5 Ways Kombucha Improves Your Health
Kombucha is a fermented beverage that contains SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). A gelatinous film known as zoogleal mat forms and thickens the longer the drink is allowed to ferment. This is a functional drink meaning that it offers significant health advantages when consumed. In many countries today it is used as a health drink.
A popular health elixir for more than 2000 years, this beverage has been traditionally consumed to fight infection and prevent and treat chronic diseases. In fact, kombucha is referred to as the “Immortal Health Elixer” by Ancient Chinese due to its remarkable health benefits. (1, 3, 5)
Typically, a variety of healthy strains of yeast are contained in kombucha which break down sugar into alcohol. Gluconacetobacter xylinus is a common strain of bacteria that produces acetic acid from alcohol following fermentation. As a result, the alcohol content of kombucha decreases and the concentration of probiotic agents increases. (6)
You have probably heard of “the mother” or seen it on fermented products like apple cider vinegar and may have since questioned what it is. The majority of the physical components which make up kombucha mother is G. xylinum bacterium. Along with this bacteria strain and other beneficial microorganisms, the kombucha mother contains these various probiotic strains of bacteria and fibrous network of cellulose allowing it to float.
Active kombucha contains the mother and is considered alive. Lack of its presence is an indication that the beverage has been pasteurized or processed. Having this “floater” in your fermented beverage is necessary for its optimal nutritive value. (1, 3)
The finished, fermented beverage is acidic and helps prevent airborne bacterial and mold spore contamination. The beneficial bacteria within kombucha are also believed to exhibit antimicrobial properties which prevent harmful microbe contamination from outside sources.
Kombucha is packed with Nutrients
Kombucha is an excellent beverage choice for the prevention and healing of the human body. It is rich in amino acids, organic acids, active enzymes and polyphenol antioxidants that protect cells from disease and cancer.
Of these nutrients, a few unique components include an abundant variety of organic acids including butyric acid, usnic acid, oxalic acid, malic acid, acetic acid, gluconic acid and lactic acid. (6)
1. Full of Anti-Inflammatory Agents
Sweetened green, black or white tea are commonly intended for the use to create kombucha. The best fermentation processes for producing kombucha uses honey or organic evaporated cane juice. Of the sugar contained, the majority will be metabolized into organic acids. These organic acids help to stabilize blood sugar which is why kombucha is known as a low glycemic and anti-inflammatory beverage.
The ability of kombucha to provide restoration to the gut and heal digestive health is primarily one its most effective ways to reduce inflammation in the body. Beneficial gut bacteria stimulate healthy immune function all over the body. The healthier your gut microbiome is, the fewer strains there are of harmful inflammation causing bacteria. Ridding of harmful gut bacteria can alleviate inflammatory reactions associated with leaky gut, migraines and can even stimulate the immune system to reduce allergies. (6)
Many kombucha beverages can also contain powerful ingredients such as ginger which fight inflammation. Furthermore, kombucha typically contains no artificial ingredients, colors and unlike drinks containing spoonfuls of sugar, will prevent inflammation and not contribute to it.
2. Improves Joint Function
Kombucha is high in its content of glucosamines which supports cartilaginous and joint structures. Glucosamines help prevent degenerating joint function because they contribute to the complex cavity of cartilage and fluid.
Glucosamines stimulate the synthesis of hyaluronic acid within joint structures and supports the binding of moisture by thousands of times its weight thus providing joint cushioning. As a result, glucosamines not only provide structural support, moisture, but they also are critical for lubrication, flexibility and preventing free radical damage to connective tissue. (2)
3. Improves Digestion and Immunity
The probiotic bacteria and yeast contained in kombucha enhance the gut’s natural defenses to ward off harmful agents like parasites. In particular, kombucha is an excellent way to reduce Candida and stimulate digestion and the absorption of nutrients (2, 4, 6). By doing so, kombucha improves immune function by creating a healthy gut environment rich with antioxidants and enzymes.
Fermentation processes of kombucha leads to high levels of vitamins C and B which increase the antioxidant potential of the beverage. Compared to other beverages such as lemon-balm tea, kombucha fermented from black tea had a 90% higher antioxidant capacity. (6)
The lactic acid bacteria in kombucha stimulate the immune system and provide antimicrobial defenses to the gut. For this reason lactic acid bacteria are added to food products to increase shelf life. Many of the strains of bacteria in kombucha strengthen the immune system by stimulating antibacterial and antioxidant activity. Lactobacillus plantarum prevents infections associated with Candida growth because of its ability to protect cell’s DNA. (6)
4. Aids in Detoxification
The enzymes and organic acids in kombucha helps the body cleanse. This detoxification process helps heal and improve pancreatic, liver and kidney function resulting in the removal of excess waste. Kombucha also contains cancer preventative properties which helps disrupt cancerous activity.
Glucaric acid is responsible for this potent anti-cancer effect and has shown effective in recent studies. The anticarcinogenic effects of kombucha may be so strong that it has natural chemotherapeutic effects and can treat cancer without conventional medical treatment. (2)
Alexander Solzhenitsyn is a Nobel Prize winning author who credited his daily consumption of kombucha to treat stomach cancer during his time spent in soviet labor camps. So touched by his testimony, President Ronald Reagan was convicted to use kombucha to treat his cancer in 1987. When President Reagan did pass in 2004, it was not as result of cancer. (2)
5. Kombucha Increases Energy
Most sweetened beverages causes a significant spike in insulin due to the sugar concentrations causing blood sugar imbalance. Kombucha is a sweetened but low in glycemic beverage which provides sustainable energy without a sugar high. Loaded with nutrients, the enzymes and vitamins contribute to fueling the body for energy while increasing oxygen flow. Fermented beverages are especially associated with high amounts of B vitamins which are critical nutrients for several biological functions. (6)
Coupled with its ability to stimulate energy and cleanse the body, kombucha is believed to provide weight loss results. By flushing out harmful bacteria from the gut, allowing vital detoxifying organs to rest from the daily flow of toxins and pathogens, and improving circulation creates an invigorating experience full of physical and mental energy.
Dr Jockers Recommendations:
Although kombucha has many great health benefits, some individuals do not tolerate it well. Go ahead and try it out and keep a journal to see how you feel. Begin by drinking a very small amount, around 1-2 tbsps. daily. If you feel good and energized continue to use on a semi-regular or regular basis.
You can work your way up, 1/4 cup at a time to where you are drinking the 8-16oz daily. But let this happen naturally, over a period of several weeks and reduce your dosage if you feel poorly using it at any time.
Some people have noted an increase in headaches or feelings itchiness or skin breakouts (acne, hives, eczema) when consuming larger amounts of kombucha. If you notice this, it is important to stop consuming kombucha and other fermented foods for a period of time.
A big part of health is listening to the messages that your body gives you and making subtle shifts in your behaviors and patterns to align with what your body needs. I have found that most people thrive on these, but it is very possible to drink too much too quickly and cause major digestive disturbances including diarrhea.
This response is typically due to the killing off of bad microbes and the rapid introduction of high amounts of healthy microbes. That is why it is imperative to begin slowly
Individuals who have a histamine sensitivity, are often unable to tolerate some forms of fermented beverages as they are unable to metabolize histamine compounds which are naturally present in fermented foods. If you have this condition, you will want to follow a low histamine diet while you work on improving your gut microbiome.