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What is Kombucha?

Pamela Budhoo, Nutritionist, Health Influencer, Writer/Contributor for Effective Lifestyle

Kombucha is a fermented tea that people have been consuming for over 2,000 years. The taste of the tea is described as a slightly fizzy, sweet/sour drink. Some have even said it tastes like an unfamiliar tea which taste like a rare wine or a wine that tastes like a delightful tea. It is made from black or green tea and sugar which is mixed with a living symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). When the SCOBY is added, the fermentation process begins. The tea is set aside to ferment for a week, sometimes even longer. The process of fermentation produces acetic acid, found in vinegar, and very small amounts of alcohol and gases responsible for the tea’s carbonation. The yeast in the colony breaks down the sugar in the tea, releasing probiotic bacteria. Kombucha has numerous species of lactic acid bacteria which may have probiotic function.

Probiotics are known to be the good bacteria for the reason that they keep your gut healthy. These live microorganisms can help treat as well as prevent certain illnesses. The one benefit of probiotics that has mostly been studied is their ability to promote both a healthy digestive tract and a healthy immune system. Kombucha can contain certain strains of probiotic bacteria. Because of the probiotics, this fizzy drink is considered to be “healthy” by most individuals. The health benefits are usually geared towards the probiotics but also the polyphenols found in the tea itself. Polyphenols are known to behave as powerful antioxidants in the body, decreasing inflammation. The fermentation process of kombucha will actually increase the number of polyphenols. Much research has not been done to support the many health claims of the fermented tea. In some studies, the compounds found in kombucha have been linked to lowering cholesterol, lowering blood sugar, antimicrobial action, and improvement of liver and digestive function.

Today, kombucha can be found at a wide variety of places, including health foods stores and many grocery stores. Many individuals make it themselves at home. If it’s homemade, it should be prepared properly. Because you are not in a sterile environment, contamination or even over-fermentation can occur which increases the risk of serious health complications. Although you can make it at home and it can turn out perfectly fine, the safer option would be to purchase the drink at a store. You shouldn’t consume large volumes of the fermented tea as it can cause heartburn. The Center for Disease Control recommends consuming about 4 ounces of kombucha 1-3 times a day. Drinking more than that can cause reverse effects. Pregnant women should also be weary of kombucha. Fermentation is the same process by which alcohol is made. The tea can have anywhere between 0.5% to 3% of alcohol. Nearly all kombucha will have a trace amount of alcohol. Some versions are even allowed to be fermented for longer periods of time which can produce as much alcohol as a light beer. Be sure to check the label if alcohol is of concern to you. Also, try to avoid brands which may be high in added sugar. All in all, kombucha is a delicious fermented tea drink consumed for both it’s taste and health benefits.