Eight Potential Health Benefits of Kombucha

Kombucha is a sweet, fizzy drink made of yeast, sugar, and fermented tea. It has a number of potential health benefits, including gut health and liver function.

This article explores eight potential health benefits of kombucha and looks at the research that supports them.

What is kombucha?

A jar of raw kombucha fermented drink, on a wooden table with chopped up lemon and a stem of ginger.
Kombucha is a fermented drink that is popular for its purported health benefits.

To make kombucha, sweetened green or black tea is fermented with a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, otherwise known as a SCOBY.

During the fermentation process, the yeast in the SCOBY breaks down the sugar in the tea and releases probiotic bacteria.

Kombucha becomes carbonated after fermentation, which is why the drink is fizzy.

Potential health benefits

There is a range of potential health benefits of kombucha, including:

1. Gut health

As this 2014 study confirms, the fermentation process of kombucha means that the drink is rich in probiotics. Probiotic bacteria are similar to healthful bacteria that are found in the gut.

Consuming probiotics may improve overall gut health. Probiotic bacteria have been found to help treat diarrhea, and some research suggests they may help ease irritable bowel syndrome(IBS).

More research is needed into how kombucha improves gut health, but the link between probiotics and gut health suggests it may support the digestive system.

The link between healthy bacteria in the digestive system and immune function is becoming clearer as more studies focus on gut health. If the probiotics in kombucha improve gut health, they may also strengthen the immune system.

2. Cancer risk

There is growing evidence to suggest drinking kombucha could help reduce the risk of cancer.

2008 study found that kombucha helped prevent the growth of cancer cells. Further research in 2013 found that kombucha decreased the survival of cancer cells. Both studies suggest kombucha could play a role in treating or preventing cancer.

It is important to note that these studies looked at the effects of kombucha on cancer cells in a test tube. More research is needed to see if people who drink kombucha have a reduced risk of developing cancer.

3. Infection risk

A type of acid called acetic acid, also found in vinegar, is produced when kombucha is fermented.

study carried out in 2000 found that kombucha was able to kill microbes and help fight a range of bacteria. This suggests that it may help prevent infections by killing the bacteria that cause them before they are absorbed by the body.

4. Mental health

Young smiling woman drinking fruit juice ice tea.
The probiotics in kombucha are thought to have the ability to treat depression.

There may be a link between probiotics and depression, suggesting that drinking probiotic-rich kombucha could help promote positive mental health.

There are strong links between depression and inflammation so the anti-inflammatory effect of kombucha may help alleviate some of the symptoms of depression.

2017 review looked at a number of existing studies and concluded that there is strong evidence that probiotics may help treat depression. However, further research is needed to prove how effective they are.

5. Heart disease

Levels of certain types of cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease. Studies in 2012 and 2015 found that kombucha helps to reduce levels of the cholesterol linked to heart disease. Cholesterol levels and heart disease are also influenced by diet, exercise, weight, lifestyle habits, and inflammation. However, the research cited here suggests drinking kombucha may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

At the same time, it is important to note that these studies were in rats. More research is needed to prove that kombucha reduces the risk of heart disease in humans.

6. Weight loss

When kombucha is made with green tea, it may aid weight loss. A 2008 study found that obese people who took green tea extract burned more calories and lost more weight than those who did not.

If kombucha is made with green tea, it follows that it could have a similarly positive effect on weight loss.

Again, researchers need to look at kombucha and weight loss specifically before this is certain.

7. Liver health

Kombucha contains antioxidants that help fight molecules in the body that can damage cells.

Some studies, the most recent being in 2011, have found that the antioxidant-rich kombucha reduces toxins in the liver. This suggests that kombucha may play an important role in promoting liver health and reducing liver inflammation.

However, studies to date have looked at rats and more research is needed to say with certainty how kombucha can support liver health in humans.

8. Type 2 diabetes management

Kombucha tea in iced bottles, with fruit segments fermenting.
Kombucha may help to stabilize blood sugar levels and aid in the management of diabetes.

Kombucha may also be helpful in managing type 2 diabetes.

2012 study found that kombucha helped to manage blood sugar levels in rats with diabetes. This finding suggests it may be helpful in type 2 diabetes management.

Again, more research is needed to say with certainty whether kombucha can have the same benefits in type 2 diabetes management for humans.

Are there any risks?

It is important to be careful when making kombucha at home, as it can ferment for too long. It is also possible for kombucha to become contaminated when not made in a sterile environment.

Over-fermentation or contamination may cause health problems so it may be safer to buy kombucha in a store than to make it at home.

Store-bought kombucha normally has a lower alcohol content than homemade versions, but it is important to check the sugar content.

There are many potential health benefits of kombucha. However, it is important to remember that research is ongoing and not all benefits have been proven in studies with human participants.

If made properly or bought in-store, kombucha is a probiotic-rich drink that is safe to enjoy as part of a healthful diet.

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Omega-3 May Keep Gut Microbiota Diverse and Healthy

A new study published in the journal Scientific Reports finds that people who eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids have more bacterial diversity in the gut, which promotes better overall health.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, which means that although we need them to stay healthy, the human body cannot produce them on its own – so we have to get them from food.

The benefits of a diet rich in omega-3s are well known. The fatty acids seem to lower the “bad” kind of cholesterol, lower high blood pressure and improve overall cardiovascular health.

Some studies have also suggested that omega-3 can reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and improve bone strength, as well as protect against age-related cognitive decline and dementia.

And now, researchers from the University of Nottingham’s School of Medicine, in collaboration with scientists from King’s College London – both in the United Kingdom – add to the long list of omega-3’s benefits.

The new study – led by Dr. Ana Valdes, an associate professor, and reader at the University of Nottingham – suggests that the compound can improve the biodiversity of the gut.

A gut with rich and diverse bacteria is key to our overall health. As we explain in one of our articles, the 38 trillion bacteria that live inside our guts keep our immune systems healthy and ready to fight.

Conversely, losing microbial diversity has been associated with irritable bowel syndrome and bowel cancer, to name just a few conditions.

“The human gut is receiving a lot of attention in medical research as it is increasingly linked to a wide variety of health issues,” explains Dr. Valdes.

“Our digestive systems are home to trillions of microbes, most of which are beneficial in that they play a vital role in our digestion, immune system, and even regulate our weight,” she says.

So, Dr. Valdes and colleagues set out to examine the link between omega-3 intake and the diversity of the gut’s bacteria in middle aged and senior women.

How Omega-3 may improve gut health

The researchers analyzed levels of DHA, which is a type of omega-3 fatty acid, as well as total Omega-3 serum levels and microbiome data from 876 twins.

“This cohort of 876 volunteer women had previously been used to investigate the human genetic contribution to the gut microbiome in relation to weight gain and disease,” says Dr. Valdes.

Microbiome data was analyzed using the 16S ribosomal ribonucleic acid sequencing technique. Omega-3 food intake was assessed using a food frequency questionnaire.

Dr. Valdes summarizes the findings, saying, “We […] found [that omega-3 intake], together with […] serum levels of omega-3, were strongly associated with the diversity and number of species of healthy bacteria in the gut.”

The association was independent of whether or not the participants also had a diet rich in fiber.

First study author Dr. Cristina Menni, of King’s College London, adds, “We also found that specific bacteria that have been linked to lower inflammation and lower risk of obesity are increased in people who have a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids.”

In an attempt to understand the mechanism behind this association, the researchers performed further tests and found that “high levels of omega-3 in blood […] correlated with high levels of a compound called N-carbamyl-glutamate (NCG) in the gut.”

[NCG] has been shown in animals to reduce oxidative stress in the gut. We believe that some of the good effects of omega-3 in the gut may be due to the fact that omega-3 induces bacteria to produce this substance.”

Dr. Cristina Menni

“Our study is the largest to date to examine the relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and the composition of the gut microbiome,” says Dr. Valdes.

Your Gut Health Is In Relationship To Your Skin?

Do you know how important your gut health is in relationship to your skin?

So let’s start with why and how your inner Ecosystem is connected to the health of your skin.  Gut bacteria.  Gut bacteria is crucial in maintaining healthy skin and for the overall health of your body. Your body is composed of trillions of bacteria, some good and some bad. Our guts contain 100 trillion microorganisms, a number that is hard to imagine for such a small area in our bodies! We are made up of about 80% good bacteria and 20% bad bacteria- keeping this in balance is important for our skin and overall health.  The good bacteria help to digest nutrients, convert starches into useful energy, and keep candida in check.

When your gut is filled with too much bad bacteria and yeast, the pores in your digestive tract widen. This widening allows toxins to leak into your bloodstream, which creates leaky gut syndrome. Your body detects these large protein molecules as ‘foreign protein molecules’ and moves into attack mode.  This will lead to negative outward symptoms, the first of which is inflammation. There are lots of symptoms and issues that are connected to inflammation. We are familiar with fevers, arthritis, and joint pain, but did you know that inflammation is one of the culprits of rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, and acne?

Another common issue of the intestinal tract is small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). This is when the bacteria that belong in our large intestine move into our small intestine.  Now what you need to know is that our small intestine is sterile for the most part and contains a very limited number of bacteria. So when these bacteria migrate from the large intestine into the small intestine ~ we get gas, lots of gas, and bloating.  Why?  Because these little rascals break down your food before it gets to the large intestine (where it is actually supposed to be broken down).  Then there is low stomach acid, which creates a vicious cycle of poor digestion, chronic gut inflammation, microbial overgrowth, leaky gut, elevated stress hormones, and lowered nutrient absorption.  And guess what one of the main causes of low stomach acid is? Stress. It is hard to say which comes first- low stomach acid or SIBO, but what is known is that they are connected and both need to be addressed.

Lastly, not only is gut bacteria crucial to maintaining healthy skin but also the bacteria living on our skin is important as well.  When we treat our skin disorders with antibiotics the microorganisms on our skin are killed off. These microorganisms protect us from the outside world and without them we become susceptible to anything in our environment.  Most times when we take antibiotics, they behave as a temporary band-aid and because they also mess with our gut bacteria it can end up as a double whammy of trouble.

How do we maintain a healthy gut?  The goal is to reduce systemic inflammation by healing the gut wall and increasing the ‘good guys’!  So here are a few initial steps to restore your gut flora:

 

  • Eat plenty of fermentable fibers (starches like garlic, chicory root, dandelion greens, and yams, to name a few) they have a beneficial effect on the proliferation of good bacteria in the lower colon;
  • Eat fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and tempeh, these are foods that natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid to preserve the food and creating beneficial enzymes and more.
  • Take high-quality, multi -species probiotics, essential for optimal digestion of food and absorption of nutrients and minerals
  • Drink bone broth ~bone broth is high in compounds such as collagen, glycine, and glutamine that can transform your health. It is a gut and skin healing superfood.
  • Seek treatment  yearly or bi-yearly for pathogens, such as parasites, that may be present (watch for our upcoming blog on parasites)
  • Take steps to manage your stress: get enough sleep, eat a healthy, balanced diet, and exercise regularly.

Healing your gut may not magically clear up your complexion ~ however, the importance of a healthy gut plays a significant role in the health of your skin.

9 Best Fermented Foods for Your Gut

Fermented food has made a comeback in recent years, partially thanks to the popularization of Weston A. Price teachings. Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi aren’t considered to be the most appealing types of food; however, research exploring these and other fermented products on gut, brain, and body health has revitalized public interest. The fermentation process encourages essential bacteria such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria to flourish. This makes fermentation a good source of probiotics for vegans since many fermented foods are plant based. Vegetables are submerged in a salty brine during preparation to kill off dangerous, pathogenic bacteria. The good bacteria break down lactose and other sugars and starches in the food, making digestion easier. And once they reach your gut, they continue to help break down food and keep out bad guys like E. coli and C. difficile.

The Best Fermented Foods

When it comes to fermented foods, your options aren’t limited to sauerkraut or fermented soy. There are other fantastic options that are considered “fermented,” including tea, yogurt, and various vegetables. Here are 9 fermented foods you should include in your gut.

1. Yogurt

Yogurt has many benefits, mostly due to its rich probiotic content. Brands of yogurt that contain billions of live active cultures may support digestion, and some research indicates it could even benefit the skin. Raw, unpasteurized yogurt is ideal if you can handle dairy. Personally, I tend to skip dairy altogether, but you can find dairy-free yogurt options at many stores these days, some of which are made from coconut and almond milk. Be sure you’re choosing yogurt that contains live active cultures, and try to choose plain, full-fat versions in order to avoid sugar. Yogurt that contains sugar can be counterproductive, as sugars feed pathogenic bacteria and contribute to sugar overload.

2. Natto

Natto is prepared with soybeans and is fermented so it forms the beneficial bacteria Bacillus. It’s an excellent source of calcium, iron, dietary fiber, and vitamin K2. You may not have heard a lot about it, but K2 is essential for heart health as it keeps calcium out of your arteries and gets it to your bones where it’s needed. Natto also contains nattokinase, a powerful anti-clotting agent that protects your heart and brain and lowers your blood pressure.

3. Kefir

Kefir is a bit like yogurt, except that it’s more of a drinkable consistency. Researchers report kefir may reduce irritation in the intestines, preventing toxins and other pathogens from getting into the blood. If you’re choosing to drink dairy kefir, make sure it’s organic and isn’t loaded with refined sugar. There are options for making your own dairy-free water kefir, and many health food companies online sell kefir grains specifically for this purpose. You can also check out our recipe for making coconut milk kefir.

4. Kombucha

Made from tea, clean water, sugar, yeast, and bacteria, kombucha has become popular recently for its probiotic qualities. Its fizzy bite is also popular among those used to drinking soda. Research finds this fermented tea fights off E. coli and Staph bacteria in the digestive tract, possibly protecting against illness and aiding digestion.

5. Sauerkraut

Traditional sauerkraut preparation uses water, salt, and cabbage, and very little heat is applied to the final product in order to prevent killing off beneficial microbes. The sour taste comes from lactic fermentation or the breakdown of lactose by the probiotic bacteria native to the cabbage. A serving gives you a powerful dose of healthy probiotics that aid digestion and research has found raw sauerkraut prevents cancer cells from forming. Be sure to purchase raw sauerkraut, or better yet, make it yourself with organic cabbage and Himalayan salt.

6. Kimchi

This spicy Asian fermented cabbage, similar to sauerkraut, provides you with loads of probiotics. Extensive research indicates it contributes to colon health, lower cholesterol, better thinking, a stronger immune system, healthy skin, and weight loss. Additional research also shows it has anti-oxidative, anti-aging, and immune-supporting properties.

7. Tempeh

This Indonesian ‘cake’ has a nutty flavor and chewy texture, and because of this, it is often used as a replacement for meat in many vegan recipes. Traditionally made from soybeans and a yeast starter, it undergoes controlled fermentation that makes it a great source of probiotic bacteria. Tempeh is also a great source of calcium, iron, and magnesium.

8. Pickles

Raw pickles, much like sauerkraut, are a great introduction to fermented foods. Pickles made by lactic fermentation are a delicious snack that aid digestion and support a strong immune system.

9. Lassi

Yogurt and fermented dairy play an important role in Indian cuisine. Lassi is made by combining yogurt and milk (or water) and sometimes fruit and spices to create a great probiotic-rich drink. It digests quickly, helps restore friendly gut bacteria, and soothes irritation in the colon. Again, I don’t recommend consuming conventional dairy, especially from cows. If you are going to drink lassi, it’s best to find a product using grass-fed, free-range goat milk. Goat milk tends to digest more easily. If you’re vegan, try finding or making lassi with organic coconut or almond milk yogurt.

Other Tips to Support Digestion

Each of these 9 probiotic foods will help restore balance to your intestinal ecosystem, but they’re not the only way to support digestion. Prebiotics, or foods containing inulin, sustain your current gut bacteria by providing them the foods they need to thrive. Probiotic supplements like Floratrex, my advanced formula with over 23 probiotic strains with prebiotics, are a great way to support your digestive system.

Are Harmful Gut Organisms Negatively Impacting Your Health?

Bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites—there are many types of harmful organisms and nearly everyone is affected at some point in their life. Different types of harmful organisms affect the body differently. Here, we’ll look at harmful organisms that affect well-being by targeting and disrupting gut health.

This is a good time to mention that you probably shouldn’t eat while reading this article. Just trust me.

What Are Harmful Organisms?

Harmful organisms are organisms that live off another organism by living on or in them. Essentially, the harmful organism takes up residence in the host organism. In this relationship, harmful organisms steal nutrients and release waste to negatively affect the overall health of the host organism. Harmful organisms are present everywhere, from developing nations to that considered first-world, and have plagued humans since the beginning of time; references even appear in some of our oldest written records.

What Is “The Gut?”

The human digestive tract is a complex system comprised of many parts that, together, function as a single unit. Organs, enzymes, bacteria (commonly referred to as the gut microbiota), and other components collectively make up what we know as “the gut.” In many ways, it is a model ecosystem.

One truth I’ve observed again and again is that gut health is closely tied to overall health. When your gut is vibrant, so are you. When it’s not neither are you. In fact, when the gut function is disrupted, every part of the body is negatively affected. It’s a reality that makes gut-targeting harmful organisms especially devastating.

Which Harmful Organisms Affect the Gut?

The gut is home to many organisms. Most, like probiotics, are absolutely essential to your health, others are detrimental. The two most common organisms that prey on the gut are protozoa and helminth worms.

Protozoa are microscopic, one-celled organisms and there are about 70 species that can affect humans. Some protozoa can form protective “shells” called cysts that allow them to lay dormant for years before striking. Cysts even enable protozoa to survive externally, which means they can transfer and infect new hosts.

Helminth worms are a bigger threat in terms of both species (nearly 300 types can affect humans) and size (adult helminths range in size from under a millimeter to over a meter in length). That’s not a misprint—over a meter, in your body.

Until recently, it was believed that there are two major varieties of helminth worms—roundworms (nematodes) and flatworms (platyhelminths). Flatworms include tapeworms (cestodes) and flukes (trematodes). Researchers have also discovered an entirely new type of helminth called rope worms. Rope worm can grow to a meter long and have a lumpy, rope-like shape. They are often mistaken for feces or mucus and go undetected.

How Do Harmful Organisms Affect Gut Health?

Protozoa are aggressive, attack quickly, and multiply rapidly. Protozoa have the capability to be overwhelming and, in the worst situations, deadly. Symptoms vary by species of protozoa but typically include diarrhea and stomach troubles.

Conversely, worms live long and grow slowly. They attach to the intestinal lining or burrow deep into tissue. There, they steal nutrients and cause intestinal obstruction, often producing chronic, gradually worsening health conditions. In children, worms can affect the normal development of the body and brain. Unlike protozoa, worms do not multiply within the human body.

How to Avoid Harmful Organisms

Harmful organisms are transmitted through fecal contamination of food or water and by person-to-person contact. If your system is overtaken by protozoa, the problem will be apparent. Worms, however, can live inside the human gastrointestinal tract for years without causing symptoms. When symptoms do appear, they tend to surface in the form of digestive issues.

Proactive measures are the best defense against all types of harmful organisms. Strategies to avoid harmful organisms include:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before handling food or eating.
  • Thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables before eating.
  • Be cautious about the origin of your food (specially prepared foods).
  • I advocate a vegan raw-food diet but if you consume meat, cook it thoroughly and appropriately.
  • If you grow your own produce, use safe, organic methods of pest control.
  • Protect yourself from environments that accommodate harmful organisms. For example, don’t walk barefoot through puddles.
  • If you have indoor pets, limit their outdoor time and groom them regularly.
  • Regularly cleanse your living environment.