Kombucha is a fermented black or green tea. It is generally a vegan and gluten-free drink. Sometimes manufacturers will add in gluten ingredients for flavor. It quickly grew in popularity due to its health benefits for a normal microbiota of our gut. The ingredients of kombucha include sugar, tea, bacteria and yeast. The bacteria and yeast combine together to form a SCOBY. The tea and sugar ingredients are added into a jar with a SCOBY. This mixture is set aside to ferment for 7-10 days. We will discuss this process later on in the article.
The fermentation process is dated back to as long as 9000 years ago. Originally, fermenting practices were used to make alcoholic beverages and preserve food. We began to use fermentation to create probiotics that encourage microbial diversity in our body. Through the fermentation process we make foods such as yogurt, cheese, kimchi and other pickled vegetables.
A fermented drink or tea probably does not sound very appealing right? That is understandable, as it is an acquired taste. However, many people do enjoy the taste. The added health benefits associated with the gut tract has made this health drink popular here in the United States. Although it has been around for a while, its introduction came early in the 21st century.
Kombucha is similar to a probiotic. It is filled with many vitamins such as the B vitamins, amino acids and other nutrients. It encourages a healthy and normal microbiota in your digestive tract.
To understand what a normal microbiota is, let us focus on what a microbiota is. A microbiota is a community of different microorganisms. These microorganism work to assist your body in absorbing nutrients. A microbiota consists primarily of commensal bacteria as well as other single-celled organisms.
Every human being has similar bacteria that live in their gut. Factors such as genetics, health and ecological environment will affect the variety and composition found in your gut. The diversity of our gut bacteria develops during infancy. While genetics plays a major role in your microbiota, your diet can also influence how healthy or ‘normal’ your microbiota is.
A lot of digestive issues you may face result from an unhealthy microbiota. If a viral strain is predominant, then the other “good” bacteria will not be able to thrive. A situation like this can happen if you are on antibacterial medication. It can kill off your gut bacteria, allowing other strains to thrive. Probiotics are a great help in maintaining a balanced and healthy microbiota.
Having a diverse gut microbiota is indication of a healthy digestive system. The variety of microorganisms can help prevent virulent strains from dominating the gut. It also contributes to a more resilient immune system and promotes a stronger immune response. A diverse microbiota can help the body become adaptable to changes and promote a stable recovery from other illnesses.
The bacteria in your body works with your body to help with the flow and absorption of nutrients. These nutrients help your cells to perform their functions. As a result, your body is able to function at a healthy rate. This is what a normal microbiota looks like.
Trillions of microorganisms line your intestines. Our body has a symbiotic (specifically mutualism) relationship with these organisms. A mutualistic relationship is when two organisms benefit from the relationship. In this case, our benefit is the absorption of much needed nutrients. These nutrients help our cells to function and keep the body healthy and alive.
You might be curious about the bacteria that reside in your gut. Most of the bacteria in your gut are anaerobic. This means that they do not require oxygen to thrive. These species are Peptostreptococcus sp., Eubacterium sp., Lactobacillus sp., and Clostridium sp. (R). Each of these species work with the cells lining your gut to help with digestion and absorption of nutrients from what we consume. There is a protective layer between these bacteria and our blood vessels to prevent infection and cross-contamination.
Some bacteria present in our body can be harmful. Often referred to as the “bad” bacteria, these organisms are linked to chronic illnesses. How the “good” bacteria work to prevent the “bad” bacteria from thriving is through bacterial multiplication. The “good” bacteria multiplies rapidly, taking up enough space, to restrict the “bad” bacteria in their spread.
Unfortunately, the body does need some level of “bad” bacteria to help with our immune response through microbiome diversification. With that in mind, limiting your “bad” bacteria is possible through your diet. Consumption of probiotics like kombucha can promote the “good” bacteria in their multiplication. A healthy balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria is what a normal microbiota is.
The history of kombucha dates back 2000 years in Northeast China. It spread to Japan in 414 A.D, used for medicinal purposes. The trading routes between China and Japan, introduced kombucha to Japan and Korea. Eventually it made it made its way to Russia. From here it spread to Eastern Europe and made its way to America.
The Russians used kombucha to treat metabolic diseases and help with arthritis pain. The Europeans, used it for its detoxifying function. It worked to clear the body from toxins and promote a clean digestion (R).
We can see that kombucha has a long history for its many health benefits. From its use since World War II, Kombucha has gotten mixed reactions. Although not an alcoholic beverage, due to fermentation, it does have an alcohol content of 0.5%. As a result, there was no regulation on kombucha. However, back in 2010, the Maine Department of Agricultural Consumer tested high levels of alcohol in Whole Foods products. The study found these bottles contained around 2.5% alcohol.
Lindsay Lohan also ran into some trouble with kombucha. Her regular consumption of the beverage set off her alcohol monitoring bracelet in June 2010. This also led to confusion regarding how safe this beverage would be to sell on unregulated shelves.
Eventually, the media confusion regarding alcohol and kombucha cleared up. The product made its comeback and is now safe for most people to consume.
There are many small brewers that can whip up this concoction for safe consumption. Pepsico even took an interest in this product in 2016. Many people became drawn into kombucha and its tie to ancient health benefits.
After this controversy, it got people thinking. Why not make an alcoholic kombucha? Unlike the regular kombucha, this one has a starting alcohol content of around 2.5%. The benefits associated with virgin kombucha is still present in hard kombucha. However, not in high quantities. The process for hard kombucha is relatively the same. The only difference lies in the length of the fermentation process. In this case, the process lasts between 10-20 days. During this time the bacteria and yeast work hard to convert the sugar in alcohol, resulting in a higher alcohol content.
Hard kombucha, much like beer, can be enjoyed from the can. However, you can treat it as a cocktail. That is, you can mix it with other spirits and chasers. Although, most people enjoy this beverage on its own. The reason being that hard kombucha already has hints of flavoring that might overpower the taste of mixers.
One of the drawbacks of this longer fermentation process is the limited nutrition content. Not all yeast and bacteria are tolerant of alcohol. Some are unable to thrive or function in high levels of alcohol. This causes a lower production of probiotics. So, while there are some probiotics present in hard kombucha, it is not nearly as much as virgin kombucha. Although in comparison to beer, some hard kombucha do contain polyphenols and vitamins found in virgin kombucha.
At the end of the day, hard kombucha is still an alcoholic beverage. Do not use it as a replacement for probiotics. Much like any alcoholic beverage always consume it responsibility.
A SCOBY hotel is not your typical check-in hotel. SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. This culture is comprised of several lactic and acetic acid bacteria that work with the yeast to ferment.
A SCOBY resembles that of a mushroom cap film. This film is transferred to a glass jar containing green or black tea. However, oolong or white tea can also be used. Next, sugar is added into the jar. The jar is covered and placed in a warm place to allow for fermentation to occur. The fermentation process takes between 7-10 days. In this time the yeast and bacteria consume the sugar and break it down.
The end product is a release of many chemical components and carbon dioxide gas. The carbon dioxide gas is what gives this beverage its fizzy characteristic. The SCOBY is then removed from the jar. And there you have left in the jar is kombucha. The kombucha is then packaged and distributed to the stores.
The removed SCOBY is stored in a jar with other microorganisms. This jar is referred to as the SCOBY hotel. When brewing is set to begin, a SCOBY is scoped out and placed in a separate jar with ingredients. The fermentation process is then repeated.
The fermentation of the tea produces numerous nutrients. These include fibre and amino acids. This process produces essential elements such as copper, iron and zinc. The bacteria and yeast also produce many vitamins such as B & C vitamins. Additionally, antibiotic substances, pH balancers and proteins are produced.
These antioxidants and production of many nutrients are what draws in kombucha’s large fan base. In fact, many people have found that it helps with a variety of health concerns. It clearly helps with digestion as it works with your gut bacteria in nutrient absorption. SO it is safe to safe that kombucha can treat metabolic concerns. It boosts immunity, fighting off colds and other respiratory issues. It helps with arthritis and managing pain. The antioxidants help with heart disease, blood pressure and cholesterol. Some people also indicated that it helped them with cancer symptoms.
These are well and good feedback from the consumption of kombucha. However, the lack of research has not been able to provide enough evidence to support this. Nevertheless, it could not hurt to look into kombucha to see how it helps you maintain a healthy gut flora. One thing that science does support, is the production of many beneficial nutrients from this drink. These nutrients have been linked to treating and managing numerous health concerns of the body.
Drawbacks of Kombucha
While the alcohol content of kombucha is relatively low, it is still advised that some people avoiding consumption. This includes pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, people struggling with alcohol and diabetic individuals. That being said, some people have found that some forms of kombucha helped them manage their insulin levels.
Much like anything, kombucha can affect different people in varying ways. Kombucha has been around for many years and used to treat varying health conditions. While we lack scientific evidence, the evidence is present through the history. Always do your own research and consult a trusted physician, especially if you have a health condition. Additionally, if you are taking medication, there is a possibility that the combination will be harmful.
Moreover, different companies use different brewing ingredients. Some companies will add in flavor to give the beverage a boost in taste. Other companies will use a different composition of bacteria in their SCOBY. Regardless it is also good to be informed about the types of products you are putting into your body. Especially if you have a health concern regarding your digestive system. Sometimes our gut can also lead to chronic pain symptoms.
If we are not careful about the bacteria in our digestive system, we may allow for “bad” bacteria to thrive. This in turn will throw off the normal biota of our gut. A lot of times these “bad” bacteria cause inflammation, digestive discomfort and increase pain symptoms. Therefore, it never hurts us to monitor what we eat and how much of what we consume.
Monitoring Your Gut
Food diaries, nutrient trackers, food monitors are always advisable when it comes to keeping track. Applications like the CareClinic app can help you track your progress and symptoms.
The nutrition feature of this app allows you to record what you eat in a day, like a diary. You can record things like calories and quantity. Include the nutrients facts such as protein, fat and carbohydrates. Save meals for future reports. Once you have saved your meals, you can analyze your eating habits in the reports section of the app.
The reports section allows you correlate your food and medication to monitor your symptoms. Sometimes the smallest of changes in our diet can lead to irritation. On days where you experience irritation or allergic responses, you can easily identify what you might have consumed. This way it makes it easier for you to narrow down what foods are causing you discomfort.
Introducing probiotics like kombucha into your diet can lead to a healthy and normal microbiota. Aiding in digestion, pain relief and overall gut well-being allows you to feel at your healthiest. An app like CareClinic gives you control and a better understanding of your symptoms and progress.
A healthy gut or normal microbiota is just as important for a healthy body. To learn more tracking and restoring your gut health, this article will break down why a healthy gut is important (R).
Another feature on the app is a diary entry. This feature allows you to jot down your feelings towards what you ate and how you felt. You can track measurements and analyze correlations between your meals and your well-being. This can also make it easier for you to sure with your physician. If you have a specific concern, sharing this information can guide you to the right resources.
Include points such as, “The eggplant lasagna caused bloating” or “the take-out from this restaurant made me happy”. Keep it as honest and unique to you. Recording information in this manner can help you make informed decisions regarding your diet choices. Connect symptoms to your mood, or your diet to your medications. This customizable feature allows you to record meaningful and structured reports.
Integrating new foods like “superfoods” into your diet can be exciting. However, if you are not careful, you run the risk of health concerns. You might be changing your diet to help you reach your health goals. Or to simply live a healthier lifestyle. Small changes in our lifestyle can sometimes cause our body to react negatively. It can be hard to identify what factors negatively affect our body. Keeping a health diary or health app is always a beneficial tool to guide us.
Whether you are trying to manage your diet for health concerns. Or you are trying to track the cause of your pain symptoms. It is always best to stayed informed and aware your body’s condition.
Applications like the CareClinic app offers you many ways to get on track with your health goals.This app is available for free on Apple and Android devices. Created by a team of healthcare clinicians and specialists, its aim is simple: to help patients be informed and active in their health goals.