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What You Need To Know About Kombucha – 6 Incredible Health Benefits of Kombucha

6 Incredible Health Benefits of Kombucha

Overview

kombucha

Kombucha is an immensely popular sweet-and-sour drink purported to have numerous health benefits, ranging from improved gut health and immunity to reduced risk of depression and chronic disease. It is prepared by fermenting sweetened black or green tea in a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY).

Kombucha contains all the beneficial compounds of tea, as well as some organic acids that are formed during the fermentation process. It also contains a small amount of self-generated alcohol, which is not only safe but acts as a solvent to extract bioactive plant compounds. The drink becomes carbonated or fizzy after fermentation, and a mushroom-like film is formed on the surface, which is why kombucha is also called ‘mushroom tea.’

Research shows that regular consumption of this fermented tea drink can improve digestive health, lower gut inflammation, promote weight loss, reduce cholesterol levels, help manage type-2 diabetes, and aid in cancer prevention and treatment.

Read on to learn all about the health benefits of kombucha and how to use it for optimal health.

Kombucha health benefits and therapeutic uses

1. Contains gut-healthy probiotics

Being a naturally fermented drink, kombucha is a great source of probiotics, which means it can directly supply living cultures of friendly gut bacteria. Including probiotic-rich foods in your diet helps restore gut imbalance and eases long-standing digestive troubles like chronic constipation, GERD, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease.

Over trillions of microbes live inside your gut, the composition of which plays a crucial role in digestion and nutrient absorption. It also determines your ability to prevent and fight infections, regulates inflammation, controls blood glucose levels, and promotes weight loss. Moreover, your mental and emotional health is directly dependent on your gut microflora composition.

Evidence shows that regular consumption of kombucha can help maintain a flourishing gut microbiome and reduce obesity. In a recent 2022 study, four weeks of kombucha treatment increased the abundance of SCFAs-producing bacteria and reduced the number of pathogenic bacteria and gram-negative bacteria. This led to increased levels of short-chain fatty acids, which are immensely beneficial for gut healing and play a crucial role in preventing colon cancer. This favorable change in gut microbial composition also reduced damage to the intestinal barrier.

2. Helps fight microbial infections

Kombucha contains multiple medicinal compounds like flavonoids and acetic acid, which act as powerful antimicrobial agents. Evidence shows that kombucha made from all tea varieties (green, black, and oolong teas) can kill a broad spectrum of harmful pathogens. It has been found effective against several bacterial and fungal species responsible for causing infection in humans, including Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Campylobacter, Salmonella, Helicobacter pylori, and Candida species.

Moreover, unlike conventional antibiotics that kill beneficial microbes along with dangerous ones, kombucha kills only pathogenic microbes while leaving the gut-friendly bacteria unharmed. In fact, it preserves and promotes the growth of beneficial microbes so that they can assist the immune system in getting rid of the infection.

A thriving gut microbiome is essential for a well-functioning immune system, as your defense mechanism is intricately linked with your microflora composition. Health-promoting microbes help your immune cells identify invading pathogens, make antiviral proteins, control inflammation, and protect healthy cells from damage. Research shows that probiotic-rich foods like kombucha can strengthen the immune system against common infections and reduce the risk of autoimmune conditions.

kombucha

3. Helps prevent and manage type-2 diabetes

Both black and green teas are well-known to improve blood sugar control and reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes. There is some evidence that suggests kombucha may be even more beneficial in diabetes management and can prevent related metabolic conditions.

In one mice study, daily consumption of kombucha for 30 days induced a significant decrease in blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Researchers found that kombucha could inhibit α-amylase and lipase activities in the plasma and pancreas. Amylase and lipase are pancreatic enzymes that help your body break down carbohydrates and fats. By inhibiting these key enzymes, kombucha slows down the absorption of carbohydrates and fatty acids from foods, thus effectively preventing blood glucose spikes.

kombucha

Kombucha also had a restorative and healing effect on the pancreas. In particular, it improved liver and kidney function in diabetic rats. According to one study, the fermented drink’s ability to improve gut microbiome also benefits diabetes patients by improving islet β cell function that secretes insulin. Moreover, it increases short-chain fatty acids in the gut, which can reduce inflammation and insulin resistance. Researchers suggested that kombucha has multiple health benefits that can help in the holistic management of type-2 diabetes and prevent liver injury.

4. Reduces the risk of heart disease

Kombucha has been shown to improve cholesterol profile in numerous animal studies, although more research is needed to understand its exact mechanism. In one animal study, 16 weeks of kombucha treatment significantly improved HDL cholesterol and reduced the levels of LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides.

Kombucha also limits fat absorption from foods through the inhibition of pancreatic lipase. Research shows that lipase inhibitors can promote lipid metabolism, reduce the accumulation of fats, and help control obesity and related risks.

5. Aids in cancer prevention and treatment

Evidence suggests kombucha may help prevent certain types of cancer, including colorectal and prostate cancer. As it is prepared from tea, which is one of the richest sources of antioxidants, kombucha is loaded with polyphenolic compounds that help fight free radicals and reduce the risk of cell mutations. It also promotes detoxification and assists the immune system in removing tumor cells.

In a 2021 study, researchers found that combining doxorubicin (an anthracycline drug medically used to treat several types of cancer) with kombucha improved the effectiveness of chemotherapy in killing colon cancer cells. The combination therapy was twice more effective in arresting the cell cycle and inducing apoptosis. Moreover, kombucha increased the expression of tumor suppressor genes (p21 and p53) and reduced the expression of tumor-promoting genes (Bcl-2) by several times.

Researchers also compared the anti-cancer effects of kombucha (fermented green tea) with plain green tea. The fermented drink was up to 20% more effective in arresting tumor growth.

Another 2013 study found that kombucha reduces the survival rate of prostate cancer cells by inhibiting tumor angiogenesis. Angiogenesis is a natural process through which new blood vessels are formed out of pre-existing blood vessels, allowing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients. An essential process in normal times, angiogenesis allows tumors to multiply and grow uncontrollably. Inhibiting this process helps choke the blood supply of tumors, thus effectively preventing further spread.

6. Protects your liver against toxicity

Kombucha is high in antioxidants that can protect your liver from harmful free radicals and chronic inflammation. It also assists the liver in eliminating environmental toxins and carcinogens found in everyday products. Numerous studies have shown that kombucha prepared from green and black teas can protect the liver against drug-induced toxicity, which is caused by excessive use of medications like paracetamol and pain relievers.

In some animal studies, kombucha has been found to reverse liver damage in cases of lead contamination or exposure to hazardous chemicals.

Although more research is needed in this area, evidence suggests that regular consumption of kombucha, especially the type made from green tea (as it has the highest antioxidant capacity), can help promote healing in people with liver disease.

Safety and possible risks

kombuchaKombucha is generally safe for most people when prepared with care. If you are fermenting the beverage at home, make sure to use sterile containers, preferably of glass or stainless steel. If it smells cheesy or rotten, it may not be safe for consumption.

Overfermented or contaminated kombucha could be potentially dangerous and has been known to cause severe muscle weakness, heart inflammation, cardiac arrest, hepatitis, and even death in one case. Using ceramic containers for brewing the drink has also been known to cause lead poisoning.

If you are not familiar with food fermentation, store-bought kombucha may be a safer option. But do watch out for added sugar, as high amounts of added sugar can lead to potentially harmful effects. Ideally, it should have less than a teaspoon of sugar per serving. Commercial kombucha also contains less alcohol than homemade ones, as non-alcoholic drinks cannot have more than 0.5% alcohol.

Kombucha may not be healthy for everyone. Pregnant and lactating mothers, young children, and people with compromised immunity should use it with extreme caution.

Final thoughts

Kombucha is a fermented beverage with a long history of therapeutic use. It contains active living bacterial cultures that act as probiotics. Evidence suggests its regular consumption can correct gut dysbiosis and improve digestive health. In addition, it provides a healthy dose of tea polyphenols and antioxidants that lower oxidative stress and protect vital organs against damage.

Although research on kombucha’s health benefits is mostly limited to cell models and animal studies, evidence suggests it may be a healthier option than tea. Fermented green tea is considered to be the most beneficial of all varieties. If you are planning to take the fermented drink on a regular basis, choose a brand that does not contain high amounts of added sugar, or consider making it at home.

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