Known as the “Immortal Health Elixir” by the Chinese and originating in the Far East around 2,000 years ago, until recently, kombucha had been known as a “hippy drink” that only “crunchy” people enjoy. However, thanks to clever marketing and people’s newfound love for all things healthy, kombucha has reentered the modern world as the “it” drink, making it to trendy restaurants, dinner parties, and even on tap at your local bar.
Though it is true that its popularity has surged, for many, they still question what kombucha is and if it’s really as healthy as people say? Moreover, does it have any side effects? What about for pregnant women or nursing moms? Can you drink it every day?
Well I’m here to give you a simple overview, and then will include links to additional articles if you still want more info.
IN SUMMARY: Kombucha is a fermented brew of black tea and cane sugar and contains a colony of bacteria and yeast (called a SCOBY) that are responsible for initiating the fermentation process and giving kombucha its carbonated appeal. Known as a functional food, kombucha encompasses b-vitamins, enzymes, probiotics and a high concentration of acid (acetic, gluconic, and lactic), all of which contribute to the list of reasons why people swear by it.
BUT WHAT IS KOMBUCHA, REALLY?: The sugar-tea solution that makes up kombucha is fermented by a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (a SCOBY). This fermentation process, which is what contributes to all of its wonderful health properties, is all in thanks to the “mother” – given this title because of its ability to reproduce.
Generally brewed with black tea, kombucha can also be made with green tea and sweetened with fruit juice or honey, although cane sugar is most commonly used. Taking around 30 days to fully “ferment”, the mother can then be broken down and used to brew additional batches of kombucha – which is usually done in large vats or ceramic vessels.
NUTRITION-WISE: The fact that kombucha has been around for more than 2,000 years should say something right there. The Chinese definitely know their stuff when it comes to natural remedies. In fact, kombucha has long been touted for its aid in preventing and fighting cancer, arthritis, and other degenerative diseases.
Not gaining popularity until very recently, Kombucha is now known around the world for its detoxifying and energizing effects. It is also well established as helping to improve digestion and in fighting candida (harmful yeast) overgrowth. Kombucha has even been noted as reducing or eliminating the symptoms of fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, etc. Plus, it’s extraordinarily antioxidant rich, and we all know the benefits of antioxidants for boosting our immune systems and energy levels.
Thanks to the fermentation that this tea-beverage goes through, it also contains probiotics, polyphenols, glucosamines, B vitamins, Vitamin C, organic enzymes, vital amino acids, and other organic acids.
And although all kombucha drinks contain sugar (since this is the only way to get the fermentation process going), in a lot of cases, it really is a negligible amount. However, there are many brands, and even flavors, that contain much more than others, so I’d suggest looking for those that have between 2-6 grams per serving, not to exceed more than 8 grams, if possible. Moreover, most bottles that are sold are 2-servings worth, so keep this in mind as you gulp the whole thing down.
Now when it comes to drinking kombucha every day, I’ll admit that I do, and almost “require” it. My body, and digestive tract in particular, really notice if I skip out on my daily serving, so I try my best to include it every day. Plus, it tastes great and is a nice “treat” before dinner. The only reason I would hesitate on drinking it is if I were trying to watch my calorie intake, but since it has been known to actually help speed up metabolism, and can contain as little as 15 calories per serving, this shouldn’t really be much of an issue either.
For a more complete list of the benefits of kombucha, please visit our List of 10 Reasons to Drink Kombucha. [COMING SOON]
If you are pregnant, you can also learn more about the benefits and potential side effects of drinking kombucha, here.
KOMBUCHA FOR KIDS??: In regards to kids drinking kombucha: I would start-out with only giving them a couple of sips in the beginning, see how their reaction is, and then go from there. Better yet, I would mix some of it with water to give it a muted effect. As is mentioned below, a few people have been known to have a bad reaction to it, and I’d hate that to be my child.
Furthermore, the detoxifying effect will be magnified in a child since their bodies are so small and therefore, their serving size should be much less than an adult. However, there are tons of good-for-you properties in kombucha that children can benefit from as well, so I wouldn’t be afraid of giving them a couple sips here or there by any means.
THE DOWNSIDES OF KOMBUCHA: As with all supplements and “health elixers”, those with any diagnosed medical condition should check with a doctor before consuming kombucha.
And while some people may experience pain and/or bloating due to changes in gut bacteria, this will most likely be short-lived once your body adjusts. However, there have been rare instances of people having allergic reactions to kombucha, including an upset stomach, headaches, and/or inflammation (though more often than not, kombucha will heal these ailments as opposed to causing them).
Since kombucha is high in natural acids (although lower than in most sodas), it can be harmful to your teeth. Having good oral hygiene should eliminate the likelihood of this, but it is still worth taking note. (For a more in-depth look on the specific way kombucha affects teeth and how to consume it without harming your teeth, check out this article by OraWellness).
In my opinion, the brewing of kombucha tea under non-sterile conditions has the most potential for side effects, as it can cause contamination and spoilage, which can be extremely harmful. However, this is really only a concern if you are brewing it at home since like all products sold, there are certain inspections and regulations companies must follow in order to sell a food or beverage to the public.
FINAL THOUGHTS: With so many health benefits being contributed to drinking kombucha, why wouldn’t you give this century old elixir a try? Plus, at a mere $3-5 a bottle at most grocery and health food stores, it’s definitely a lot cheaper than many of the other health remedies on the market these days!
Try some for yourself today and see how much better you can feel by drinking this delicious brew.
And check out our list of Kombucha reviews on brands that we have tried and love (with even more coming soon!)