what’s kombucha? health benefits and potential risks

I remember exactly when we first tried kombucha. Early Spring this year I bought a bottle of kombucha from the store when it was on offer – just to try if we like the flavour. And we really enjoyed it. Not too sweet, just slightly fizzy and very refreshing. It was good enough for my partner to start digging about it a bit more and find out that we can actually make our own homemade kombucha.

Kombucha is a type of tea that has been fermented. This makes it a good source of probiotics, which improve your digestion, stimulates immunity reduce inflammation and has many other benefits that I will introduce in a moment.

We’ve got our first SCOBY (kombucha starter) from a kind lady who offered me a spare one through our community forum. And that’s how we’ve started making our own kombucha for almost six months now. Through that time I’ve managed to gather not only some informations about it, but I can also tell you if drinking kombucha daily made any difference in our bodies.

My intention is not to persuade you to buy or drink kombucha regularly. Below you will find compilation of information that I found by reading some scientific articles. They do not contribute one hundred percent knowledge about the properties of kombucha, but they show what changes can you can expect by the regular use of kombucha containing a whole galaxy of bacteria, micronutrients and vitamins produced during the fermentation process. Some of the changes we noticed after a few months of drinking homemade kombucha. I decided to share this information with you after I had the first runny nose this autumn-winter season. For years, every runny nose in my case ends with sinusitis, sometimes lasting several weeks. Recently, whenever I have had sinusitis, I have had used home treatment of sinus rinsing with a solution of hydrogen peroxide. It never a pleasure, but it works. And this time when a runny nose caught me a few weeks ago, I was mentally prepared to start the unpleasant treatment. What was my surprise when on the fourth day the runny nose practically disappeared by itself. No clogged sinuses, no headaches or blocked nose. For three days my nose was dripping like a tap, on the fourth day everything was settled and my nose returned to its normal state. Honestly I was shocked. Obviously I’m not a scientist and cannot confirm that, but I assume that kombucha had a big impact on it. It was the only change to my diet or habits through the last couple months.
Other differences described by my partner after daily drinking homemade kombucha: mainly regulation of blood pressure, thereby relieving the headache caused by pressure surges. Also better digestion and much more energy during intensive work.

Lest this post last forever and discourage you from reading, I will divide the topic of kombucha into 3 parts. The first is the one you are reading – you will find out what kombucha is, what it is made of and what properties it has. In the next post, I will share with you my recipe for kombucha and all the information related to homemade kombucha. In the last post we will discuss the difference between homemade kombucha and its store bought version. So grab yourself a cup of tea and dive into the kombucha world.

What exactly is kombucha?

Kombucha is a traditional fermented tea probably originated in northeast China about 220 B.C., disseminated to Japan in 414 A.D. as a medicine, and spread through trade routes to Russia and eastern Europe. How did that happened that kombucha became so popular you will get to know later in that post.

Fermentation is one of the most antique methods of food preservation. It is also a low-cost energy conservation system, which is essential to ensure the life and safety of food. Kombucha is non-alcoholic a beverage made by fermenting tea and sugar, with a Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY). The SCOBY is a biofilm of microorganisms resembling a mushroom cap, which becomes a starter for subsequent brews.

Fermentation takes about 7 to 14 days, longer you brew it more acidic it becomes. If you brew your kombucha too long it will become a vinegar (that can be used the same as apple cider vinegar).

The SCOBY comprises various acetic acid bacteria and yeasts. After fermentation, kombucha is a cocktail of chemical components, including sugars, tea polyphenols, organic food acids, fiber, trace amounts of ethanol, amino acids including lysine, essential elements such as Copper, Iron, Manganese, Nickel, and Zinc; water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C, and several B vitamins, carbon dioxide, antibiotic substances and hydrolytic enzymes.

As for the probiotics that can be found in this drink, they will be:

  • Gluconacetobacter – over 85% in most samples,
  • Acetobacter – less than 2%,
  • Lactobacillus – up to 30% in some samples,
  • Zygosaccharomyces – more than 95%.

Because fermentation is naturally occurring process detailed knowledge of the composition and properties of kombucha tea isn’t easy to describe. The composition and metabolite concentration are dependent on the SCOBY source, sugar and tea concentration, fermentation time, and the temperature used. Any change in the fermentation conditions might slightly affect the final product. Final sugar concentrations can differ from one fermentation to another, which indicates that the metabolic pathway does not always occur in the same way.

Health benefits

In one of the studies researchers reviewed a total of 310 articles published between 1945 and 2018. Medical studies conducted by doctors and physicians that confirmed kombucha’s health benefit:

  • antibiotic properties – kombucha is antibacterial against: Staphylococcus (staphylococcus), E. coli, Shigella sonnei, two strains of Salmonella and Campylobacter jejuni – which is probably the most common culprit of gastrointestinal infections. Sometimes it results in Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disease of the peripheral nerves,
  • regulation of gastric, intestinal, and glandular activities – as it contains a high level of beneficial acids, probiotics, amino acids and enzymes, it effectively supports digestion. Some studies have shown that it also has the ability to prevent and treat stomach ulcers. It can also stop the development of Candidia in the gut by restoring balance to the digestive system. This is due to live bacterial cultures that help the good bacteria settle in the gut. Candidiasis and other digestive problems can be difficult to treat, and sometimes symptoms worsen before they improve. This should be taken into account if we believe kombucha is exacerbating the problem. When it comes to the intestines, patience is often necessary, and often (unfortunately) we have to look for a way through trial and error,
  • relief of joint rheumatism,
  • gout and haemorrhoids,
  • positive influence on the cholesterol level – in animal studies, it helps lower triglyceride levels as well as regulate cholesterol levels,
  • arteriosclerosis,
  • toxin excretion and blood cleansing – antioxidants found in kombucha help protect the liver from oxidative stress and damage caused by overdose of paracetamol,
  • diabetes – it relieves the symptoms of diabetes, some animal studies show. It seems to do this even more effectively than the anti-diabetic black tea from which it is fermented. This is probably especially true of kidney and liver functions, which are impaired in diabetics. However, that some practitioners do not recommend eating kombucha by diabetics,
  • mental health – one of the main symptoms of leaky gut syndrome may be depression, due to the fact that gut permeability contributes to inflammation. A 2012 study, published in Biopolymers and Cell, looked at kombucha as a product suitable for long space missions. Among many other functions, it was the ability to regulate communication on the gut-brain axis that suggested that kombucha could be useful in preventing and minimizing the effects of anxiety and depression.

One of the studies revealed that daily consumption of 60 ml of kombucha for 90 days was associated with normalized blood sugar values in 24 subjects aged 45–55 years with non–insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. The lead author’s dissertation also describes improvements associated with the same intervention in individuals with mild hypertension or diverse medical problems. Neither report describes a control group.

Does it make a difference though that these benefits are not 100% confirmed by scientists? For me – NO. You have to decide for yourself.

Potential risks

Kombucha has been implicated but obviously not confirmed in a number of case reports, including hyponatremia, lactic acidosis, toxic hepatitis after consuming kombucha tea daily for two years, one patient newly diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus who presented with a case of hyperthermia, lactic acidosis, and acute renal failure within 15 hours of ingesting kombucha, symptomatic lead poisoning from brewing kombucha in a ceramic pot, an outbreak of cutaneous anthrax reportedly from applying the kombucha mushroom to the skin as a painkiller, pellagra, an allergic reaction, jaundice, and nausea, vomiting, head and neck pain, metabolic acidosis, hepatotoxicity, and cholestatic hepatitis. Non of them though was confirmed as a result of consuming kombucha.

Kombucha fermentation is commonly homemade, and therefore it is important to be cautious because pathogenic microorganisms can contaminate the tea throughout the preparation. That’s why it’s so importat to keep the process as higinic as you can sterilising all your tools and containers you use to brew and ferment kombucha. But I will go in more detail in the recipe post.

For thousands of years, fermented foods contributed to food security, traditionally prepared fermented foods, including kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut happily existed in eastern cultures without “scientific approval of American expersts”. And looking at the American health outcome trends such as diabetes and obesity not sure if scientists are doing a good job.

Is kombucha keto friendly?

Kombucha contains quite a lot of sugar. It has to in order for the fermentation process to work. Fortunately, most of the sugar is consumed by the SCOBY during the fermentation process. Smaller amounts of sugar that aren’t consumed during fermentation remain. If left alone in this state, kombucha can be enjoyed on the keto diet as it is low in sugar and carbohydrates. Kombucha sugar and carbohydrate amounts differ. The sugar content completely depends on the manufacturer. They can add more sugar to sweeten their brew further, or they may ferment the brew in a second fermentation process where additional flavors and fruits are added to mask the vinegary, tangy taste of the natural kombucha. The second fermentation adds more sugar and carbohydrates, making the kombucha out of reach for keto. It’s important to make a research and check the label if you buy your kombucha to make sure how much sugar it contains and how it was processed, but I will get to that in another post.

I hope I made you curious about kombucha. I know it’s a bit scientific and boring, but very important to understanding the subject. If you have more experience with kombucha than me, please share it in the comment. Lets start the discussion – what do you thing about fermented tea? Would you ever try it? Do you have any experiences with fermented foods?

Source of knowledge:








One thought on “what’s kombucha? health benefits and potential risks

  1. Pingback: how to make homemade kombucha – recipe & tips

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