It’s likely that you first tried kombucha because you heard all the proclaimed health benefits of drinking kombucha. Most known for its role as a probiotic, kombucha’s anecdotal benefits don’t stop there. It is said to help regulate digestion, help with weight loss, provide natural energy, boost immunity, reduce stress, fight free radicals, improve skin, and the list goes on. This magic elixir has been passed from generation to generation for centuries, though most stories of recovery remain anecdotal. So is kombucha good for you?
Kombucha Tea Benefits
With the re-surfacing of this age-old health tonic in Western culture, new scientific studies are taking place to try and match the recovery stories with scientific evidence. In this article, we’ll sort through several of the most popular kombucha benefits and the science behind the claims.
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a sweet tea that has been fermented by a yeast and bacteria culture. The flavor of plain kombucha has a tartness that mildly resembles apple cider vinegar. This blank, tart pallet is a strong starting point for building different levels of flavor. It pairs delightfully well with fruit but diverse enough to hold up to experimentation.
During the fermentation of kombucha, yeast and bacteria work together in a two-part fermentation. The yeast breaks down sugar into simpler sugars, carbon dioxide, and ethanol. Then, the bacteria consume the ethanol, as well as the simple sugars, breaking them down into organic acids, antioxidants, and enzymes. You can learn more by reading our “What is Kombucha” post.
What are the Health Benefits of Kombucha?
1️⃣ Kombucha Promotes Gut Health
Fermentation has allowed us to exploit mutually beneficial relationships between the “good” gut bacteria to preserve and transform food and beverages for our benefit. Kombucha is no exception.
The fermentation process multiplies populations of bacteria and yeast, creating probiotic-rich substances. Drinking kombucha may provide a source of probiotic bacteria and yeast that help balance the gut microbiome. The relationship between the microbes in our gut and everyday body functions is complicated and depends on one another. So much so that researchers are referring to the gut microbiome as an organ of its own.
2️⃣ Kombucha Contains Beneficial Organic Acids
The organic acids produced during fermentation not only add a pleasant tartness to kombucha, but they may also add health benefits. Gluconic acid is one of the most abundant acids found in kombucha and is associated with heavy metal detoxification (Source).
Kombucha also contains other acids, such as lactic acid and acetic acid (the acid found in vinegar), which have been known to help ease inflammation.
3️⃣ Kombucha Contains Antioxidants
Antioxidants are aptly named after their ability to fight oxidation in the body, the process linked to aging and the development of many diseases. Free radicals are the cause of this oxidation, and while naturally occurring in our metabolism, they are more abundant in high-processed food diets. Antioxidants have free radical scavenging abilities to bind and neutralize these molecules that cause cell damage (source).
The type of antioxidants present in kombucha vary depending on the type of tea used to brew it and the length of fermentation as the antioxidant power increases as the SCOBY processes them into simpler molecules. An in-depth study done on the microbiology and antioxidants of kombucha brewed with different teas revealed that kombucha brewed with green or black tea contains antioxidants called catechin or polyphenols. In contrast, kombucha brewed with rooibos has a different set of compounds to offer, such as aspalathin, which helps lower blood glucose (source).
Tea contains high levels of antioxidant compounds called polyphenols. Besides their free-radical fighting ability, these powerhouse chemicals are being studied for their prebiotic tendencies, making them a perfect companion for fermented foods and beverages. Prebiotics help beneficial bacteria growth in the colon by providing food and nutrients as opposed to probiotics that replenish the natural populations of the microbes. Typically, prebiotics is associated with dietary fiber, but research is revealing that it extends beyond this primary definition. For more on this, see our post What Are Prebiotics and What Do They Do?
4️⃣ Kombucha May Help Heal and Prevent Stomach Ulcers
A study in 2010 of the healing properties of black tea and kombucha on stomach ulcers found that the reduction of ulcers when treated with kombucha over seven days matched that of the popular name-brand medication for antioxidant healing of ulceration. The results were attributed to the high antioxidant properties of kombucha as well as the organic acid content, which together helped maintain mucous production and protect against oxidative damage. (source).
5️⃣ Kombucha Can Help Replace Unhealthy Eating and Drinking Habits
Behavioral habits, especially when it comes to food and drinks, can be undervalued and hard to quantify due to so many outside variables, but that doesn’t diminish its importance. Adding kombucha to your daily routine can help replace unhealthy options or as a bonus to your already healthy routine.
Soda – The bubbly freshness of kombucha does a great job of satisfying the craving for a soda or something other than water. Kombucha has much less sugar than soft drinks. Kombucha is typically flavored with real fruit, herbs, and spices, which make it a delicious and healthy alternative.
Snacks—Kombucha is a great snack replacement in between meals and does a great job of suppressing hunger until your next meal. Adding quick supplements like chia seeds makes for a heartier snack with added health benefits such as fiber and omega 3’s. Learn how to incorporate chia seeds in your kombucha recipes from our post here – chia seed kombucha.
6️⃣ Substitute Kombucha for Alcohol
While kombucha’s alcohol content is minute, kombucha is a healthier and socially acceptable alternative when trying to cut back on alcohol. Hangovers and bad decisions are not always the desired result of a night out, but maybe you don’t want to have to hide at home to escape the social pressures. Enter kombucha! Many bars and restaurants are catching on and offering kombucha for their patrons. A glass of kombucha can be a great conversation piece and deflect away from the pressure of grabbing a drink.
While this post is far from exhaustive, it highlights some of our favorite health benefits of kombucha. Kombucha is likely not helpful for all situations, as every situation is unique. It’s important to note that health is a whole-picture approach, and adding one healthy thing, while positive, will not magically cure any of your ailments. Be sure to consult your physician if you are experiencing any health issues.
How to Make Kombucha?
Where to Find a Kombucha Scoby?
The Complete Kombucha Brewing Starter Kit