As promised, the trendy food of this week’s blog is kombucha! Truthfully, I did not have a clue what kombucha was but thought that it had a cool sounding name. I took a trip to the health food store and reluctantly forked over $5.41 for a bottle of “Rise Kombucha”.
Kombucha is a mixture of tea, sugar, bacteria, and yeast. It is made by brewing tea, typically green or black, with white sugar. Bacteria and yeast is then added to the mixture and it is allowed to ferment for a period of time. The result, according to google, is a fermented sweet fizzy drink. I enjoyed my bottle of kombucha after finishing “Around the Bay.” I was rather surprised over how much I enjoyed it. I’m always a little reluctant over the hype of these trendy foods, but I found it rather refreshing.
The health claims associated with kombucha arise because it is a source of probiotics. Probiotics are the good bacteria that, when consumed, go and live in our colon. In the gut, they help keep a balance between the good and bad bacteria, resulting in various health benefits. For instance, probiotic consumption has been shown to:
- Lessen diarrhea caused by antibiotics
- Reduce the symptoms caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Reduce the symptoms caused by irritable bowel disease (Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis)
Probiotics are also being studied for benefits related to skin conditions, such as psoriasis, obesity-associated conditions, like high blood cholesterol, pressure and glucose, and upper respiratory infections.
Despite the proven health benefits of probiotic consumption, there is little to no clinical evidence to support the health benefits of kombucha consumption. Almost all studies on kombucha have involved nonhuman patients such as mice and rats.
One of the potential reasons for the lack of evidence supporting health benefits with kombucha consumption is that there are many different types of probiotic strains. Different strains of probiotics help with different conditions. For instance, the probiotic strain Bifidobacterium breve helps with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome while the strain LGG helps lessen diarrhea caused by antibiotic usage. The probiotic strains in kombucha may not be the ones with proven health benefits.
Another reason for the lack of evidence supporting health benefits is the amount of probiotics in kombucha. There are few health benefits with less than 100 million CFU of probiotics in one dose. Fermented foods probably don’t contain this amount of probiotics. Probiotic foods are not regulated in Canada so there is not a legislated amount of probiotics required in order for the label to say “probiotic”.
Yogurt, kefir, and fermented vegetables are probably a better source of probiotics than kombucha as they have more research on them. Another reason I prefer these sources of probiotics is that they are a whole lot cheaper. If you want a therapeutic dosage of probiotics for the health benefits listed above, your best bet is a probiotic supplement. I personally wasn’t too fond of kombucha. However, if you enjoy the taste and don’t mind spending the money on it, there is no harm in drinking it and it does provide a potential source of gut healthy probiotics. Who knows, perhaps new research will be published in the future, which supports the clear health benefits of kombucha. To be completely honest, I almost bought another bottle of kombucha while walking through the grocery store today. I just couldn’t reason spending another five dollars on a drink.
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