Many elixirs claim to be a “cure-all,” but only a few have as much science to back them up as kombucha. This fermented tea has been around for centuries and is traditionally made by fermenting sweet tea with a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. The history of kombucha is a bit of a mystery. It’s believed to have originated in China, possibly as early as the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC). The first recorded mention of kombucha was in 221 BC during the Tsin Dynasty. It was known as “The Tea of Immortality” and was said to be reserved for the Emperor and his family. Fast forward to a couple of thousand years, and kombucha has become a popular health drink around the world. So, what exactly is this so-called “Tea of Immortality”? Let’s take a closer look at kombucha for gut health.
How Is Kombucha Made?
Kombucha is made by fermenting sweetened black or green tea with a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast, also known as a SCOBY. The SCOBY feeds on the sugar in the sweetened tea. As it does, it produces beneficial probiotic bacteria and yeast, as well as other compounds like acetic acid and glucuronic acid (4).
The fermentation process can take anywhere from 7 to 30 days, depending on the temperature and type of sweetener used. Once the kombucha is finished fermenting, it will have a slightly sour taste and a mild effervescence.
Health Benefits Of Kombucha
The probiotic bacteria and yeast in kombucha are thought to offer several health benefits.
Here are 8 science-backed benefits that drinking kombucha may offer:
1. May Boost Gut Health
One of the most widely-touted benefits of kombucha is its potential ability to improve gut health. Probiotic bacteria are crucial for a healthy gut and kombucha is a great source of these beneficial bugs (1).
Although more research needs to be done, some believe that this probiotic-rich drink can prevent and alleviate symptoms of the following gut-related conditions:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): IBS is a digestive disorder that may sometimes be caused by an imbalance of gut bacteria. Probiotic foods, like kombucha, are thought to help restore balance and may reduce IBS symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): IBD is a group of chronic inflammatory disorders that affect the digestive system. The two most common types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Probiotic-rich foods, like kombucha, may help reduce the inflammation associated with IBD.
- Leaky Gut: Leaky gut, also known as increased intestinal permeability, is a condition in which the lining of the gut becomes damaged, allowing larger molecules than would normally be absorbed to “leak” through. This can lead to inflammation and a host of other health problems. Some claim that kombucha may help prevent or heal a leaky gut by restoring the balance of gut bacteria and boosting the health of intestinal cells.
If you have any of these conditions or other GI issues, talk to your doctor first about whether kombucha is appropriate for you.
2. Helps With Weight Loss
If you’re looking to shed a few pounds, kombucha may be able to help. This probiotic-rich drink is thought to help promote weight loss in several ways due to its green or black tea content (3). It may:
- Boost metabolism: Kombucha contains caffeine and green or black tea catechins, both of which are believed to increase metabolism.
- Reduce appetite: The acetic acid in kombucha may help suppress appetite and promote feelings of fullness.
- Promote fat loss: Green tea catechins, like those found in some types of kombucha, have been shown to mildly increase fat burning and promote weight loss.
However, don’t rely on kombucha alone to lose weight. You’ll still have to eat a healthy balanced diet, exercise, get enough sleep and manage your stress if you want to be successful.
3. Improves Heart Health
Kombucha may help improve heart health by:
- Lowering cholesterol: Animal studies suggest that kombucha may help improve cholesterol levels (3).
- Reducing blood pressure: Advocates claim that the probiotics and acetic acid in kombucha may help reduce high blood pressure (3).
- Improving blood sugar control: Animal studies also suggest that kombucha may help improve blood sugar control by increasing insulin sensitivity (1).
4. Boosts Energy Levels
5. Enhances Brain Function
Kombucha may help enhance brain function due to its green tea catechins and B-vitamin. Green tea catechins may help improve memory and cognitive function, while B-vitamin is essential for a healthy nervous system (3).
6. Boosts Immunity
Your gut is home to 70% of your immune system, so it makes sense that keeping your gut healthy is key to a strong immune system. Kombucha is also rich in antioxidants and vitamins that can help keep your immune system strong (1).
Acetic acid, a byproduct of kombucha fermentation, can also kill some harmful bacteria and yeasts (3).
Additionally, kombucha contains probiotics, which are live bacteria that are thought to help keep your gut healthy. Beneficial bacteria may improve the function of the immune system by helping regulate inflammation in the gut (3).
7. Helps Manage Diabetes
Kombucha may also be beneficial for people with diabetes. For one, kombucha is thought to help regulate blood sugar levels. This might be because kombucha contains acetic acid, which may improve insulin sensitivity (1).
Additionally, the green tea catechins in kombucha might help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. These catechins have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and decrease blood sugar levels.
A study in diabetic rats found that kombucha was able to slow down the digestion of carbohydrates, which helped keep blood sugar levels stable (2).
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8. Protects Against Cancer
The abnormal growth of cells characterizes cancer, and kombucha may help protect against cancer by:
- Inhibiting the growth of cancer cells: Acetic acid, green tea catechins, and glucaric acid in kombucha have all been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in test tube studies (3).
- Inducing cell death in cancer cells: Kombucha’s green tea catechins and gluconic acid have also been seen to induce cell death in cancer cells in a test tube (3).
- Reducing inflammation: Kombucha’s probiotic content may help reduce inflammation, which has been linked to the development of some cancers (1).
It’s thought that the tea polyphenols and fermentation byproducts in kombucha work together to produce these possible cancer-fighting effects. However, human studies are needed to confirm these potential benefits.
How To Drink Kombucha For Gut Health?
While kombucha offers many gut health benefits, it’s not a magical cure-all.
To experience the potential gut health benefits of kombucha, it’s essential to:
Consider The Risk Of Contamination
The process of making kombucha involves fermentation, which can lead to the growth of harmful bacteria and yeasts. If kombucha is not made or stored properly, it can become contaminated with these microorganisms (1).
Symptoms of kombucha contamination include nausea, vomiting, headache, and dizziness. In severe cases, kombucha contamination can lead to death.
It’s important to purchase kombucha from a reputable source and to make sure it’s been brewed and stored properly. If you’re unsure about the safety of a kombucha product, it’s best to err on the side of caution and not drink it.
Making your own kombucha at home is an option, but not the safest. Over-fermentation can lead to high levels of alcohol, which can be dangerous. If you choose to make your own kombucha, be sure to monitor the fermentation process carefully.
If you’ve never had kombucha before, it’s best to start slowly and increase your intake gradually. This will give your gut time to adjust to the new food.
It’s also important to pay attention to how your body responds to kombucha. If you experience any negative side effects, such as nausea or vomiting, stop drinking it and see a doctor.
Choose Your Kombucha Carefully
Not all kombuchas are created equal. Some brands add sugar or other sweeteners to their products, which can offset the health benefits of kombucha.
When choosing a kombucha, be sure to read the label carefully. Look for brands that use high quality ingredients and that don’t add sugar or other sweeteners.
Additionally, it’s important to choose a kombucha with live cultures. These are the beneficial bacteria and yeasts that offer possible health benefits.
You can find live cultures in some brands of kombucha, or you can purchase them separately and add them to your kombucha.
Take Extra Steps For Better Gut Health
In addition to drinking kombucha, there are other things you can do to promote gut health, such as:
- Eating a healthy diet: A diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is good for gut health. Limit ultra processed foods, which are usually low in fiber and other nutrients.
- Exercising: Exercise helps promote a healthy gut by reducing inflammation and promoting motility which can prevent constipation.
- Reducing stress: Stress can affect the gut microbiota and lead to inflammation. Practicing meditation, yoga, and deep breathing are all good ways to reduce stress.
- Getting enough sleep: Sleep is important for gut health. It helps restore the gut microbiota and reduces inflammation.
- Taking probiotics: Probiotics are live microorganisms that are thought to help maintain a healthy gut microbiota. They’re available in supplement form or fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi.
- Quitting smoking: Smoking is damaging to gut health. It increases inflammation and can lead to the death of gut microbiota. If you smoke, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your health in general.
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How Often Should You Consume Probiotics/Kombucha For Gut Health?
The frequency with which you should consume kombucha or other probiotics for gut health will depend on your goals.
If you’re trying to improve your overall health, it’s generally recommended that you consume probiotics daily. This can be in the form of supplements, fermented foods, or drinks like kombucha.
If you’re trying to treat a specific gut disorder, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), the recommended dosage will vary. It’s best to speak with a doctor or dietitian to determine the best course of action. Likewise, if you have any medical conditions, are pregnant, or are taking any medications, speak to your doctor first.
In general, it’s safe to consume kombucha or other probiotics regularly. However, some people may experience side effects, such as gas or bloating. If you experience any negative side effects, it’s best to consult with a doctor before continuing to consume probiotics.
The Bottom Line
Kombucha is a fermented tea that has been consumed for centuries. This bubbly beverage is rich in probiotics, vitamins, and antioxidants that may offer a variety of health benefits. Kombucha is thought to boost weight loss, improve heart health, and enhance brain function.
Additionally, kombucha may help boost immunity, and manage diabetes. So, if you’re looking for a healthy way to quench your thirst, reach for a bottle of kombucha.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- What Are Kombucha’s Health Benefits (and How Much Can You Safely Drink)? (2018, clevelandclinic.org)
- Hypoglycemic and antilipidemic properties of kombucha tea in alloxan-induced diabetic rats (2012, nih.gov)
- Kombucha: a systematic review of the empirical evidence of human health benefit (2019, nih.gov)
- Kombucha: Formulation, chemical composition, and therapeutic potentialities. (2022, nih.gov)