As we learn more about the links between the gut microbiome and holistic health, a few new trends have risen to the forefront of the wellness movement. Kombucha is one of them. While kombucha has been a mainstay in Asian cultures for centuries, it’s relatively new in the West. Nevertheless, it’s something many health advocates have begun to embrace—and for good reason!
The potential benefits of kombucha are many, and there’s a body of evidence out there that correlates the probiotic properties of kombucha to better gut health. If you’re following the evangelists of gut health as a gateway to holistic wellness, you’re going to want to get the scoop on kombucha.
First, what is kombucha?
Kombucha is fermented tea—that is to say, it has active bacteria in it. These are good bacteria (probiotics) that are akin to what you’d find in yogurt or kefir. And while many people are initially put off by the silt of these cultures gathered at the bottom of their glass or bottle, they quickly come to love kombucha for both the taste and the benefits it offers.
Kombucha is made by adding bacteria cultures to brewed black or green tea—usually active yeast and sugar. Then, the tea ferments over the course of a week or two. The result is a foamy tea drink that contains a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). Modern fermentation also includes acetic acid, which naturally carbonates kombucha.
Raw (unflavored) kombucha is an acquired taste and today, there are many different types of flavored kombucha out there to try.
What are the benefits of kombucha?
Like many ancient remedies, the health benefits of kombucha are only now beginning to see scientific studies. That said, there’s a wide body of anecdotal evidence that points to the probiotic and wellness benefits of this fermented drink.
For starters, the fermentation process fosters a wealth of probiotics, including several species of lactic-acid bacteria, which are proven to aid gut function. When green tea is fermented into kombucha, there’s also the presence of polyphenols—powerful antioxidants that combine to improve gut health. This also coincides with kombucha’s ability to reduce liver toxicity, improving our body’s ability to process waste.
Because kombucha is made with green and black teas, it’s also imbued with the health benefits of these teas. For example, green tea kombucha delivers energizing properties, while black tea kombucha is reported to stimulate mental clarity and focus. Both offer metabolism boosts, which is mirrored in kombucha.
As more studies probe the benefits of fermented teas like kombucha and mushroom tea, the science behind their probiotic and wellness benefits will become clearer.
Kombucha as part of a lifestyle
Kombucha is a great wellness supplement when used within a health-minded lifestyle. Drinking kombucha while plowing through a plate of greasy nachos won’t do much for your wellness (and might even give you a stomach ache). Instead, kombucha is a great additive to other wellness practices.
Many people drink kombucha after a meditative session or yoga, supplementing their calm mind and restored body with the properties of kombucha. Others drink green tea kombucha in the morning to jumpstart their day, as opposed to coffee. Still more people will drink kombucha as part of a cleanse or while they’re intermittently fasting, as a way to stimulate their body’s healing and restorative processes. Used in conjunction with positive wellness practices, kombucha’s benefits are increased!
What to watch out for
Kombucha has quickly become trendy, which means there are a lot of inferior products out there to beware of. For example, some kombuchas contain preservatives, which is distinctly the opposite of kombucha’s philosophy: a fresh, fermented drink with active bacteria. Other kombucha drinks are over-sugared, which will lessen the positive impact on your gut’s health.
Finally, beware of kombucha with high alcohol content. While the fermentation process naturally produces a small amount of alcohol, there’s a new trend in fermenting kombucha for the purpose of making an alcoholic beverage. While this might be a neat novelty in a bar, it does very little for your gut health or overall wellness.
Kombucha is an acquired taste and not everyone will have an immediately positive reaction to the earthy, natural taste of kombucha. The good news is, you’ll warm up to the taste and find a deep appreciation for the benefits this drink offers. There’s a reason it’s survived for thousands of years and why wellness advocates today preach their love of kombucha! Give it a try and see for yourself.