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Kombucha is a sweet, fizzy fermented tea. Many people use it as a health drink, but does it really have any health benefits?
Kombucha contains probiotic, or friendly, bacteria. These microorganisms are known to boost a person’s health.
Because of this, there is some evidence to suggest that kombucha has a range of health benefits, including benefits for gut health, mental health, infection risk, and liver health. That said, more research is necessary to confirm these benefits.
This article will explore the scientific evidence behind some of the possible health benefits of kombucha.
Kombucha is a sweet, fizzy drink made from bacteria, yeast, sugar, and tea. It is usually a yellow-orange color and has a slightly sour taste.
To make kombucha, a person can ferment sweetened green or black tea with a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). During the fermentation process, the yeast in the SCOBY breaks down the sugar in the tea and releases friendly probiotic bacteria.
Kombucha becomes carbonated after fermentation, which is why the drink is fizzy.
In recent years, people have started using kombucha as a healthful alternative to conventional fizzy drinks and sodas.
Some studies suggest that probiotic bacteria, such as those in kombucha, have various health benefits.
The sections below will look at these potential health benefits and what the research currently says.
Some research suggests that kombucha, like other fermented foods, is rich in probiotics. Probiotic bacteria are similar to the friendly bacteria that are present in the gut.
Eating a diet that contains probiotics may help improve a person’s overall gut health. Probiotics may work by helping the body maintain a healthy community of microorganisms.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, there is some evidence to suggest that probiotics could help with the following:
It is important to remember that these benefits are mostly related to probiotic supplements, not foods and beverages that contain probiotics.
More research into how kombucha improves gut health is necessary, but the association between the two suggests that it may support the digestive system.
There is a clear link between gut health and immune system function. Research suggests that having a healthy balance of gut bacteria can promote immune health.
Consuming a healthful diet high in probiotic-rich foods and beverages may help improve gut health.
When kombucha ferments, the process produces a type of acid called acetic acid, which is also present in vinegar. Research suggests that acetic acid has antimicrobial properties.
Other studies suggest that kombucha is an antimicrobial, which means that it may be 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 the body absorbs them.
However, research has not confirmed this effect in humans.
Drinking probiotic-rich kombucha could help promote positive mental health. Indeed, according to some sources, there may be a link between probiotics and depression.
There are strong links between depression and inflammation, so the anti-inflammatory effect of kombucha may help alleviate some symptoms of depression.
A 2017 review looked at a number of existing studies and concluded that there is strong evidence to suggest that probiotic supplements may help relieve depression. That said, further research is necessary to prove how effective they are for this purpose.
However, although some research suggests that consuming probiotic-rich foods and beverages may benefit mental health, no studies have yet shown that drinking kombucha specifically can help boost mood, improve depressive symptoms, or benefit any other aspect of mental health.
Having elevated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels may increase the risk of heart disease.
A 2015 study suggests that kombucha could help reduce the levels of cholesterol linked to heart disease in rats, and other research suggests that probiotic supplements could help reduce cardiovascular disease risk.
It is important to note that effects in rats do not necessarily reflect the effects in humans. More research is necessary to confirm whether or not kombucha can reduce the risk of heart disease in humans.
Diet, exercise, weight, lifestyle habits, and inflammation also influence cholesterol levels and heart disease risk.
Kombucha contains antioxidants that help fight molecules in the body that can damage cells.
Some research, including a study from 2014, suggests that consuming antioxidant-rich kombucha may help protect against drug-induced liver damage in animals.
This suggests that kombucha may play a role in promoting liver health and reducing liver inflammation.
However, there is currently no evidence suggesting that drinking kombucha benefits liver health in humans.
Type 2 diabetes management
There is also some evidence to suggest that kombucha may also be helpful in managing type 2 diabetes, though only in animal studies.
That said, there is currently no evidence to suggest that kombucha is effective for reducing blood sugar levels in humans.
What is more, most kombucha drinks are high in added sugar, which can increase blood sugar levels. Drinking sweetened beverages such as kombucha can worsen blood sugar control in people with diabetes.
To make this beverage at home, people can make their own SCOBY by heating up and mixing together water, sugar, black or green tea, and premade kombucha.
Once the SCOBY is ready, let it sit in sweetened tea, at room temperature, for a week or more. Attach a cloth over the top of the jar with elastic, instead of a lid, to allow the SCOBY to breathe.
The kombucha will be ready to consume in 6–12 days based on a person’s taste preference; the longer it sits, the less sweet it will become.
To purchase a premade SCOBY, a person can visit a health store.
Shop for kombucha
People can purchase premade kombucha, or the ingredients necessary to make kombucha at home, from a range of brands online.
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 a person does not make it in a sterile environment.
Overfermentation or contamination can cause health problems, so it may be safer to purchase kombucha in a store than to make it at home.
Most kombuchas contain large amounts of added sugar. Frequently drinking sugar sweetened beverages can negatively impact health in many ways.
For example, drinking sweetened beverages can lead to weight gain, high blood sugar levels, and increased triglyceride levels.
When shopping for kombucha, it may be best to choose brands that contain under 4 grams (1 teaspoon) of added sugar per serving.
Kombucha has many potential health benefits. However, it is important to remember that research is ongoing, and not all benefits have been proven in studies with human participants.
Although some research suggests that consuming kombucha could help with other factors, including cancer risk and weight loss, there is currently not enough evidence to support these possible benefits.
If a person makes it properly or buys it in-store, kombucha is a probiotic-rich drink that is safe to enjoy as part of a healthful diet.