A friend of mine recently started drinking Kombucha without knowing exactly what it was, which spurred me into checking out what the benefits of drinking Kombucha are. I didn’t really have a clue either and so quickly delved into doing some research—I like to know what something is and if it’s healthy before I ingest it.
It turns out that there are multiple benefits of drinking kombucha tea daily since it’s a source of:
- Probiotics—very helpful for gut health; and
- Polyphenols—a source of antioxidants
It’s also been shown to be antibacterial, help prevent oxidative stress, and reduce blood sugar levels.
What is Kombucha tea exactly?
This is probably the first question that comes into your mind; for it sure was mine. Kombucha is, essentially, a fermented tea drink. It sounds pretty gross on paper, doesn’t it? But actually, due to the ability to add flavors at the end of the fermentation process, it can be pretty darn tasty, despite being sour.
I’m kinda chuckling to myself right now, imagining you guys trying to pronounce it correctly—something that I originally failed miserably at! If you go with “kom-bu-cha,” then you’re nailing it. Unlike myself, who was going with “kom-butch-ahhhhh.”
Anyway back to what’s important, the key ingredient of Kombucha is a scoby, which isn’t a fish, nor is it a car; it’s an acronym for a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, with the full ingredients of a Kombucha drink being:
- green tea
Note: the scoby chemically reacts with the sugar—in a good way—to provide Kombucha with its distinctive, sour taste.
Kombucha health benefits for the body
Improved gut health
Gut health is becoming more and more of the hottest topic when it comes to nutrition,1and the fact that there are more bacteria in our bodies than living cells is kind of a good clue that we should be focusing on balancing the bacteria levels in our bodies. This has knock-on effects of facilitating a healthy digestive system, assisting in strengthening our immune systems, and increasing our chances of fighting off infections.
Kombucha is a rich source of probiotics, being a highly beneficial bacteria,2 which seems to have many scientifically-backed benefits, including:
- the production of vitamins
- lowering cholesterol levels
- regulating hormone levels
- relief of the dreaded symptoms of IBS
- a general boost for gut health
I hadn’t really heard of polyphenols much until I recently read a book that focused on the health benefits of antioxidants. Polyphenols are plant-based nutrients that act as an antioxidant. The green tea in Kombucha contains what’s known as catechins, a polyphenol that creates a beneficial level of cellular stress. Our clever bodies then react to this stress by boosting antioxidant production; these antioxidants then work their magic in combating free radicals (sounds like a music band, doesn’t it? “The Free Radicals, coming to a stadium near you!”) in our bodies.
Green tea benefits
A heavy emphasis, in my opinion, needs to be placed on the fact that green tea is one of the main ingredients of Kombucha. Green tea, it turns out, is well-known to have phenomenal benefits for our bodies.3
I personally wake up each morning with a glass of water followed by a large cup of green tea with a twist of lemon. I strongly believe in putting good things into our bodies first thing, which can then have a powerful and positive knock-on effect for the rest of the day—for the body and the mind.
Studies do seem to exist that cement the belief that green tea helps to improve cholesterol levels,4 assist in the control of blood sugar levels,5 and also reducing the risk of certain cancers,6 especially the dreaded breast cancer.
A healthy liver
Kombucha is also a very welcome friend for your liver, which serves as your body’s frontline defense for filtering out the crap—or should I say impurities?—and digesting fats. Kombucha contains glutaric acid, which can help speed up the body’s process of battling toxins, passing them onto the kidneys which then kick the toxins out of the body.
Health benefits of Kombucha for the mind
Drinking Kombucha daily not only benefits the body—as discussed above—but also the mind. Aside from the link between the vagus nerve linking your gut to your brain, the powerful antioxidants in Kombucha serve as a protection mechanism for your mind.
With us being exposed to pollutants and toxins so regularly—from the environment as well as through food—we can take steps to strengthen our minds from the inside by consuming antioxidants through Kombucha.
Reduced oxidative stress
Vitamins E and C are both present in the green tea in Kombucha. Vitamin E, especially, fights damaging oxidants in the brain and vitamin C helps to recycle vitamin E once it has latched on to the oxidant in the brain. After a quick trawl of the internet and through some awesome nutrition books, it turns out that oxidation in the brain is a serious problem7 and one that we should avoid as much as possible.
Our brains are more than half made up of fat, and introducing oxidants into the body in any form can damage the essential fats in our brains. So top marks go to the polyphenols, vitamin C and vitamin E present in Kombucha via green tea.
Improved mental health
By improving digestion levels, and promoting gut health through drinking Kombucha daily, there’s bound to be a positive mood-boosting effect. You could say that this is a placebo effect, and rightly so because just the sheer fact of eating or drinking something healthy will make you feel better about yourself.
The presence of B vitamins and vitamin C in Kombucha will aid in reducing stress levels, which is one of the top precursors for mental health illnesses, especially depression and anxiety.
Other Kombucha tea benefits
Saying that something is anti cancerous is a big statement to make. Anything related to nutrition and health needs to be scientifically backed, not born out of pseudoscience or social media/celebrity influencers but by concrete, non-biased scientific studies, especially where “the big C-word” is concerned.
I’ve come across various sources saying that Kombucha is anti cancerous, so how is this backed up? Well, again, it’s linked to polyphenols and antioxidants, especially when you think that cancer is derived from cell mutation. There are powerful studies to show that ginger also seems to have an impact in fighting cancer, making it a possible addition to the Kombucha or green tea mix.8
There is evidence to suggest that polyphenols themselves block such mutation, which would then suggest that drinking Kombucha—since it contains polyphenols—can have anticancer benefits. A tenuous link, indeed, since it isn’t the Kombucha itself that carries this weight, but the polyphenols contained in the tea that wield the anti-cancer sword.
You’ve probably seen the “skinny tea” ads that portray how drinking tea can make you lose weight and burn fat, which I personally believe to be money-making opportunities that prey on us being suckers for marketing—for the most part. Kombucha contains green tea, which apparently makes you lose weight. Does that mean that drinking Kombucha will make you lose weight? Nope!
The mere process of drinking Kombucha won’t make you lose weight, nor will it burn fat—although some animal studies do say otherwise. One can say that the probiotics, vitamins, and antioxidants within Kombucha’s ingredients promote extensive general body and mind health, which can then have a significant impact on the foods we crave and eat.
And also, by swapping an unhealthy drink for a glass of Kombucha, you’ll assist the body in losing weight purely because you’re drinking less rubbish and likely fewer calories.
More studies are needed as to whether there is a direct link to Kombucha and its ingredients in terms of weight loss; however, its health benefits are clear to see.
Are there any Kombucha side effects or dangers?
Kombucha isn’t something I would recommend that you drink in similar quantities as you should water. Due to it being a fermented tea, overconsumption can imbalance acidity levels in the body and cause gut pain, nausea, and perhaps dizziness.
You should also be aware that Kombucha contains calories, and by consistently consuming too many calories you are likely to gain weight, which can cause lifestyle diseases. If you are monitoring your calorie consumption, be sure to factor in the calories in Kombucha, which aren’t massive, but nevertheless do count.
Depending on the tea used during the fermentation and creation of the Kombucha there will be a certain level of caffeine in it. Caffeine does have health benefits—depending on the source—however, it is a stimulant which might have a negative side effect on you depending on your current physical and mental state, especially if you get stuck in a stimulant loop, and are suffering from insomnia.
As with making any changes to your diet or health, please consult a medical expert if you have any doubts, and especially if you are on any regular medication.
McD’s wise words
I’ve already taken steps to improve my gut health and drink green tea each day, and after researching for this article, will be looking to add Kombucha to my diet.
The strong scientific evidence linking probiotics and antioxidants to gut health and mental health should give you the answer you need as to whether Kombucha is beneficial to your health or not.
I hope you found the answer you’re looking for. Either way, please feel free to ask any questions and make a comment below.
1 ScienceDirect.com: The Impact of the Gut Microbiota on Human Health: An Integrative View
2 ncbi.nlm.nih.gov: Health Benefits of Probiotics: A Review
3 bbcgoodfood.com: The health benefits of green tea
4 Green tea may lower heart disease risk
5 pacificcollege.edu: Green tea lowers the blood sugar level
6 mskcc.org: Cancer care > integrative medicine > herbs > green tea
7 ncbi.nlm.nih.gov: Brain Aging: Models, Methods, and Mechanisms. hapter 15Oxidative Stress and the Aging Brain: From Theory to Prevention
8 ncbi.nlm.nih.gov: Evaluation of the antioxidant impact of ginger-based kombucha on the murine breast cancer model
9 health.clevelandclinic.org: What Are Kombucha’s Health Benefits (and How Much Can You Safely Drink)?