What Are the Health Benefits of Drinking Kombucha?
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Kombucha beverage has been around for about 2,000 years. The health-promoting drink can be traced to Eastern Asia where it has been used as food and medicine for centuries.
In recent times, the popularity of kombucha has spread across the continents of the world. But, what is kombucha? What are the health benefits of kombucha? Indeed, why should you drink kombucha?
In this discussion, we will trace its history, the rise in its popularity, its health benefits and how it is made.
What Is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented beverage made from sweetened black or green tea. To promote fermentation, a mix of yeasts and bacteria, also known as SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) is added.
The mixture is set aside to ferment for varying lengths of time. As it ferments, the ingredients, especially the polyphenols in tea undergo biochemical changes.
At the same time, the taste of the mixture changes from sweet to acidic. The acidity helps to inhibit the growth of harmful microorganisms while promoting multiplication of the beneficial microorganisms.
The end result of the biochemical changes is the beverage known as kombucha.
While fermentation normally leads to the production of alcohol, kombucha contains less than 0.5 percent of alcohol. (1) It is therefore considered non-alcoholic.
Spread of Kombucha to the Rest of the World
Research indicates that kombucha originated in China more than 2,000 years ago. It was recognized as a detoxifying drink that also helped to energize the body and protect from diseases.
For nearly two thousand years, kombucha was unknown outside China. However, kombucha finally found its way into Eastern Europe through Russia. From there, it spread to the rest of Europe and North Africa during the World War II period and the 1950s.
In the western civilization, kombucha's health benefits were first recognized in the 1960s by Swiss scientists who likened it to yogurt.
According to the Swiss scientists, kombucha is rich in compounds and microorganisms that benefit the gut besides other systems in the body.
Further studies have shown that there are many benefits to be derived from drinking kombucha. (2) It has been established that kombucha has antioxidant, antimicrobial, antidiabetic and anticancer properties.
Kombucha also contains significant amounts of vitamins B2, B6, thiamine, niacin, B12, and niacin. These properties make kombucha a very beneficial drink to include in your diet.
But, what are the specific benefits associated with kombucha? Following are the better-known benefits most of which are backed by scientific evidence.
13 Health Benefits of Kombucha
1. Improves Digestion and Boosts Gut Health
Kombucha when raw and unpasteurized contains high amounts of beneficial microorganisms known as probiotics.
These are required within the gut to keep the levels of disease-causing parasitic microorganisms in check. By including kombucha in your diet, you supply your gut with healthy amounts of probiotics which make it harder for the microorganisms to grow to harmful levels.
Studies have found that kombucha can help to heal or prevent stomach ulcers. (3) Additionally, kombucha contains beneficial acids and enzymes which improve digestion and absorption of nutrients.
It is also rich in antioxidants which fight free radicals and thereby protects the gut and the rest of the body from various diseases.
2. Boosts Immunity
The high amounts of beneficial bacteria give kombucha powerful antimicrobial properties. Therefore another benefit of drinking kombucha is prevention from infections which is akin to boosting the immune function.
The bacteria in kombucha compete against harmful bacteria and other harmful microbes in the digestive system and thereby reduce the incidence of many illnesses including those caused by E. coli, staph, Sh. sonnei, campylobacter jejuni, and salmonella. (4) (5)
It is worth noting that these microbes are among the most common causes of food poisoning. Kombucha also helps boost immunity through its anti-oxidative, detoxification and energizing properties. (6)
3. Boosts Energy Production
Kombucha contains several B vitamins and iron in addition to some caffeine. B vitamins are essential for energy production in the body while iron is one of the constituents of hemoglobin which transports oxygen throughout the body. Caffeine also boosts energy in the body.
By regularly taking kombucha, you can boost energy production in your body. This can come in handy especially if you suffer from low energy or fatigue.
Besides supporting digestion, kombucha has detoxifying properties. It contains gluconic acid, also found in fruits and vegetables.
Gluconic acid is believed to bind to toxins and thereby help in excreting them from the body. In addition, kombucha also contains glucaric acid which is thought to boost the liver's detoxification function.
Regular consumption of kombucha can therefore help detoxify the body.
5. Helps Keep the Liver Healthy
The liver plays a major role in processing food and removing poisons from the body. Unfortunately, by handling toxins including free radicals, the liver is continually exposed to oxidative stress.
6. Prevents Arthritis
Kombucha contains glucosamine, a compound that can help protect cartilage from damage. This can reduce the incidence of arthritis and the associated pain.
The antioxidant properties in kombucha help keep the body free from toxins which are responsible for the inflammation that leads to the development of many diseases including cancer. (9)
Antioxidants help clear oxidants from the body. This reduces oxidative stress from within body cells and organs. Studies have found that kombucha contains more antioxidants including glucaric acid than those in the tea from which it is made. (10)
Kombucha also contains other antioxidants like isorhamnetin, and is also involved in the production of other antioxidants like glutathione peroxidase. This collection of antioxidants has been associated with increased lifespan as well as anticancer properties. (11)
8. Helps To Lose Weight
The antioxidants, health-promoting acids, enzymes and probiotics in kombucha improve digestion. This can also help in fat metabolism and lead to loss of excess body weight.
9. Mood Enhancer
Kombucha contains several B vitamins including vitamin B12. B complex vitamins support and enhance mental functions.
Additionally, because kombucha supports healthy digestion, it protects against conditions such as leaky gut which is a known cause of depression. (12)
Consuming kombucha can help reduce anxiety and depression even in persons in extremely stressful situations like astronauts and miners. (13)
10. Promotes Heart and Circulatory Health
Regular consumption of kombucha can help improve circulatory and heart health. Kombucha can help to reduce and control cholesterol levels in the blood. (14)
Low cholesterol levels mean that blood can flow more easily which is critical for healthy circulation throughout the body, including the heart.
11. Controls Blood Sugar Levels
Kombucha contains powerful antioxidants that help to improve insulin sensitivity and thereby control blood sugar levels. Studies indicate that the antioxidants work by improving liver and kidney functions. (15)
This is especially good news for people with diabetes in who liver and kidney functions are usually compromised.
How Is Kombucha Made?
Of course, you can purchase kombucha online or from a supermarket. You can also make your own, in which case you can determine your favorite taste.
In preparing kombucha, your objective is to include sweetened black or green tea and SCOBY, and to provide proper conditions for fermentation.
Following is a recipe to prepare a basic version of kombucha. This should help you try your hand at making your own kombucha drink.
You will need:
1 large glass or stainless steel bowl
1 large piece of cotton cloth
8 cups of water, filtered if possible
4 organic teabags, black or green
1/2 cup raw honey or organic cane sugar
1 SCOBY disk
1 cup raw kombucha
Put the water in a large pot and bring it to a boil.
Switch off the heat; add the tea bags and sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar. If you are using honey, add only the teabags and stir. Put aside and let the tea steep for 15 minutes.
Remove the teabags and discard.
Let the mixture cool down to room temperature. Put it into the large bowl, add honey if you did not add sugar and stir. Also add the SCOBY disc and the raw kombucha.
Cover the bowl with the cotton cloth and secure it using a rubber band. The cloth should allow the exchange of air but keep off dust.
Let the mixture brew for about 10 days. You can let it brew for longer to get a stronger flavor. After 10 days, taste your kombucha every two to three days until you are satisfied with the taste.
Put the kombucha in glass bottles and refrigerate for 24 hours. You can refrigerate for longer if you want a more fizzy drink.
Remove from the refrigerator and use as desired.
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