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Guest Post: Kombucha

We have been so lucky at Kindred to work with Natalia Holguin who is interning with us. Natalia is a personal trainer who is earning experience to apply for the Dietetic Internship this fall. This is a great read!
What’s with Kombucha?
Recently there has been lots of talk about this wonder drink call Kombucha. But what on earth is Kombucha and why is it good for our gut? Here is a quick summary of what I’ve found.
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage thought to have originated in China or Japan about 2,000 years ago. This beverage is made by adding specific strains of bacteria, yeast, and sugar to black or green tea and then allowing it to ferment for a week or so.  During fermentation, the bacteria and yeast gathers at the surface of the beverage to create something that resembles a mushroom but is actually called a “SCOBY” ( Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast). The SCOBY is then taken out of the beverage and can be used to ferment other batches of kombucha.
Health benefits of drinking Kombucha
Benefits of kombucha tea are based primarily on personal reports and a few animal studies.  Many claim that kombucha boosts the immune system, helps prevent cancer, and improves digestion and liver function. However, no sound clinical trials testing the health claims of kombucha have been done yet. That does not mean that there are not any benefits from drinking the tea; it simply means that there is no strong evidence that proves the benefits of the claims out there.  The research that I have been able to find suggests (but HAS NOT proven) that there may be some beneficial factors of the drink:
  • Kombucha may be a rich source of probiotics. Due to the fermentation process of certain strains of bacterium and yeast, this beverage may have positive effects on the bacterial flora of the gut and may be protective against harmful bacteria. (4)
  • Kombucha may be a good source of antioxidants (especially when made from green tea). These tea leaves have a type of antioxidants called polyphenols which protect your body’s cells from harmful oxidative substances. Put more simply, kombucha tea will have similar benefits to that of the tea that it is made with (usually black or green tea). (5)
  • Energy booster: Kombucha’s ability to invigorate people is credited to the formation of iron that is released from the black tea during the fermentation process. It also contains some caffeine (although in very small amounts) and b-vitamins, which can energize the body.

Is Kombucha Safe?
Kombucha’s popularity is partially due to the probiotic content of the drink. To maintain these good bacteria benefits, the tea must not be pasteurized, which increases the risk of contamination. (3)
Some experts caution about the danger of home brewed and unpasteurized kombucha  prepared in non-sterile environments. The risk is that harmful bacteria could find its way into the drink. The FDA cautions that home brewed versions are at high risk of contamination.
You can purchase kombucha at the store or make it yourself at home. However be careful with home brewed Kombucha because over-fermented and contaminated Kombucha can cause severe health problems. Commercial products are considered safe and alcohol free, as they must contain less than 0.5% alcohol.
Conclusion
Whether you have used kombucha and have reaped the benefits or are a skeptic I would say that this tea drink could have potential for overall health based on personal experiences. I think that there is value in considering the "unscientific" claims and testimonials of thousands of people from around the world for in the last hundred years as well as value in more scientific studies.
References:

Be well,
Natalia

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