Kombucha... All your questions answered!
Have you ever heard the saying “the difference between a poison and a medicine is the dose” I guess it’s just another way of saying too much of a good thing can be bad!
I was recently shown an article by a friend (you know who you are) warning about the dangers of Kombucha and we were both left a little perplexed. (https://www.publish.csiro.au/hc/Fulltext/HC15930)
Kombucha has been sprouted as the new super drink with it making an appearance in not only the trendy cafés but also our local supermarkets as well as many home brewers turning their hand to this tasty and healthy drink. Kombucha is a fermented tea drink which is brewed using a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) to make a slightly fizzy beverage which is packed full of taste and also bacteria (but the good stuff).
As with a lot of things these days there are a lot of health claims for the miracle fermented tea known as Kombucha range from anti-cancer to anti-diabetic, weight loss and a a cure for constipation with everything in between (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-01-24/what-is-kombucha-how-do-health-claims-stack-up/9348654) .
Whether these claims stack up is open to conjecture, most trials which are conducted are usually on animals or with very small human groups making establishing definitive outcomes somewhat difficult, but what we do know is that due to kombucha being a fermented drink it contains bacteria which facilitates the fermentation process.
Many traditional cultures include some sort of fermented product in their diets, be it sauerkraut from Germans, Kimchi from the Koreans, Miso from the Japanese or fermented Shark from the Icelandic. Not only has this been a way to preserve produce but in many cases can also help give a boost some of the much need gut bacteria and help improve general wellbeing.
And this is where we start to run into the controversy with Kombucha. There are claims which people have had negative albeit generally minor impact from Kombucha including tummy upsets and nausea as well as dizziness. There is also a claim that there have been deaths although a death was associated with Kombucha consumption back in 1995. Unfortunately, it is difficult to comment on these cases due to not being aware of any other underlying medical issues or the amount of Kombucha consumed, or even the conditions to which the consumed kombucha was brewed (https://vegetarian.lovetoknow.com/kombucha-tea-deaths).
So what should you be aware of when drinking Kombucha?
It is a health tonic! Small regular consumption may be helpful for healthy outcomes such as diversifying gut bacteria but large regular over consumption may have adverse effects. If we think about this, it’s a bit like alcohol. A glass of red wine a day may actually help health through boosting antioxidants and reducing risk of heart disease, however drink the entire bottle in one go and things start to get a little haywire.
Start slow. How much is too much? Well this a personalised thing. But start small 20ml -50ml a day. A shot daily can help improve your digestion and get things moving, but overdo it and things may become on an express route - if you know what I mean .
If you have a yeast sensitivity - leave it out! Don’t forget the Y in SCOBY stands for yeast!
Kombucha may be a healthier alternative to soft drinks as any sugar in the mixed is utilised during the fermentation process. You can brew or buy your Kombucha with many flavours to help give your kombucha a little something extra.
Kombucha should be kept in the fridge, this helps keep the good bacteria alive. Beware of the brands in the supermarket that are pasteurised as this process kills off bacteria or the ones which are kept on the shelf (not in the fridge) as these guys may not have the bacterial contents we’re chasing.
On a final note don't forget to give your kombucha a gentle shake before pouring to help break up the good bits on the bottom (the mother) and help you get the best out of your fermented health drink and remember too much of anything, even something that is good for you can be bad for your health! It’s all about moderation. So go forth my pretties and drink your health tonics, just don’t overdo it!
Allison is a qualified Naturopathy and Nutritional & Western Herbal Medicine. As the founder of Fundamental Wellbeing she specialises in gut health and stress related conditions. Allison possesses as strong passion for all things health and wellness, she understands that balance is essential to life, looking for real world solutions to help client’s reach their health goals.
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