Kombucha… WTH IS IT?

By Christina Lynne

One thing you’ll learn about me is that I’m extremely impulsive, and become obsessive with “designer” drinks. I’ve worked for Red Bull, vitaminwater, Vital Energy, Shark Energy Drink, Garden of Flavor, INVO Coconut water – and those are just the beverage brands I’ve represented.

In the past few years, I’ve become a sucker for any new bottled beverages, especially in the organic section, and bonus points if they’re supposed to benefit my health in some way. I am currently deep in a probiotic beverage obsession, and of course couldn’t ignore the several Kombucha’s out there.

I started getting into the kombuchas, and even found one that tastes like Root Beer! Before I go and buy a case of it, I thought I’d do some research.

Straight away, I go to the wikipedia page, which describes Kombucha as:

Kombucha is a variety of fermented, lightly effervescent sweetened black or green tea drinks that are commonly intended as functional beverages for their supposed health benefits. Kombucha is produced by fermenting tea using a “symbiotic ‘colony’ of bacteria and yeast” (SCOBY). Actual contributing microbial populations in SCOBY cultures vary, but the yeast component generally includes Saccharomyces(a probiotic fungus) and other species, and the bacterial component almost always includes Gluconacetobacter xylinus to oxidize yeast-produced alcohols to acetic and other acids.

What bothered me, was the word “supposed” in referring to health benefits. So I read further…

Kombucha has been claimed to have various health benefits, but there is little evidence to support such claims.[2][3] There are several documented cases of serious adverse effects, including fatalities, related to kombucha drinking, possibly arising from contamination during home preparation.[3][4] Since the mostly unclear benefits of kombucha drinking do not outweigh the known risks, it is not recommended for therapeutic use.[2]

….oh man. Well that sucks. Especially when you’re buying bottles at $3-$6 a bottle or $30+ a case! But how could something not verified to be good for you be ALL over the place?  How come things like this are out there too….

7 Kombucha Health Benefits

In research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food 2014, researchers from the University of Latvia say the following about the health benefits of 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.

We agree! In fact, according to research there are five main health benefits of kombucha.

1. Detoxification

The detoxifying capacity of kombucha is immense. A perfect example is in its ability to counteract liver cell toxicity.

In one study, the liver cells were protected from oxidative injury and actually maintained their normal physiology, in spite of being exposed to a toxin! According to researchers, this was “probably due to its antioxidant activity and could be beneficial against liver diseases, where oxidative stress is known to play a crucial role.”

2. Digestion

Naturally, the antioxidant prowess of this ancient tea counteracts free radicals that create mayhem in the digestive system. However, the greatest reason kombucha supports digestion is because of its high levels of beneficial acid, probiotics and enzymes.

Some research has shown kombucha’s ability to prevent and heal leaky gut andstomach ulcers. No surprise to us, in some instances it’s even proven to be as effective as drugs like Prilosec, which are commonly prescribed for heartburn, GERD and ulcers.

Kombucha can also help heal candida yeast from overpopulating within the gut because it helps restore balance to the digestive system. Kombucha is a great way to fight candida because it contains live probiotic cultures that help the gut to repopulate with good bacteria while crowding out the candida yeast. Kombucha does have bacteria, but these are not harmful pathogen bacteria, instead they are the beneficial kind (called “apathogens”) that compete with “bad” pathogen bacteria in the gut and digestive tract.

One thing to mention here is that candida or other digestive problems can sometimes be complicated issues to fix and symptoms might actually get worse before getting better. This doesn’t mean that kombucha isn’t effective or is exacerbating the problem, just that gut problems aren’t always a straight path to healing and at times some patience or trial and error is needed.

3. Energy

Kombucha’s ability to invigorate people is credited to the formation of iron that is released from the black tea during the fermentation process. It also contains some caffeine (although in very small amounts) and b-vitamins, which can energize the body.

Through a special process known as chelation, the iron released helps boost blood hemoglobin, improving oxygen supply to tissues and stimulating the energy-producing process at the cellular level. In other words, by helping the body create more energy (ATP), the ancient tea can help those who regularly drink it stay energized.

4. Immune Health

The overall effect that kombucha has to modulate the immune system is best seen in its ability to control free radicals through antioxidant measures.

Clinically proven to decrease oxidative stress and related immuno-suppression, a powerful antioxidant known as D-saccharic acid-1, 4-lactone (DSL) was discovered during the kombucha fermentation process that’s not found in black tea alone.

Scientists suspect that DSL and the vitamin C present in kombucha are its main secrets in protecting against cell damage, inflammatory diseases, tumors and overall depression of the immune system. Also, we know the probiotics found in kombucha support the immune system.

5. Joint Care

Kombucha can help heal, repair and prevent joint damage in a number of ways. Kombucha is loaded with glucosamines, which increase synovial hyaluronic acid production. This supports the preservation of collagen and prevents arthritic pain. In the same way it supports joint collagen, it also supports collagen of the entire body and reduces the appearance of wrinkles on the skin.

6. Cancer Prevention

Kombucha is also beneficial for cancer prevention and recovery. A study published in Cancer Letters found that consuming glucaric acid found in kombucha reduced the risk of cancer in humans.

President Reagan even reportedly drank kombucha daily as part of his regimen to battle stomach cancer.

7. Weight Loss

Data from a study in 2005 showed evidence that kombucha improves metabolism and limits fat accumulation. Though we need to see more studies before we can confirm these results, it makes sense that kombucha supports weight loss since it’s high in acetic acid (just like apple cider vinegar is) and polyphenols, which are proven to help increaseweight loss.

In the end I have no idea what to think. This is a prime example of why you should do your research on anything you put into your body. The inconsistencies in the the second excerpt also sends up a red flag to me… (saying there are 5 main health benefits, but then lists 7..??)

The conclusion I take from this is that there isn’t any MASSIVE health benefit from Kombucha, but it also isn’t the worst thing for you. Perhaps we file this under the “in moderation” category of consumption, and not the “christina’s obsessive” consumption style.

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