Kombucha and Microbes

Kombucha and Microbes

Kombucha is all the rage lately, with many considering it the latest and greatest health and energy drink. But what exactly is it? And what evidence is there to support these claims?

Kombucha is a fermented tea that originated in East Asia around 2000 years ago. Brewed tea and sugar are combined with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) and allowed to ferment. What results is a carbonated beverage with a low alcohol content (<0.5%) and a slightly acidic, vinegary flavor.

Although claims that kombucha can prevent or manage disease are not backed by science, there is limited evidence that probiotics in the tea could promote overall health. Probiotics, commonly known as “good bacteria,” live in the gut and are important for digestion and maintaining a strong immune system. Other foods that contain probiotics include yogurt, cheese, sauerkraut, pickles, and kimchi (a fermented Korean salad). Kombucha is also a source of antioxidants due to the black and/or green tea used in its production. Antioxidants can protect your body’s cells from damage and are also known to decrease inflammation.

Despite the potential benefits of probiotics, there have been reports of adverse reactions after consuming kombucha. For example, drinking more than 12 ounces per day could cause headaches, an upset stomach, or a life-threatening condition called ketoacidosis, which occurs when there is too much acid in your blood. Further, contamination from home-brewing kombucha under nonsterile conditions has led to cases of food poisoning.

Kombucha is not recommended for children, pregnant/breastfeeding women, recovering alcoholics, or those with liver disease due to the small amount of alcohol it contains. Immunocompromised individuals should also avoid the beverage due to the risk of infection from SCOBY.

However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has declared commercially available kombucha to be safe. Overall, moderate consumption of kombucha, in combination with a healthy diet containing other fermented foods, promotes a diverse and healthy gut in most people. Further research is required in order to substantiate other claims of health benefits.

Disclaimer: the content contained in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have.

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