I always get questions about this Health Drink at every class. I used to make this at home for a while a few years back. I stopped drinking it myself after researching the “mother” as a fungus and how many variables it can have. My biggest concern is that whatever bacteria happens to float by gets into the drink (ie. black mold). I spoke with a doctor that explained about fermentation, if we could test for what micro flora are missing in us and add that, then we would be more in balance then to just overload with one type. That made sense to me and I am more incline to use a very good pro biotic such as EJUVA brand to culture my coconut yogurt and kifer. Also Donna Gate’s website has excellent information on fermented foods. Check out more about this at the end of this article. I think a small amount of sauerkraut with meals is an excellent idea to aid digestion. I observed people becoming “hooked” on kombucha and all sorts of homemade varieties showing up at potlucks. The original version from Nourishing Traditions used black tea and white sugar and claimed that all the caffeine and sugar was gone after fermentation. That’s NOT how it reacted in my body and I suggest that you also notice if after having kombucha you start looking forward to having more and more, that you consider this an imbalance. I observed that people that like fermented drinks seem to drink more alcohol such as beer and wine, all alcohol turns to sugar once ingested. So I don’t drink it anymore. The price last week in a store was as much as $3.50 for one small bottle, that is also another good reason to not drink it. Whole Foods pulled it from the shelves when they tested some batches and it exceeded the alcohol levels and now it has a sign that says you must be 21 years old to purchase it. So, young kids could be getting a bit of a buzz while enjoying all that fizzy feeling. I know if you are really attached to something it might be hard to hear both sides but it is important to make your food choices with a full education and checking in with your own body. I found this well researched article and wanted to share it with you. If kombucha works for you and you have a reliable clean source then by all means continue on your health journey and let your own body be your guide!
Here is the article:
Kombucha is a fermented tea that has gained lots of popularity and a substantial following in recent years. Many people drink for its assumed medicinal benefits; it is most commonly known for boosting the body’s immune system. Some say the drink can work miracles with benefits including curing baldness, detoxifying the body, repairing joints, curing cancer, reducing blood pressure and prolonging life.
It is said that kombucha originated in ancient China and was used as a health tonic for thousands of years, but various forms of fermented tea exist in other countries as well. Since the 19th century, fermented tea was used in Russia; they referred to it as “tea kvass”.
Kombucha is a SCOBY – symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts. It is a fermented drink made with tea (usually green or black), sugar, bacteria and yeast. Even though it’s often referred to as kombucha mushroom tea, kombucha is not a mushroom; it’s a colony of bacteria and yeast. The natural, vegan beverage contains organic acids, B vitamins, amino acids, polyphenols, enzymes, probiotics and traces of ethyl alcohol, depending on brewing time and conditions.[i]
In order to make kombucha, brewers rely on what’s called a starter – a bit of already fermented tea- referred to as “the mother.” Once the mother is added to sweetened tea and allowed to sit in a glass jar unrefrigerated for 7 -14 days, a colony of bacteria and yeast grows above the surface. This “mother” will expand and split into smaller pieces termed “babies,” which brewers can give to friends or sell. [ii]
Though Kombucha has had a rise in the last few years it is the second wave of its popularity. The first wave was in the early 1990s when it was thought to boost immunity in people with HIV/AIDS. At that time it wasn’t as readily available.
In 1995, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report linking kombucha to the death of a woman and the illness of another woman. Both women experienced excessive acid buildup in the body that health professionals correlated to their daily dose of kombucha. The center did not definitively cite the tea as the culprit but the incident made people hesitant to make kombucha a part of their daily lives.
In 2003-2004 the slightly fizzy, sour & sweet drink- Kombucha made its return. At that time Whole Foods began distributing the tea nationally. In 2009, kombucha and other “functional” juices in the United States topped $295 million that year, according to SPINS Inc., a market researcher.
Kombucha’s popularity was growing as a part of a larger trend in “probiotic” foods containing bacteria, which some studies suggest benefit digestion and boost the immune system.
Studies assessing the benefits of kombucha involving humans are lacking; all studies available have been done with animals. It is good to note though that there have been numerous individual accounts that Kombucha has helped people with digestion, arthritis and even cancer.
In an interview by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette in 2007, commercial kombucha brewer G.T. Dave, credited kombucha for possibly slowing the spread of an aggressive form of breast cancer that his mother dealt with and for keeping up her strength and spirit during chemotherapy.[iii] The experience sparked her teenage son’s interest and later his business.
Research has shown that kombucha may have anti-microbial effects against harmful bacteria like E. coli. A Serbian study published in 2007 looked into combining Kombucha with other herbs. The study demonstrated that lemon balm kombucha showed strong antimicrobial effects against E. coli and Salmonella bacteria and it inhibited the growth of Staphylococcus aureus. It was shown that kombucha made from lemon balm tea had higher antioxidant activity than lemon balm tea alone, probably due to vitamins added by the fermentation process.[iv]
Promoters of kombucha also claim it protects the liver from damage. An Indian study done on animals in 2009, gave carbon tetrachloride to induce liver damage and then assessed the impact of kombucha tea along with black tea and enzyme-processed tea. Researchers found that kombucha tea had more protective effects than the other two teas.[v]
Kombucha “has prophylactic and therapeutic properties” including antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal effects, according to a study destined for the June 2012 issue of Swiss Society of Food Science and Technology. Its authors state that kombucha “may be very healthful” in combating yeast infections, thrush, and other forms of candidiasis.[vi]
Unfortunately there aren’t too many studies that help asses all of the benefits that people connect to drinking Kombucha. Scientific evidence on kombucha’s benefits is just in the preliminary stages but there are numerous individual testimonials from people who drink kombucha reporting benefits like enhanced wellbeing, increased energy and weight loss and many other benefits.
Some medical professionals, however, think the drink is dangerous. According to Dr. Michael Gregor, a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker, Kombucha may be harmful to your health. Published last year, the journal of Intensive Care Medicine states that, “kombucha may cause serious health risks and consumption of this tea should be discouraged.”
Renowned doctor, Andrew Weil is concerned with the same health risk that Dr. Gregor mentions, lactic acidosis (the build-up of lactic acid). According to Dr. Weil’s article, physicians at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles reported a life-threatening case of lactic acidosis and acute kidney failure in a 22-year-old man newly diagnosed with HIV within a few hours of his consuming kombucha tea. This happened in 2009. Dr. Weil specifically warns pregnant women, nursing mothers, the elderly, children and anyone with a compromised immune system against consuming it.
Dr. Weil is concerned with the possibility of contamination in home-brewed kombucha. “Some batches contain aspergillus, a toxin-producing fungus. This would be a significant risk for individuals with compromised immune systems, such as those with AIDS or in chemotherapy for cancer. There have been reports in the medical literature of adverse reactions, including nausea, vomiting and headaches, in people drinking more than four ounces of kombucha tea daily.”[vii]
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also noted that the potential for contamination of kombucha tea is high because the teas are often brewed in homes in non-sterile environments. Plus if kombucha tea is brewed in ceramic pots, the acids in the tea may pull lead from the ceramic material which would lead to lead poisoning.[viii]
Dr. Weil says that he knows of no health benefits from Kombucha. He also adds that kombucha has become extremely popular, in part due to photos of celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan and Halle Berry carrying bottles of the beverage and in part by promotion of the idea that it’s a healthy drink.
Lastly, the American Cancer Society states that available scientific evidence does not support any claims that Kombucha tea can promote good health or prevent the development of certain ailments. The scientific studies that involve Kombucha tea are based on lab reports and animal findings, and reported benefits are based on personal reports.[ix]
It seems as if the arguments both ways could benefit from more substantial evidence and studies. Do you drink Kombucha tea? Please post your comments.
I don’t want to give the impression that we should not consume fermented foods at all so here is an exerpt from the Body Ecology website www.bodyecology.com that explains fermented food benefits to the largest organ of our body, our skin!
Donna Gates is a relentless researcher and brilliant contributor for creating a healthy lifestyle. Please take the time and peruse her site to become more familiar with how to ferment foods for a stronger immune system.
Here is what she has to say:
“You may know that beneficial flora in the gut empower the immune system throughout the body.
Good gut bacteria actually talk to your body’s immune cells. A large mass of lymphoid tissue sits just beneath the intestinal tract. Gut bacteria can reduce inflammation. This is why including cultured foods in your daily diet is often helpful in alleviating inflammatory conditions associated with food sensitivities and a permeable intestinal lining. Sometimes inflammation beginning in the gut manifests in seemingly unrelated places, such as in the skin.
Many people have found that a diet rich in friendly bacteria improves chronic skin conditions like acne, eczema and psoriasis.
And research supports anecdotal findings. (1) (2) A great deal of scientific interest has been generated around the bacteria found on the interior and exterior of our bodies. It turns out that bacteria can be either symbiotic to our systems or pathogenic.
For example, a diet that consists largely of processed foods and excessive sugar creates an environment that supports pathogenic microorganisms. Likewise, the more cultured foods, green leafy vegetables, seaweeds, and fermented microalgae that you ingest, the more likely it is that your body is home to beneficial microflora that enhance immune activity, the proper functioning of your digestive system, mental clarity, and physical energy.
A great deal of energy and money is spent on over-the-counter and pharmaceutical preparations to help heal red, inflamed skin conditions like acne and eczema.
Oftentimes, medical health care professionals prescribe antibiotics, corticosteroid creams, or other topical applications that use hormones to provide immediate relief to the skin. None of these treatments are effective long-term, and their benefits are short-lived. In fact, steroid creams can deeply affect the adrenal stress response. Estrogen enhanced skin creams can cause a toxic build-up of estrogen in the body, which can impair thyroid function.
Yes, you can finally have healthy skin free from inflammatory conditions like acne, eczema, and psoriasis!
By using a homemade facial made with fermented coconut meat, you can restore health to your skin with a boost of good bacteria.
Repopulating the gut with good bacteria is the first step toward healing inflammatory skin conditions.
This means eating fermented foods. Fermented foods are teeming with good bacteria and include traditional favorites like kimchee, sauerkraut, yogurt, and kefir. At Body Ecology, we suggest fermenting coconut water, rather than milk, as it is least associated with inflammatory food sensitivities.