What is Kombucha?
Let’s get the icky bit out of the way from the get-go. There is very little in the way of scientific studies or evidence for any of the claims made by advocates of this fermented beverage. From what I can gather, there has been a minimal amount of studies looking into the effects it has on rats, but there is nothing to suggest that these benefits are transferable to us. Having said that, I think there is value in the unknown. There is nothing to say that; the research hasn’t been undertaken because it isn’t warranted. I would imagine it’s more the lack of funding and demand to justify anything comprehensive. Importantly, Kombucha is something you can easily make at home at minimal cost, so who would actually foot the bill or profit from such research? Worth considering before dismissing it’s potential merits. But hey, that’s just one girls’ simple opinion.
Kombucha, put simply is the result from fermenting different types of tea (i.e.; green, black and white) with sugar and Kombucha cultures, specifically what they call a ‘scoby’.
Scoby = Symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.
This is where my regular readers will understand where this is going. If you haven’t read ‘Fibromyalgia and your Microbiome’ it’s worth doing so to understand my point with this, particularly as it ascertains to us warriors. Considering I have been doing a lot of work on my Microbiome, with the belief that not only will this help me move forwards with my current situation, but most importantly, I genuinely feel like it’s an absolute necessity to long lasting health, regardless of what currently ails me. Supporting my Microbiome has become somewhat of an obsession; so now I really need to ensure I’m re-populating it with healthy ‘probiotic’ bacteria.
Your Microbiome is often called ‘the forgotten organ’ and it’s easy to see why. We are becoming more and more aware of the importance of digestive health, in ways we wouldn’t have considered before. With the research into links between digestive health: ‘your Microbiome’ and things as seemingly opposite as your neurological health, it’s no wonder we are all educating ourselves on what we can do to support this ‘organ’ that can have such a wide spread reach on your overall health.
This past year as I’ve learnt more and more about this colony of bacteria living inside and on us; I’ve realized that here in the UK, when you think about our national dishes and our eating habits, as a majority; one thing we severely lack is regular and assorted fermented foods. Do you include things such as sauerkraut, kimchi, or Kefir in your daily or even weekly routine? The closest we get in general, is yoghurt. Have you ever really sat down and thought about what it means when the label reads “live cultures”? Do you make choices based on and conscious of that? Or a yoghurt drink for the same reason? Do you know that these live cultures/healthy bacteria, are seriously damaged by the pasteurization process? I honestly NEVER thought about it. I used to buy my probiotic yoghurt drinks on offer, never really taking much notice of anything else and not really sure why I was doing it, apart from the brain-washing ad campaigns that lingered in my subconscious, telling me they’re ‘good for me’ and as a loyal consumer subject, I would unwittingly shove them in my trolley, doing what I’m told by the mainstream and barely acknowledging that I was acting on behalf of some mega-company’s catchy and colourful campaign.
I had heard rave reviews by fellow chronic illness sufferers on the regular use of Kefir. How they found improvements with certain symptoms, albeit on a very individual basis. Considering this, as I’m Vegan a) I will not drink milk and b) like as if the idea of milk isn’t bad enough, fermenting it turns my stomach! So that took Kefir off the table for me, but I started to wonder, could I turn elsewhere for the same potential benefits?
I can’t remember what I first saw about Kombucha that instigated my research into this living health drink. But I was intrigued, so out came Mr. Google. I was learning, the good the bad and the down right concerning, I’ll be honest. But I couldn’t help myself from being drawn in by the idea of this “tea of immortality”. So, I decided the best thing to do was to experiment with this myself, I mean, despite some of the so-called “risks”, which may I add, seem to all be associated with the at-home-brew being contaminated in some way; did I really want to dismiss it without even trying it? I mean, the Chinese have been drinking this stuff for thousands of years so…you know, they didn’t die out or anything so it can’t be THAT bad, can it?
Ok I’m going to level with you, one of the first things I did learn about Kombucha is that, due to the way it’s fermented, it is naturally carbonated, so depending on the variety of tea used, it was likened to sparkling apple cider, or champagne. Need I say more?
My entire knowledge on the fermentation of anything, was pretty much zilch, although in the back of my mind I was thinking; “erm…but alcohol though?” Reassuringly I discovered that the yeasts do produce alcohol, but the yummy bacteria in the culture turn the alcohol into organic acids, so only negligible quantities of alcohol, typically 0.5-1% by volume remain in the kombucha brew. Phew!!! In honesty, my biggest concern was the caffeine content, as you know, I’ve given up caffeine and I didn’t want to break this despite my desire to trick myself into thinking I’m drinking champagne at day break.
After a little further digging, I found that it’s generally accepted that the Kombucha brew typically contains a third of the caffeine content of which the sourced tea would contain. That in mind, along with all the potential benefits I was reading about, I decided to plough forward with my personal experiment. Ironically using Kombucha to try to undo the damage, some of which my black tar-like coffee addiction was culpable for.
The more I read and learnt of the potential benefits, the more I was intrigued by certain claims I’d read, specifically for targeting problematic symptoms I (we) battle:
The probiotics heal the gut, which in turn, contributes to boosted immunity.
We all know the difference between good and bad bacteria. But it’s not just probiotics in this fermented fizziness that supports digestive health. It has high levels of beneficial acid, amino acids and enzymes. There’s even some research, which has shown Kombucha’s ability to prevent and heal stomach ulcers. It also helps candida overpopulation within the gut by restoring balance to the digestive system, with live probiotic cultures that help the gut to repopulate with good bacteria while crowding out the candida yeast!
Antioxidants help to detoxify the body and protect against disease.
In relation to both of these disease-fighting benefits, also consider that the antioxidants help to reduce inflammation. Yes Please!! So oxidative stress can damage cells, even down to your DNA. Being exposed to processed foods and environmental chemicals are factors in causing this stress, which in turn contributes to chronic inflammation. Granted, for the sake of our bank balance, standard tea does contain antioxidants BUT research shows that the fermentation process of Kombucha creates antioxidants NOT present, like glucaric acid! Plus, an unbalanced and unhealthy Microbiome will promote inflammation. So unfortunately that doesn’t mean you can increase your hot tea intake threefold and hope for the same benefits, sorry!
It contains Phytochemicals that have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, potentially promoting healthy Liver and Kidney function and reduce diabetic complications.
“Research from the University of Latvia in 2014 claims that drinking Kombucha tea can be beneficial for many infections and diseases due to four main properties; detoxification, anti-oxidation, energizing potencies and promotion of depressed immunity.”
What can I say, I was lured in by “promoting healthy liver function” so had to add this to my list of what to share. I’m not going to lie; the thought of supporting my liver (a massive change from my 20’s) was quite appealing to say the least!!
Rich in B – Vitamins and Folic acid, which is key for helping the body produce and maintain new cells.
Moving past the digestive benefits, it may also protect your mind too. With the array of B – Vitamins it contains, most notably Vitamin B12 which is known to increase energy levels and contribute to overall mental wellbeing.
Granted I have literally just scratched the surface with potential beneficial claims here, but lets delve into these a bit more, specifically thinking of chronic illness.
I don’t know about you, but ever since I’ve been diagnosed with this elaborate list of illnesses, I have been entitled to a yearly Flu jab through my GP. Honestly, it’s not something I’ve ever taken them up on the offer of, and here’s why: You read so many stories, hear them first hand from family and friends, plus it’s a recognized risk, that particularly on your first dose; the Flu jab (understandably) can make you quite sick. Obviously, not as sick as you would be if you actually had full blown flu, but such is the way with any prevention such as this. For me, I have had Flu in the past, a very long time ago and the thought of getting even a small bout of it on top of my current struggles is unbearable. Yes I’m taking a risk either way, but this is my point.
I like to do my best to ensure that I’m mindful of what I put into my body, asking myself; will it serve me? These days I ask this question a lot, most commonly with what I eat and drink. So to finally get to my point; if I were to drink something daily which, not only contains B12 for my Vegan body, but also works to promote and support my immune system, potentially protecting me from having to battle against something else, albeit temporarily, surely that’s worth giving a whirl?
I’ve read that Kombucha has the ability to regulate the “communication of the gut-brain axis” suggesting that it could be useful in minimizing the effects of depression and anxiety. With all the strains we carry, avoiding these symptoms is damn near impossible. We already know the correlation between gut health and mental health but may I be so bold to go further and hope for an improvement in fog? The more I read the more I really did wonder, with claims of energy increasing, digestive and thus mental health improving, would stand to reason these themselves whether directly or indirectly would have a positive effect on the confusion, fog and hopefully the volume of brain farts I experience daily.
At the start of this post, I did mention that I wanted to experiment with this on myself, see what I noticed. Now I planned this so I could try to document as best as I could, what I genuinely noticed improving or changing through a 3-month period. Baring in mind our suffering goes through peaks and troughs, and; troughs buried under 3 feet of shite. The unpredictability of it, actually being one of the only predictable things about it. I needed to try to really listen to my body so I could gauge whether this potent elixir was worth it.
I have conducted this experiment and we are now 4 months down the line. I wanted to give you a taster as to what I’d been learning before bombarding you with seemingly random results.
I will be detailing the effects I have experienced in a follow-up post so I can be as thorough as I can. But for now just know, I will be continuing this newly forged habit of drinking Kombucha tea.
P.s. Arguably the most important point to leave you with today; I was totally sucked into believing I was drinking alcohol before breakfast!! Champers baby yeaaaaah!!