What is the deal with Kombucha?

Kombucha is all the rage at the moment and I felt compelled to write this article after hearing a lot of people say they have swapped alcohol for kombucha during their Feb fast - which worries me! 

So what is this sparkling beverage people are bringing to social functions in replace of wine or beer?  It is a fermented drink that is made from tea, sugar and a scoby which stands for (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). The scoby ferments the sugar and you end up with an effervescent liquid that could be described as diluted apple cider vinegar.  Alcohol is produced in this process but further fermentation leaves negligible amounts in the final product, as with the amount of sugar.

Once the drink is made, which is known as the original flavour, it can then be flavoured to your desire using all sorts of natural options such as lemon, ginger, berry, passionfruit and even turmeric. It is actually very simple to make at home and once you get over the fear of the scoby growing and taking over your entire house (it won’t, don’t worry) it can be quite fun to experiment with different flavours. What you do need to be careful of when opting for commercial brands is to make sure the flavours added are natural and are not added sugar and artificial flavours.

Kombucha does have some merit to the claims it is great for your gut health as we all know that fermented products are beneficial in helping to populate our digestive tract with healthy bacteria. Furthermore we get added benefits from the tea which is rich in antioxidants and polyphenols. More research needs to be done into the extent of these benefits, and they certainly won’t be as potent as a probiotic supplement, but we can be confident that including this beverage in our balanced diet can be helpful for some gut lovin.

The story doesn’t end there though. Our gut lining is very sensitive and although fermented products can be helpful, they can also be harmful. If you do not have a diet that is balanced and rich in plant foods, fibre and probiotics then there is a chance that your gut health isn’t up to scratch. In this case, too much fermented product can actually cause sensitivity and reactions in the form of gas, bloating, cramping, reflux and irregular bowel movements. Hence if you don’t think that your gut health would be up to scratch you need to start with very small amounts of kombucha (30ml) each day and build your way up.

Even for those with healthy guts, I only recommend ½ -1 cup per day because over doing anything can cause reactions and unpleasant symptoms. On the odd occasion a full 330ml bottle won’t do any harm, as long as you don’t experience any reactions, however for a sustainable approach to gaining the benefits without any digestive distress I recommend ½-1 cup per day.     

So for those who thought it was great replacement to alcohol, sure it is, but only for one drink. Then my recommendation is to swap to a naturally flavoured mineral water or soda water so that you don’t wake up the next day feeling like there is a balloon in your belly!     

Photo credit: farmdrop.com

Photo credit: farmdrop.com