When you're looking for a probiotic with some impressive bang for the buck, give kombucha some serious consideration. This popular immunity-boosting fermented drink nourishes your body with vitamins and minerals, giving you a host of desirable kombucha benefits.
Facts on Beneficial Fermented Foods
If you've wondered about kombucha benefits for nutrition and health, realize that this unusual drink is part of the popular fermented foods family. This small group of foods also includes sauerkraut and yogurt, along with lesser-known tempeh and kimchi, notes Harvard Health.
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Each of these foods is created through the process of fermentation, a long-lived traditional food preservation method. The process begins when beneficial microbes consume the food's naturally occurring starch and sugar. This results in a preserved food with a longer useful life.
When the cycle is complete, helpful bacteria such as probiotics have also been introduced. Probiotics play an important role in enhancing gut health, and they also appear to provide digestive benefits.
Snapshot of Kombucha Nutrition
Kombucha tea is among these enigmatic foods, which have become popular in natural health and nutrition circles. In fact, you might be familiar with the kombucha nutrition profile.
Kombucha is one of those "love it or hate it" foods that you won't soon forget. Proponents profess to enjoy its very tart flavor, which results from combining sugar and small servings of caffeine, plus a tiny dose of alcohol. Ideally, kombucha won't taste too sweet, and won't have more than 5 grams of sugar in each serving.
In addition, Colorado Food Source Information states that an 8-ounce serving of this unflavored beverage only packs about 30 calories. This tangy drink also contains two to three grams of sugar and just a tiny bit of caffeine, so you can enjoy it without fretting over kombucha calories.
Kombucha has no cholesterol or fat, and it's also low in sodium and protein. If you add flavors or juices, you'll get extra micronutrients, but also extra kombucha calories, so factor that into your daily nutrition plan.
Read more: 7 Surprising Benefits of Fermented Foods
Kombucha Benefits and Downsides
Kombucha's growing popularity may be due to its recognized digestive health benefits, states dietitian Maxine Smith, RD, LD, of the Cleveland Clinic. Besides mirroring the benefits of other fermented foods, kombucha also contains polyphenols, which appear to act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.
If you're wondering about kombucha nutrition, this fizzy tea beverage contains B vitamins, plus a few beneficial minerals and antimicrobial acids that combat bacterial development. The acids also help to detoxify the liver by assisting in removal of useless chemical compounds from your body.
Dr. Brent A. Bauer of the Mayo Clinic mentions two more potential kombucha benefits. Along with this fermented beverage's probiotic properties, the drink can also help to facilitate a robust immune system. It may also help to prevent troublesome constipation.
On the flip side, Smith cautions that kombucha carries some notable consumption risks. Many kombucha drinkers brew their own fermented beverage or purchase it from sources that don't comply with recognized manufacturing practices.
Some batches can be subject to contamination by unwanted fungi and too much yeast. Homemade kombucha sourced from clay vessels can also cause lead toxicity. And drinking kombucha could trigger an allergic reaction, as you might encounter after consuming any other food.
Several groups of people should stay away from kombucha altogether. If you live with a chronic disease, such as kidney or liver disease or HIV, don't drink this fermented beverage. If your immune system is compromised, the same advice applies. Pregnant women and young children should also avoid kombucha consumption.
If you decide to add kombucha to your health regimen, be aware that this tangy beverage isn't designed to be consumed in large amounts. In fact, Michigan State University notes that the recommended daily kombucha intake is one-half cup daily. However, most commercially prepared kombucha is marketed in considerably larger quantities.
If you drink more than the recommended amount, you could face unforeseen health consequences, based on your body's makeup and history of health issues. Lactic acidosis, or a buildup of acid in your blood, is the primary risk.
Kombucha and Weight Loss
Maybe your healthy lifestyle blueprint includes a weight loss program. If that's the case, you'd like to see some results from switching to a healthier diet and adopting a regular exercise program. However, the scale hardly seems to budge, and you wonder if you're missing something.
According to CarePoint Health, you might be burdened by an unhealthy gut, which can make weight loss more difficult, and even lead to weight gain down the road. To put it in perspective, your body's bacteria population (or microbiome) consists of billions of beneficial (and harmful) bacteria. These bacteria populate your gut, or intestinal tract.
Having a healthy gut enables you to absorb nutrients from your food, and increases the odds of general good health. However, if you consume a high-sugar diet or drink alcohol to excess, your gut balance tilts in the wrong direction. Some prescription medications can also have this effect. Eventually, poor gut health can result in less-than-optimum overall health.
So, if you've been sticking to a weight loss program, and still can't get the results you want, you might need to eliminate your "bad" gut bacteria. You'll improve your general gut health, and set the stage for weight loss.
Because kombucha fermentation results in an abundance of "good" bacteria, consuming this supplement can help to populate your intestinal tract with these beneficial organisms. Over time, your gut health should improve, and weight loss will be more likely.
Read more: 13 Surprising and Beneficial Probiotic Foods
Kombucha and Liver Function
Kombucha has been tied to at least one instance of impaired liver function. The U.S. National Library of Medicine reported on details of a January 2016 case in which a 58-year-old woman was admitted to a South Dakota hospital with nausea and epigastric pain.
The patient was expelling dark-colored urine, and reported that she had experienced jaundice symptoms for three days. Upon investigation, physicians determined that the woman had consumed a substantial amount of kombucha tea for a month before her hospital admission.
Fortunately, her stomach pain was alleviated with treatment. However, the woman's CT-driven liver biopsy displayed evidence of moderately active hepatitis with complications. Physicians concluded that the woman's liver had suffered drug-induced damage, and the Mayo Clinic agreed with them.
The woman was discharged with medication for the liver injury and for episodes of itching. She was also instructed to avoid taking herbal supplements, and was scheduled for a two-week follow-up visit that would include liver function evaluations.
Kombucha and Kidney Health
In contrast, there is virtually no empirical evidence on kombucha's effect on kidney function — or on most other human body systems. Although many users have eagerly reported claims of specific health benefits, most of those "benefits" were analyzed in studies without human subjects.
Instead, the kombucha-related studies used experimental models on which to build their hypotheses and draw conclusions. Results of numerous non-human studies on kombucha's antioxidant, antimicrobial, anticancer and hepatoprotective properties have also been noted.
In 2014, Institute of Food Technologists researchers decided to undertake a thorough review of then-current research on kombucha's reported benefits. Many fermented tea drinkers were quick to claim that kombucha was effective at healing (or preventing) a bladder infection.
The satisfied users also claimed that kombucha decreased their kidney calcification. Again, there is virtually no human-based research that confirms (or denies) these claims, so they should taken with a healthy grain of salt.
- Harvard Medical School: “Fermented Foods: Favorable for Heart Health?”
- Colorado Food Source Information: “Kombucha”
- Cleveland Clinic: “What Are Kombucha’s Health Benefits (and How Much Can You Safely Drink)?”
- Mayo Clinic: “What Is Kombucha Tea? Does It Have Any Health Benefits?”
- Michigan State University: “Food Safety Aspects of Kombucha”
- CarePoint Health: “7 Foods That Improve Gut Health”
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: “A Case of Hepatotoxicity Related to Kombucha Tea Consumption”
- Institute of Food Technologists: “A Review on Kombucha Tea—Microbiology, Composition, Fermentation, Beneficial Effects, Toxicity, and Tea Fungus”