Kombucha has been called a cure-all (this isn’t true, more on this below) that detoxifies the body, aids in digestion, and reenergizes the mind. According to some, drinking kombucha every day will lower cholesterol, help you lose weight, reduce hot flashes, and improve your feeling of well-being. But is it true?
When I first heard these health benefits I was naturally skeptical. I come from a science background remain skeptical of any outlandish claim. So when my girlfriend brought home a bottle of kombucha I was hesitant to try it.
Fast forward a to now and I can’t go a day without having at least 4 ounces of kombucha in the morning. While I’m not entirely convinced of every claim made of kombucha, it’s hard to argue with how it makes me feel.
I’ve spent most of my adult life battling heartburn at night. After a few weeks of daily kombucha, I no longer take antacid pills at night.
I never become sick and no longer become bloated after big meals. My overall diet has become cleaner and I’m not prone to the 3 o’clock dip in energy. All from a single drink!
So, most of you are probably wondering: how can kombucha help me?
Here are a few ways that kombucha may help. Keep in mind that everyone experience kombucha differently so results will vary.
1. Aids In Digestion
Humans and bacteria have co-evolved over millions of years. Interestingly, our body houses approximately 4 pounds of bacteria on average. Research conducted over the past few decades has transformed the way in which we see bacteria. It’s thought to be so important that a new grassroots movement has popped up dedicated to studying the effects of gut bacteria on our health.
It’s known that the bacteria in the gut play a crucial role in breaking down and digesting our foods. This is why, when done right, fermentation of food helps with nutrient absorption, vitamin synthesis, breaking down proteins, and boosting immunity.
Luckily for us, kombucha is nothing but fermented tea. This dynamic health duo – fermentation and tea – packs a nutritional punch that improves digestion by cultivating the healthy bacteria that live in our digestive tract.
This rebalancing of the healthy gut bacteria is usually the biggest reason why so many people feel better after drinking kombucha.
2. Supports The Immune System
The balancing of the gut bacteria and probiotics found in kombucha can have a serious boost to your immune system.
“A huge proportion of your immune system is actually in your GI tract,” says Dan Peterson, assistant professor of pathology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
A rebalancing of healthy gut bacteria can have a chain reaction all throughout your body. The gut bacteria teaches your immune cells the difference between a foreign substance and the body’s own tissues. This is an extremely important process in teaching your body what is good and what needs to be attacked.
Well trained T-cells (the cells of your immune system) is the first step to a strong immune system.
3. Detoxes Your Body
Toxicants enter our bodies from the air, water, food, and other external sources. They are also produced as a natural by-product of several metabolic processes. This is particularly true for those with unhealthy diets. Unless you are living in a bubble, you are going to come in contact with some less-than-optimal chemicals.
In order for optimal functioning, these toxins need to be removed regularly. Over the last decade, this has resulted in the uprising of detox diets fads. Personally, I find detox sessions to do more harm than good. I much prefer the gentle detoxication of a daily glass of kombucha.
Gluconic acid and glucuronic acids (both found in kombucha) bond with toxins in the liver. They turn these toxins into water-soluble molecules that can be flushed from your system.
Other amino acids like benzoic acid and glutamic acid provide powerful antioxidants that help soak up any free radicals that can wreak havoc on your cells.
4. Provides A Nutritional Boosts
As mentioned above, Kombucha can help populate the gut with good bacteria. However, it is also full of vitamin-B-rich yeast, healthy acids, and natural enzymes. This cocktail of healthy compounds jumpstarts your digestion and provides a much-needed boost of nutrition.
With the added enzyme and acids the lining of the gut is rebuilt, the pH is rebalanced, and the harmful growth of Candida (the yeast responsible for yeast infections) is slowed. Kombucha is also packed full of the enzymes invertase and phytase which help break up longer sugar molecules into shorter chains.
While it’s nowhere near the full nutritional package, you are getting a lot of nutrition and digestive support with a single glass of kombucha.
5. Contains Low Amounts Of Alcohol
It turns out, low amounts of alcohol may actually be good for you!
“One of the most consistent findings in recent nutrition research is that moderate alcohol consumption can improve health and lead to a longer life,” – Eric Rimm, Sc.D., associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.
The key here is to keep the levels of alcohol to a minimum. The levels of alcohol in Kombucha are typically around 0.5%.
Much of the benefit of alcohol comes from its ability to lower good (HDL) cholesterol, lower bad (LDL) cholesterol, and reduce blood problems that can lead to clogged arteries. Rising good cholesterol levels can improve blood flow to the brain and toughen brain cells by stressing them a little.
6. Boosts Metabolism
There is a common misconception about kombucha and sugar. You may be wondering “how can kombucha be so healthy when I have to add so much sugar?” Well, the good news is, 90% of that sugar is used up during the fermentation process. This results in the typical sugar content being around 4-5 grams per glass.
Because of the nutritional content and probiotics, many people find that drinking a glass of kombucha before a meal helps stimulate the metabolism and reset your digestive system for the rest of the day.
7. Boosts Energy
Due to the enzymes and increase in healthy gut bacteria, kombucha helps the body assimilate food more easily and provides a quick boost in energy. The added enzymes also mean the body has to work less to accomplish the same amount of digestion.
However, it does contain small amounts of caffeine. I found drinking kombucha was an easy way to slowly wean down my addictive caffeine habit. While the exact caffeine quantity will vary there are ways to reduce the caffeine content:
- Use a combination of teas instead of just black tea. Try to keep the amount of black tea below 20% and use alternatives such as green tea instead.
- Steep the tea before you use the tea in the kombucha. In other words, boil the tea in hot water for a few minutes and then dump the water out. Most of the caffeine is released in the first boil.
8. May Help With Joint Function
Kombucha just happens to be full of a substance called glucosamine. Glucosamines are often recommended for joint health and to alleviate joint pain.
How this works: glucosamines naturally will increase the hyaluronic acid in the body and helps protect and lubricate the joints. In fact, there have been a number of trials where hyaluronic acid provided relief similar to over the counter painkillers.
9. Acts As A Natural Anti-Inflammatory
You may have heard that inflammation can lead to numerous diseases, including hay fever, periodontitis, and arthritis. But inflation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s only when the inflammation becomes constant that we start running into troubles. There are many different ways to treat inflammation and kombucha is one of them!
This is particularly true when you brew kombucha with green tea. The benefits arise from catechins, the group of antioxidants concentrated in the leaves of tea plants. One catechin in particular, a compound called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, is found almost exclusively in green tea.
The high EGCG and polyphenol content in green tea make it a stronger anti-inflammatory elixir than other teas like black tea.
Is Kombucha A Panacea?
I believe that kombucha is not a cure-all food. In fact, I don’t really believe that it cures anything! I like to think of kombucha as a gateway drink to a healthier lifestyle. While it’s a superfood in its own right, it helps develop mindful eating. It’s a great entry-level step into an entirely new diet. It rebalances and detoxifies. It brings your immune system back into balance – which may lead to the curing of a few other troubling ailments.
Double-blind test studies are hard to find when it comes to kombucha. Lots of the reported health benefits are based upon anecdotal evidence alone and should be taken with a healthy amount of skepticism.
But in the end, it’s how it makes you feel. And there is only one way to find out. I recommend trying 4 oz every morning on an empty stomach. This is the easiest way to find out exactly how kombucha makes you feel.
Let us know in the comments below!