Kombucha tea, which is a fermented tea, is gaining popularity as the newest health drink on the market. However, what is Kombucha and what do you need to know about its claimed beneficial properties?
Kombucha contains a community of bacteria and yeast that thrive in two mutually non-exclusive compartments: the Kombucha tea and the Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY), floating on it (Kozyrovska et al, 2012).
The SCOBY is commonly termed as the ‘mother or mushroom’ and feeds off the sugar that is in the Kombucha recipe.
Kombucha is classified as a wild ferment therefore the bacteria are uncontrolled and unregulated (Kozyrovska et al, 2012). When it comes to wildly fermented drinks, our environment plays a role. While wild ferments, such as Kombucha and kefir grains can be beneficial they may not be tolerated by some individuals. If you are battling Candida, Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth and Irritable Bowel Syndrome you will need to avoid wild ferments such as Kombucha, whilst healing your body.
Various studies have explored the various beneficial strains of lactic acid bacteria found in Kombucha and found high levels of yeast. Mayser et al., (1995) found Kombucha samples harbouring Candida albicans, the yeast that is responsible for Candida overgrowth (thrush, fungal infections on the skin and nails, sinus infections, brain fog, fatigue and weight gain). Another study, explored bacteria growth over 21 days and found that there was a variation over time and was dominated by Candida sp. (73.5–83%) (Teoh et al, 2004).
Therefore, if you are on a journey of healing and overcoming health issues it is best to focus on bacteria strains that are controlled and have a high Colony Forming Unit (CFU) for example Lactobacteria and Bifidobacteria cultures.
Understanding how strains of bacteria influence your health can certainly support immune function and mental health. Suffering from chronic health issues and ongoing gut dysbiosis is best supported with a Microbiome test.
However, as a healthy vibrant individual that doesn’t experience anxiety, depression, gut dysbiosis or low immune function consuming Kombucha can be an important part of a healthy diet. Be aware that a lot of commercially produced Kombucha is high in sugar and contains ingredients such as glucose syrup, colours, flavours and preservatives.
Begin your own fermenting at home and begin drinking slowly as you can experience ‘die off’ symptoms in the first few days until your body adjusts. For more information on fermentation and cultured foods here are some great resources:-
- CJ Greenwalt, et al. Kombucha, the fermented tea: microbiology, composition, and claimed health effects. J Food Prot. 2000 Jul;63(7):976-81.
- AL Teoh, et al. Yeast ecology of Kombucha fermentation. Int J Food Microbiol. 2004 Sep 1;95(2):119-26.
- P Mayser, et al. The yeast spectrum of the ‘tea fungus Kombucha’. Mycoses. 1995 Jul-Aug;38(7-8):289-95.
- NO Kozyrovska, et al. Kombucha microbiome as a probiotic: a view from the perspective of post-genomics and synthetic ecology. Biopolymers and Cell. 2012. 28(2):103-113