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.

Advertisements

What’re the Best Probiotic Sources for Vegans?

Your gut is home to good and bad bacteria, and maintaining that balance is more important than you think. Sure, maybe you already know taking probiotics (the “good” bacteria) can promote healthy digestion, but did you know recent studies suggest even more positives, like an immune system boost and mental health support?  If you’re feeling a little run down and you’re not sure why maybe probiotics could help.

Vegan Probiotic Sources

But how can you get those probiotics from a vegan diet? Because veganism cuts out all animal products, proper nutrition—especially for the new vegan—can be tricky. If you’re planning on getting your probiotics from food sources, there are some options out there that aren’t exactly vegan-friendly. For example, a dairy-based yogurt is no longer an option; however, you can always make or buy your own live-cultured non-dairy yogurt. Coconut milk yogurt is becoming more common in the grocery stores today, and are a much better option (health-wise) than soy-based yogurts.

Here are some vegan foods that you can try right now that are also high in naturally-occurring probiotics:

Pickled/Fermented Vegetables

A well-known choice is certainly the traditional pickle, but any vegetable that’s been pickled or fermented with bacterial cultures (in addition to salt and spices) can be a great probiotic source. Kimchi, for example, is an excellent probiotic choice for this reason. Always keep in mind, though, pickled and fermented vegetables can contain high levels of sodium.

Kombucha Tea

Fermented from black tea, kombucha also has sugar, yeast, and—you guessed it—probiotics. It’s a popular item in stores right now, but always be sure you’re looking for a product that’s been tested; this helps rule out the presence of “bad” bacteria.

Fermented Soy Products

Most of you have probably heard of fermented soy products like miso and tempeh. And as many sources of B-12 are in non-plant based foods, many vegans might find it difficult to get enough of the vitamin. Tempeh, an excellent substitute for tofu, is also a reliable source of B12.

One Final Thought

As one of the healthiest diet options, veganism can be extremely rewarding for your health. A poorly planned vegan diet, however, can definitely be nutritionally deficient. Finding reliable probiotic sources—like the ones listed above—can help with that, as can a good vegan supplement.

A daily probiotic supplement is a reliable way to get consistent probiotic support. Currently, I recommend and use two different products: Latero-Flora which is the B.O.D. Bacillus Laterosporus strain and a more advanced formula, Floratrex, which contains active cultures from 23 different probiotic strains. Either of these is a solid choice and I’ve been extremely satisfied with them both.

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.