Probiotics and gut health are topics that have received a lot of attention in the last few years due to promising scientific evidence that a healthy gut can improve the health of body systems outside of just the digestive system. Therefore, food products containing probiotics, also known as healthy bacteria that can improve the health of your gut, are popping up everywhere. Arguably the most popular is kombucha.
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha has actually been around for thousands of years and is a fermented tea. The drink is fermented by adding bacteria and yeast mixed with black or green tea and sugar. When the bacteria eat the sugar they produce a gas that reacts with the yeast to fuel a process of fermentation that gives kombucha its characteristic bubbly texture and vinegar-like aroma. The question is, does the beneficial bacteria found in kombucha have the same effect as those found in other probiotic products like yogurt or kimchi?
Kombucha Health Claims
The current research shows that specific tea leaves and sugar concentration might be beneficial to your overall health. However, there is no research being done on the effects on gut health by consuming kombucha alone without also getting them from food. More research is needed to confirm the possible positive association. Other health claims associated with kombucha include reducing acne, fighting fatigue, reducing the risk of cancer, preventing hypertension and eliminating headaches. However, most of these claims are anecdotal and have yet to be verified by science.
Kombucha is made with sugar, so it is suggested that consumers check the nutrition label to check the amount of added sugar in a kombucha drink. Generally, try to keep the grams of sugar in the single digits per serving because any potential health benefits can be negated if you have to consume excess added sugar to get them.
Since Kombuchas are all created differently they contain different amounts of beneficial bacteria. This is important to be aware of because there are some kombuchas out there that taste great and are marketed attractively, but actually don’t contain enough probiotics to improve gut health.Therefore, it is advised to find one that has at least 1 billion colony-forming units (CFU). Additionally, check the label for specific strains of beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium or Streptococcus as these are the strains associated with gut health.
When it comes to gut health, always consider food first. Food not only delivers probiotics, but along with it also nutrients, antioxidants and most also supply the prebiotic fibers that feed the good bacteria so they can thrive and multiply. Some sources of food that contain probiotics are yogurts, miso, kimchi, pickles, kefir or sauerkraut. It is also important to keep in mind that probiotics are live bacteria in our digestive system. Some prebiotics sources are avocados, oats, asparagus, bananas or bell peppers.
Kombucha with the right amount of probiotics and minimal added sugar can give you probiotic health benefits. However, just kombucha alone is unlikely to give you all of the gut health you need. Be sure to also be consuming whole foods that contain probiotics along with prebiotics.