is kombucha good for you, kombucha, what is kombucha, kombucha benefits

Is kombucha good for you?

Kombucha is a drink that you can find in the refrigerated section of the grocery stores. Many brands market the health benefits, but how can you be sure if kombucha is good for you? Lexi Fitzgerald, a clinical dietitian at OSF HealthCare, shared information on the health benefits of kombucha.

What is kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented tea. It has a tangy flavor thanks to going through a fermentation process. Some people really like the unique flavor of kombucha while others  really don’t like it.

How is kombucha made?

“Kombucha is made of tea, sugar, bacteria and yeast,” Lexi said.

Black or green tea is added to a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY), which is what sets kombucha apart from regular tea.

When brewing it, the mix needs to be kept at a temperature of less than 68 degrees Fahrenheit. This is when the drink is fermenting.

After fermentation (usually between one week to one month, depending on how strong you want it), you need to pasteurize it to kill off any bad bacteria and make it safe to drink. To pasteurize, boil the mix to a temperature of at least 180 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 30 seconds. Once it reaches that high temperature, let it cool immediately.

The pH level needs to be less than 4.2 to ensure it isn’t too acidic or too basic for the body.

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After that, the tea needs to be sealed in a clean glass jar and kept in the refrigerator.

Kombucha benefits

One of the main benefits of kombucha is that it contains probiotics, which are healthy bacteria that support your gut health.

If you drink it in moderation, kombucha can help make you poop if you’re experiencing constipation and support the immune system.

Some people have said that drinking kombucha has helped them to lose weight. There’s no research to support this yet. But Lexi suggested if you’re trying to lose weight, start with a healthy diet and exercise rather than relying on a drink.

“There’s no miracle drink that’s going to help you lose weight fast,” Lexi said.

Kombucha dangers

Like many drinks you can buy in the grocery store, kombucha often has added sugars.

“Added sugars can increase your risk for diabetes and cardiovascular diseases,” Lexi said.

“Read the nutrition facts label before drinking it.”

Added sugars may be listed on the nutrition facts label as any of the following:

  • Agave nectar
  • Cane sugar, juice or crystals
  • Corn syrup or sweetener
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Fruit nectars
  • Glucose
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Malt syrup
  • Maltose
  • Molasses
  • Raw sugar
  • Sucrose

Less than 10% of your calories per day should be sugar.

Also, you have to be careful about how much kombucha you’re drinking at one time. Probiotics affect the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. If you drink too much or if your body isn’t used to it, GI distress and diarrhea can happen.

Kombucha can cause an upset stomach, so it’s best to avoid it if you’re not feeling well, have a sensitive digestive system or experience acid reflux.

It’s important to drink only kombucha that you know has been well-prepared. So, either something from a grocery store or something that you know has not been contaminated in any way. If not properly prepared, mold can grow quickly when things get fermented.

How much kombucha should you drink?

“Start with a small amount to see how your body handles it,” Lexi said.

“Usually, the whole bottle has two servings. So, don’t sit down and drink a whole bottle in one sitting.”

Don’t drink it often. Stick to a few servings a week.

Making kombucha at home

“It’s a very precise, scientific process, so unless you have the right tools, it’s best to leave it to the experts,” Lexi said.

Making a kombucha recipe at home can increase the risk of accidentally getting sick.

You can easily get bad bacteria growing instead of good, and you wouldn’t necessarily know the difference until you get sick.

Keeping everything at the right temperature is hard to do at home. Plus, you need all of the right tools to measure the temperature and the pH. And your tools and workstation need to be sterile and clean.

“If you do make kombucha at home, get your recipe from a medical professional or a website with certified medical advice – like a hospital or university,” Lexi said.

Who shouldn’t drink kombucha?

Young children, immunocompromised (especially people getting cancer treatment) and pregnant women shouldn’t drink kombucha.

The risk for bacteria is too great.

Also, there’s some alcohol in kombucha from the fermentation process.

“Not enough to be harmful, but there is some alcohol present,” Lexi said.

So, children definitely shouldn’t drink it.

Healthy kombucha alternatives

If you want the health benefits of kombucha without the side effects, Lexi recommends some other foods and drinks with probiotics.

Other things that have good bacteria include:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Pickles
  • Yogurt
  • Probiotic tea

Just like with kombucha, check on the added sugar content of these kombucha and probiotic alternatives.

Last Updated: May 10, 2024

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About Author: Katie Faley

Katie Faley is a Writing Coordinator for OSF HealthCare. She graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in English Studies. Before joining OSF HealthCare in 2021, she worked in magazine editing, digital marketing and freelance writing.
Katie is often found listening to ‘60s folk music, deciding on a new skill to learn, losing track of time in a library or spending time with her family and friends.

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Categories: Diet & Exercise, General