Does Kombucha Live Up to the Health Claims?
These days, many people are swearing by kombucha as a miracle tea that has made them healthier, happier, and more energetic. But does it actually live up to these claims, or are these people experiencing a placebo effect? There is no definite answer, but research has provided some key takeaways for us to consider if we are interested in consuming kombucha.
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented tea that contains a symbiotic culture of acetic acid bacteria and yeast, known as SCOBY. The tea goes through a fermentation process that gives it a carbonated, vinegary, and sour flavor. Kombucha enthusiasts claim that the good bacteria created by the fermentation can help improve gut health, reduce stress, and even lead to weight loss. Some more extreme proponents have suggested that kombucha can even cure cancer and prevent heart disease.
The Case for Kombucha
Some research has shown that regular consumption of kombucha can, in fact, lead to positive effects similar to those provided by probiotics. This includes keeping a regular digestive schedule and minimizing cases of constipation and diarrhea. It can also contribute to a healthier immune system as gut health is key in its development.
Studies on lab animals have suggested that the drink might have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Certain lab studies have shown that the tea could potentially contribute to the treatment of gastric ulcers and high cholesterol levels, but there is no evidence that this will translate to humans.
The Case Against Kombucha
While some health benefits have been observed, there have also been negative effects associated with kombucha consumption. Some people suffer from upset stomachs shortly after drinking the tea, and others have had allergic reactions ranging from mild to severe. These can be made even worse by home-brewed kombucha, where amateur brewing may lead to nonsterile conditions and even cause lead poisoning.
For those with already weakened immune systems or diseases, kombucha can exacerbate the conditions. It can lead to low blood sugar in diabetics and cause acidosis or liver damage in those with HIV or other autoimmune diseases. The excessive amount of yeast in kombucha can lead to yeast infections, especially in those who already suffer from candida.
The studies of kombucha find that the benefits are very similar to those that are found in regular black or green tea, so it may not be worth it to risk the negative side effects.
As of now, the jury is still out on whether or not kombucha is a surefire way to get healthy. There have been mixed results and it seems to vary from person to person, depending on their health levels. Because the positive effects are similar to that of black or green tea, you may be better of sticking to those if you prefer them. However, if you enjoy kombucha and have felt better since drinking it, you can continue to do so as long as it is done in moderation.