Kombucha: What It Is and Its Health Benefits … and Health Drawbacks

Posted August 28, 2008. There have been 10 comments

Confused about kombucha? Here’s what you need to know before you reach for another bottle of kombucha.

With benefits like improved digestion, better skin, stronger immunity and anti-aging effects, it’s no wonder everyone is finding out about probiotic-rich fermented foods and drinks.

At Body Ecology, fermented foods and drinks are a cornerstone of healing your body and restoring your immunity.

We are excited about the attention probiotics are getting by everyone from doctors to food manufacturers and consumers. With all the products now flooding the market, it’s important to be aware of the quality of probiotics you are consuming in YOUR fermented foods and drinks.

In this article, we’ll answer the question most often asked by our readers...“Is kombucha really good for me?”

All About Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented tea that has become popular in health food stores and tastes a bit like sparkling apple cider. Consumed for thousands of years, there is a great deal of mystery surrounding kombucha and its health benefits.

Kombucha is fermented from sugar, tea (usually green or black tea) and a live starter.

While some refer to the kombucha starter as a “mushroom,” it is NOT a mushroom, but a symbiotic combination of bacteria and yeast (the acronym used for this combination is SCOBY).

In addition to beneficial bacteria and yeast, kombucha contains gluconic acid, a small amount of alcohol and vinegar. 1 Depending upon how the kombucha is made, it may also contain B vitamins.

People who drink kombucha report benefits like enhanced wellbeing, increased energy and even weight loss. Research has shown that kombucha may have anti-microbial effects against harmful bacteria like E. coli, a range of vitamins and minerals, and possibly anti-fungal properties as well.2,3

Still, there are some reasons that kombucha may not be the ideal probiotic drink, especially if you struggle with candida.

Is Kombucha Good for Me?

Kombucha tea is made from wild, airborne yeast and bacteria that facilitate its fermentation process.

The starter bacteria and yeasts give kombucha its probiotic power, but they are also highly unregulated, not always native to the human intestines, and can change from batch to batch.

Because kombucha is not regulated, there have been some complications reported due to contaminated starters. For example, one widely shared batch led to cutaneous anthrax. Still other batches may have a fungus called aspergillus, which is particularly dangerous for those people who already have compromised immunity.3

While food manufacturers may be able to more easily control the fermentation process, it is much more unpredictable for making kombucha yourself at home.

Here at Body Ecology, we believe that the main reason to be cautious about your consumption of kombucha is because of its “wild fermentation.”

Isn’t All Fermentation The Same?

Just like many wines and beer, the fermentation process of kombucha is considered wild fermentation.

Wild fermentation is when the starter contains airborne yeast, which is considered “wild.”

Airborne yeast can be unpredictable to work with, is not native to the human digestive tract and may cause allergic reactions in people with fungal infections (candida).

Nevertheless, there are some benefits to kombucha because of the beneficial microflora, which is why we recommend that you wait until stage 2 of the Body Ecology program before introducing it into your diet.

In general, we recommend that you avoid any foods that are made using wild, airborne yeast, especially in the initial healing stages of the Body Ecology program.

The following foods and drinks use wild fermentation:

  • Kombucha tea
  • Kombucha drinks
  • Bread
  • Distilled spirits
  • Rejuvelac
  • Wine
  • Some beers

So what type of fermentation is beneficial for your health, even on the beginning stages of Body Ecology?

After years of studying the various benefits of healthy bacteria and yeast, our research found that there are certain types of probiotics AND fermentation procedures that create more consistent results, while providing the most health benefits.

Our research led us to recognize 3 key tenets for the best probiotic-rich fermented foods and drinks:

  1. Starters contain beneficial bacteria and yeast (probiotics) that are able to survive harsh stomach acids to reach the walls of your intestines and recolonize it more effectively.
  2. Probiotics that are natural to the human GI tract help re-colonize the “good guys” that boost your immunity and your energy.
  3. Probiotics that are compatible with each other create the greatest synergistic health benefits.

What you want to look for are potent microflora not necessarily large amounts in the billions. This is important to know since there are many probiotic drinks and supplements on the market today that dazzle you with large numbers of colony-forming units (CFUs).
In other words…there may be a lot of them but how effective are they?

At Body Ecology, we teach you to make your own potent batches of fermented foods and drinks at home, like cultured vegetables and Young Coconut Kefir. Our line of Body Ecology Starters meet the 3 key tenets of the best probiotics for your health.

However, we also recognize that the reason most people reach for kombucha is the convenience of picking up a ready-made bottle without any hassle. For this reason, Body Ecology has created a line of delicious, convenient ready-made probiotic liquids that can be delivered right to your door.

Want the benefits of probiotics, without the potential sensitivities from drinking kombucha? Choose these delicious ready-made probiotic liquids that satisfy the 3 key tenets for your health. Keep everything else in the picture the same.

Kombucha Ingredients

Besides the wild fermentation, these factors make kombucha products less than ideal for stage 1 of the Body Ecology diet:

  • Even after fermentation, kombucha tea still retains too much sugar for the healing purposes of the Body Ecology diet.
  • The alcohol content of kombucha tea is somewhat higher than what is produced as a by-product in Young Coconut Kefir and other Body Ecology probiotic liquids.

If you wait until your digestive tract is healed and you are feeling better, you may find that you tolerate kombucha tea and can experience the health benefits.

Drink to Your Health

Fermented foods and drinks provide so many benefits from improved digestion, energy and immunity to more youthful skin and hair. And thankfully, more probiotic-rich products are entering the market to create more options.

As you reach for your probiotic liquids, choose products that meet the 3 tenets for the best probiotic punch for your money and your immunity.

Experiencing the benefits of probiotic-rich fermented foods and drinks are a great way to drink to your health!

Sources:

  1. Mark Analysis of the Kombucha Ferment, HappyHerbalist.com.
    http://www.happyherbalist.com/analysis_of_kombucha.htm
  2. Sreeramulu, G, “Kombucha fermentation and microbial activity,” J Agric Food Chem. 2000 Jun.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10888589
  3. Analysis of the Kombucha Ferment, HappyHerbalist.com.
  4. Zeratsky, Katherine, “Kombucha tea: What are the health benefits?” MayoClinic.com.
    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/kombucha-tea/AN01658

Post Categories: Coconut Water Kefir Digestion Fermented Foods

10 Comments

  • I only recently was introduced to Kombucha. I am too afraid to make it myself, so I buy it. The brand I use is GT's Enlightened Organic Raw Kombucha. I like the Gingerade flavor and I like this particular one because the sugar content is fairly low at only 2 grams per 8 oz. serving. As far a weight loss, I have not experience that yet. Although I would like to lose 10 pounds, I don't consider myself "overweight" at 135 and 5' 3". I try to follow a Paleo/grain free/gluten free diet most of the time and exercise regularly. I have found that I rarely get sick and I attribute that to Kombucha and my diet.

    Any advice on the Kombucha brand I am drinking would be helpful. Seems like there is a lot of information out there! I am told to only drink ounces per day.

    Thanks!

    Posted on Jul 15 at 1:00 pm

  • Ive really started enjoying K since finding a couple of brands /flavors that actually taste really good. My first experience wasnt so pleasant. I mean it was OK , but very much like a vinegar cleanse or something. It might have been good for me, It just wasnt so enjoyable. Cant wait to try my first batch.

    Posted on Feb 9 at 12:14 am

  • I use to make my own mushroom tea, it was great. I made it for eight years. I ve been a runner for years. And I believe that my tea encreased my endurance and has assisted in weight lose along with other benifits. It was alway exciting to see how a second mushroom would develop after the fermentation process was completed. I also use to give my second developed mushroom away. I just purchased my first Yogi Green Tea Kombucha Tea bags. It was delicious. It been over ten years since I made and drank Manchurian Tea. When making it yourself, you definitely have to be careful. Good luck, and God Bless

    Posted on Feb 5 at 6:19 pm

  • Gypsygreensoul, hey thank you for having a heart to share. You are my kind of person. You are also absolutely right about people being disrespectful, greedy, dishonest and no ethics. It's all about me me me. Like we owe them something. I used to make kombucha! also! but killed my scoby :-(. And, NO, I am not trying to be cunning to get one. I used to give mine away, too. I love to share. So, Gypsygreensoul, you go girl;-)!

    Posted on Jan 23 at 2:06 pm

  • There is a difference in the scobys. At first I tried making it, and just didn't feel much from it. Then I got a scoby from another friend, and it makes the best Kombucha!/ I LOVE the double-fermentation method. You ferment it, then strain and bottle it so it self-carbonates. Flavor it at that step. I have brown glass beer bottles closed with corks in my refrigerator, with sparkling fizzy, delicious K. anytime I need to grab one./ The best K is not sweet! I use half the sugar most recipes call for. /When the kitchen is too warm, the fermentation speeds up, and can quickly turn to vinegar. You get what you most need, so dilute it with something and drink it too! / K does heal many ills, in a mysterious way.. Your skin will be beautiful. / I believe K is more than the sum of its parts -- more effect than just the probiotics in it. "K. Kvass" brand was started by someone who was healed of severe epilepsy by drinking a quart a day. I met him. / I know for myself, it's powerful.

    Posted on Nov 7 at 9:34 pm

  • I make flavored kombucha tea with flavored teas like mint, blueberry, mixed berry etc. I usually use 2 green teas and a flavored tea. Is this a problem or does it hamper the probiotic growth.

    Posted on Sep 8 at 5:45 pm

  • I remember my mom making her own kombucha in the mid 90s and (as a kid) not finding the taste to be too pleasing. But she's the healthiest person I know and she was really onto something, I now drink it as often as possible and it really can work wonders.

    Posted on Mar 10 at 8:51 am

  • My fiance likes the tea,she bought it just to see the digestive benifits,it does help with that plus more energy,plus 1 huge benifit,great weight loss tool,she has lost 60 lbs. Over 4-5 months,she fully believes the kombucha is the thing that did the weightloss,I believe so also,she tried to make a scoby bbut it failed by contamination,she's going to purchase a starter scobe & try again since she drinks 3 a day sometimes,the drinks are expensive.Thankyou Keith.

    Posted on Oct 14 at 8:34 am

  • I have been drinking Kombucha mushroom tea for years now. As a matter of fact I owned my own Herb shop and used to brew it in there..free to the public of course and I did show folks how to make it in their own homes and was more than happy to give them a mother culture to get started. I have lost a lot of weight from drinking my tea and one thing that really stands out is that being in my 60's I have very few gray hairs..folks still ask me what I do to my long beautiful hair. The answer is nothing..but I do live organically and grow my own veggies and steer completely away from harmful foods. Kombucha is in my diet three times a day and I think it is horrible how these so called "naturalist" are raping folks for their money over something so cheap and something that should be shared not sold. I help folks on a everyday basis and I suppose I would be a millionaire today if I would have charged folks.Mother nature gave us these herbs to live on to keep us well and healthy not to take advantage of people. The world sure has changed since people stopped having respect..ethics and morals..such a shame..now I know you will delete me from here because it would be horrible for the public to know the truth...peace lov and joy to you all...the tea rocks!

    Posted on Jun 23 at 2:04 pm

  • Hi! Thanks for the info on kombucha. It is all the crazy up here in the mountains of Colorado. I was given the body ecology book in 2007 from my step mother after being very sick with travelers diarrhea. I've wanted to go on the diet for awhile, but just had my second child and am still breast feeding. Is this something you can do while breast feeding? Anyway, I think this type of diet is in my future... I just need to do it at the right time. Thanks!

    Posted on Jul 24 at 2:59 pm

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