Known as the “Tea of Immortality”, by the Chinese, kombucha was thought to have first been used in China in about 221BC, although the name is more likely to originate from Japan, where legend has it, a Korean physician named Kombu treated the Emporer, with the tea or “cha”, hence the name kombucha.
A lot of mystery shrouds the details around kombucha, it was thought to have travelled through Asia to Russia and the rest of Europe where it was revived after World War Two when a doctor in Germany used it as part of his treatment for various ailments such as cancer, metabolic disorders, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Kombucha isn’t a miracle cure, but what it does do, with its special combination of bacteria and yeast, acids and enzymes, is help restore balance to the body so that it has a better chance of healing itself naturally.
What is kombucha?
Kombucha is made from a mixture of black or green tea and sugar, which is then fermented for a period of between 7 to 30 days, by a colony of bacteria and yeast called a scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). The scoby, which is also called a mushroom, has similar properties to the "mother" found in apple cider vinegar.
The scoby breaks down the sugar and transforms it into acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and carbon dioxide, which is what makes it fizzy.
Kombucha, along with many other fermented foods, is back in popularity for its gut health benefits.
Poor gut health is linked to a number of health issues including IBS, diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid, arthritis and depression.
Replenishing the gut with a variety of fermented food sources can help to restore the good-bad bacteria balance in the gut and help us to become much healthier in the process. They can help with digestion, reducing inflammation and aiding in weight loss. “The key is variety. The greater the variety of fermented and cultured foods you include in your diet, the better, as each food will inoculate your gut with a variety of different beneficial microorganisms,” says Dr. Mercola.
Restoring gut health is one of the main aims of our new phased approach to health and weight loss, called Banting 2.0, which will be launched in December 2016.
The actual bacteria, sugar, and acid content of kombucha depends on many factors, including the culture you begin with, the type of tea used, the type of sugar used, the strength of the tea, the type of water, the length of time brewing, the temperature at which it is cultured, and more.
Although every batch is different, every batch will contain the following: Acetobacter or gluconobacter – the bacteria responsible for making acetic and gluconic acid Saccharomyces boulardii - a yeast which aids digestion and increases energy Zygosaccharomyces – a yeast strain which gives kombucha its fizz Acetic acid - also found in apple cider vinegar, it’s known for its powerful antibacterial and antimicrobial properties and blood sugar stabilising properties Gluconic Acid - known for its detoxification properties
Benefits of kombucha:
Enhances digestion and increases energy: the active enzymes aid in digestion, which helps break down our food better so that we convert it into energy more effectively. Some research has shown that kombucha has the power to prevent and heal leaky gut, due to its antioxidant properties, enzymes, and acids. Some also think it can help to fight candida, due to the live bacteria cultures, which can starve the harmful candida yeast, and the acetic acid, which has antimicrobial properties. Although most people will be rewarded with improved health, those with a yeast infection such as candida might experience discomfort and negative symptoms at first, as this is a result of the bad yeast dying off, which can last for up to a few weeks. If you experience these symptoms rather reduce your kombucha consumption.
Boosts immune system: Kombucha is rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, and acetic acid, which all help to boost the immune system and protect against cell damage and inflammation.
Aids in detoxification: Gluconic acid supports the digestive system, by helping to eliminate waste and at the same time takes pressure off of the liver. The detox components are helpful for arthritis, joint pain and gout.
Lowers blood sugar levels: The acetic acid in kombucha can help to slow down the absorption of carbs, which helps to lower glucose levels and reduce an insulin response.
Supports heart health: Due to its antioxidant properties, kombucha can help to protect LDL cholesterol particles from oxidising in the arteries.
Tips for making kombucha at home:
If you are making your own, make sure that you ferment it for as long as possible to lower the sugar content.
Although it is generally safe to make your own kombucha, because you are dealing with live cultures, a level of respect is required.
How much kombucha should you be drinking?*If you are severely insulin resistant or have a lot of weight to lose, it is recommended to only have kombucha when you are near your weight loss goal, due to the sugar content of kombucha. Rather focus on other fermented foods like sauerkraut and pickled veg.*
The amount you should drink varies from person to person, depending on your tolerance, your insulin resistance, and the level of bad bacteria in your system.
Rather start off small and see how you go. Because kombucha does contain sugar, we recommend that you don't over-do it, start off with a ¼ cup a day and see how you feel. Maximum one cup per day.
It is suggested to drink kombucha in the morning on an empty stomach, or before meals.
For best results have it in combination with other fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, and lacto-fermented pickles so that you get a variety of bacteria into your system.
Remember to consult your medical practitioner before embarking on any dietary change.
Getting a variety of probiotics into your system is the best way to improve gut health, and restore balance to the body, especially from a number of different food and drink sources. Starting off slowly is always recommended to see how your body responds. For further insights into the importance of improving your gut health, take our Online Program.