Kombucha is all the rage these days on health blogs, much like juicing and the raw foods diet were a couple of years ago. So what’s the big deal about kombucha, and what the heck is it anyway?
I’m glad you asked!
Kombucha is a fermented beverage typically made from tea, water, and sugar. As the sugar ferments, yeasts and probiotics are formed, which can have a very beneficial effect on your health. Kombucha is supposed to be very easy to make from home (I haven’t tried it yet, myself, but would like to), and drinking it supposedly has all kinds of great health benefits. Although the kombucha craze is fairly new here in the U.S., this fermented drink has actually been around for thousands of years in Eastern countries like Asia.
Of course, there aren’t a lot of studies to verify the touted health benefits (there rarely are when it comes to food, as there isn’t a lot of big money to be made from things you can easily prepare at home yourself!), but there is some research that looks promising.
For example, in a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food 2014, researchers from the University of Latvia said this about kombucha:
“It is shown that [kombucha] can efficiently act in health preservation and recovery due to four main properties: detoxification, anti-oxidation, energizing potencies, and promotion of boosting immunity.”
Sounds good to me!
Here are a few more benefits from an article by nutritionist Mike Geary, author of The Fat Burning Kitchen and 101 Foods that Fight Aging:
Detoxification–Kombucha is known for its detoxing capabilities, especially in the liver. One study reported that kombucha could actually decrease levels of toxins known to cause liver damage. Another study of kombucha on animals showed similarly decreased levels of certain toxins that are known to cause liver damage. And one other study evaluated toxicity, anti-stress capability, and liver-protective properties on rats with very favorable results.
Kombucha can overcome ‘Bad’ bacteria and yeasts—Since kombucha contains acetic acid, similar to vinegar, it appears to have strong anti-fungal and antibacterial properties, particularly against infection-causing bacteria, and harmful yeasts, like Candida….
Increase Energy–Kombucha has the ability to invigorate and energize people…It is thought that this energizing effect is from the formation of iron and B vitamins that are created from the black tea during fermentation. The iron from the tea helps to boost hemoglobin in the blood, which improves oxygen in the body’s tissues….
Digestion–Kombucha’s high levels of acid, probiotics and live enzymes aid in digestion and are especially helpful if you have any type of digestive disorder like leaky gut, irritable bowel disease, celiac disease, food allergies, and imbalances due to things like a poor diet or previous antibiotics. Kombucha is also naturally high in live enzymes that help the digestive process. Kombucha helps to repopulate the digestive system with beneficial bacteria and yeasts protecting it from the more harmful types that may exist in the gut….
Immune Boosting—Because kombucha is naturally high in antioxidants and probiotics, it helps to support and strengthen the immune system. Scientific studies show probiotics’ power in fortifying the immune function, and since a large portion of immune function is a result of gut health, it only makes sense to be sure to keep the digestive tract supplemented with a wide variety of beneficial bacteria….
Cancer Prevention—Much has been written and studied about cancer prevention and kombucha. A study published in Cancer Letters found that consuming glucaric acid found in kombucha reduced the risk of cancer in humans, as well as the antioxidant, DSL. In test-tube studies, kombucha helped prevent the growth and spread of cancerous cells, due to its high concentration of tea polyphenols and antioxidants. Scientists theorize that the DSL and the vitamin C often found in kombucha are its primary oxidation weapons, protecting against inflammation, tumors, and overall depression of the immune system. As you may know, immune function is one of the body’s main protection systems against most cancers.
Weight Loss—Evidence shows that kombucha can improve and speed up metabolism… Since kombucha is high in acetic acid (similar to apple cider vinegar), probiotics, and polyphenols, it can help with weight loss through various mechanisms, including through improved digestion and nutrient absorption. Some research also shows that acetic acid can help with weight loss by lowering blood sugar, decreasing insulin levels (which favors fat burning—instead of fat storing), and helps to suppress appetite.
Important to note however: sugar content in kombucha can vary widely, so be sure to check label for lowest sugar content. Home brewed versions have less sugar the longer time they ferment, and more acetic acid, making them ideal for weight loss and other health benefits….
Mood boosting—Kombucha has been known as a mood booster, helping to alleviate both anxiety and depression. Although the exact mechanism of this is not known, it is most likely due to a combination of the antioxidants in the tea, the polyphenols (green tea is known to be high in these as well), and the beneficial bacteria.
Medical research is discovering a direct link between gut health and mental health—primarily anxiety and depression. When healthy bacteria, in the form of fermented foods, are introduced into the digestive system on a regular basis, they help to restore the delicate balance of the gut microbiome. Serotonin is a natural brain chemical that controls and stabilizes your mood and functions in your brain. Since your gut produces about 95% of your serotonin, keeping your gut healthy and ‘well fed’ with beneficial bacteria and yeasts should help boost your moods.
And be sure to check back on Friday, when I’ll share a recipe for how to make your own kombucha at home!