Kombucha? A Fermented Elixir?
All over the internet, you’ll find lists of so-called superfoods, and you’ll often find kombucha on these lists. Some people swear by it while others say they will never swallow another mouthful. So what is it? Are there any health benefits to it, and why is it so popular? For those of you who think kombucha is a new formula that was recently created due to someone’s creativity and imagination, you’re wrong. Sure, it recently hit the shelves of numerous U.S. health food stores in the early 90s, but fermented tea is something humans have been drinking for thousands of years. Kombucha is a fermented tea, usually black or green tea, combined with specific strains of bacteria and yeast, and sugar. This fermentation process usually occurs for at least a week. As the fermentation process occurs, the bacteria and yeast form a mushroom-like blob on top of the tea. Because of this, kombucha is also often referred to as “mushroom tea.” The colony of bacteria and yeast that create kombucha is also known as SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). SCOBY can be used to ferment new kombucha. This fermentation process leads to the production of various acids, including acetic acid, which is also found in vinegar, minimal levels of alcohol, and carbonation.
So what are the health benefits of this extremely weird concept of a drink? The intricate fermentation process leads to the production of a large amount of probiotics, another hot keyword in the health industry. What are probiotics? They are essentially health gut bacteria. Consuming probiotics can improve gastrointestinal health, providing a variety of positive health consequences, including improved digestion, reduced inflammation, and may even aid with weight loss. Kombucha may also provide the multiple benefits of the tea that serves as its base. Various studies have found results that consistent consumption of green tea can improve your metabolism, cholesterol, blood sugar control, etc. Since the foundation of kombucha is the tea, these benefits still hold true. Whether the kombucha is made from green or black tea, it contains polyphenols, which act as powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants fight off free radicals, which are reactive molecules that can cause cellular damage. Although antioxidant supplements are available, many researchers and health professionals suggest that antioxidant intake from foods and drinks are more effective and better for your health.
Kombucha has also been found to have various cardiovascular benefits. It has been shown in preclinical studies to greatly improve LDL, low-density lipoproteins, and HDL, high-density lipoproteins, markers. LDL is more commonly known as bad cholesterol, as the low density can lead to arterial blockage and other cardiovascular problems. It can help manage LDL and improve HDL markers. These two benefits combined can help prevent the development of cardiovascular problems, such as heart attacks, heart blockage, etc.
Kombucha has also been found to help manage diabetes. Diabetes affects millions of people worldwide, and another preclinical study found that kombucha helped regulate the digestion of carbs. It was demonstrated that kombucha slowed down this process, leading to better regulation of blood sugars, leading to subsequent improvements in liver and kidney function. To further emphasize its benefits, kombucha may even help prevent cancer. An in-vitro study found that kombucha was able to prevent the growth and spread of cancerous cells. It is currently believed that the polyphenol and antioxidant concentration in kombucha is responsible for this result, although the mechanism is unclear. Further research will need to be done to determine whether these results also apply to humans, but it is obvious that kombucha has a wealth of health benefits and is worth a try.
As with anything, too much of something, even if it is a good thing, can be bad. Similarly, too much kombucha can lead to negative side effects and reactions, including a headache, nausea, GI problems, etc. Although it is currently unclear what the optimal consumption level is for the average person, children and pregnant women should avoid the drink. Another group of people who should avoid the drink is those with potential for allergic reaction. Because each batch of kombucha can vary, depending on how it was made, please use your judgment to make sure that it is safe to consume. If the color or smell of the kombucha is off, it’s probably best not to drink it. Kombucha may be a trendy drink, but regardless of whether or not you enjoy it, it does have some health benefits. For those of you who are curious, give it a try. You never know, you might have found a new favorite drink.