kombucha. Additionally, when I am bloated or ill from eating food that I normally do not eat, such as meat, and I drink kombucha tea, then within 12 hours or less, I feel healthier again. Additionally, last year I acquired a stomach virus from my roommate who does not drink kombucha and eats a fairly healthy diet, I experienced less severe symptoms for half the time that she did. I’m not sure if it was the kombucha, but it is likely that my body was fighting off the virus on its own due to the combination of my healthy health behaviors which include regularly drinking kombucha.
Kombucha is not a substitute for me to be healthier, instead I use it as a supplement to my health and wellness routine. I believe that food and dietary supplements heal our bodies. I have experienced the health benefits of eating healthier, I feel lighter and more energized since I decreased the amount of meat I eat. I generally drink kombucha twice a week or once a week depending on how I feel. As with anything else, moderation is key, please note that you can experience unhealthy side effects if you drink too much kombucha. Everybody is different, find the right balance for you. I recommend starting out with drinking 4-6oz and then moving up from there.
Let me know in the comments below if you decide to try kombucha tea or if you already love it just like me! 🙂
Disclaimer: I am not a licensed physician and this article does not replace a physician visit or consultation. You should always consult your physician before adjusting your diet, try probiotics or kombucha tea.