What Exactly is Kombucha?
Kombucha originated in China about 2,000 years ago. It is a mixture of black or green tea, sugar and specific strains of bacteria and yeast, which undergoes a week-long fermentation process. During fermentation, the bacteria and yeast convert the sugar into ethanol and acetic acid, which is what gives kombucha its distinct sour taste. Before distribution, some more sugar, and sometimes flavorings, like fruit are added.
It’s worth noting that kombucha contains low levels of alcohol, ranging from 0.5 percent to 3 percent.
6 Health Benefits of Kombucha
1. Contains Probiotics
One of the bacteria that grows in abundance while kombucha is fermented is lactic acid, which is known to have probiotic properties. At specific concentrations, probiotic bacteria can help balance the gut microbiome, and improve digestion. Many nutritionists believe drinking kombucha is beneficial due to the probiotics it contains, but they do note more focused research is needed on the drink itself.
2. Contains Antioxidants
These substances can reduce the formation of free radicals in your body and thus protect the cells and molecules from damage. When purchasing kombucha, make sure to check the label and see there is actual tea in the ingredients (if there is none, it is not real kombucha but a kombucha-like drink).
3. Boosts Metabolism
Kombucha isn’t a magical weight loss drink. But it can contribute to a slightly faster metabolism, again thanks to a compound of green tea called EGCG. A 2017 review published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry claims that catechins like EGCG have the potential to boost metabolic rates in adults.
4. Aids Constipation
Digestive system bacteria release essential enzymes that help us digest and break down the food we consume. When this population of bacteria is not balanced correctly, which is often the case with modern eating habits, one of the outcomes can be constipation.
As a potential source of probiotics, kombucha balances good bacteria in the gut and can ease digestive woes. Research done in King’s College London found probiotics slow gut-transit time by 12.4 hours, increase the number of weekly bowel movements by 1.3, and help soften stools – making them easier to pass. All of this was particularly true to bacteria called Bifidobacterium infantis commonly found in lactic acid – which is produced naturally in kombucha.
5. Strengthens Immune System
The digestive system and the immune system are closely intertwined. Around 70% of our immune system is located in the digestive tract in the form of gut-associated tissue, and plasma cells. The gut is the main channel between the external environment and internal systems of the body. It is the first organ to be exposed to and to recognize harmful agents in particles of food we consume.
Thus, optimal gut health is key to a strong immune system, and kombucha’ s positive effect on gut well-being, can indirectly strengthen the immune system.
6. Helps Managing Cholesterol
Opinions are split between experts who outright claim Kombucha can lower risk of heart disease and those who say this is too big of an assertion and that the actual effect of kombucha on cardiovascular health is miniscule. What we know for certain is that according to some scientific models, kombucha was shown to lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides while increasing good cholesterol (HDL).
Furthermore, green tea protects LDL particles from oxidation, a process that is linked to heart disease. Of course, it needs to come as a supplement to an overall healthy diet. Kombucha alone will not do the trick but it can sure help the process.
A Few Notes Before You Start Sipping
It is important not to exceed the recommended amount of kombucha per day, which is 4 ounces one to three times a day. That means you shouldn’t consume more than 12 ounces of kombucha a day. Also, if you’re new to kombucha and have a sensitive stomach, don’t drink the entire bottle at once. Ease your body into it. Drinking too much Kombucha can have unpleasant side effects like nausea, headache, and dizziness.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women, young children, and those who suffer certain chronic diseases (namely liver or kidney disease and HIV) should avoid kombucha altogether.
As with any other fermented products, it’s best to stick with reputable sources that maintain proper sanitation during production. Contaminated batches might have undesirable fungi and overproduction of yeast.