Kombucha. It sounds like something weird and magical, but is it a miracle elixir?
What is kombucha?
Kombucha is a beverage made from black or green tea fermented with yeast cultures, sugar, and healthy bacteria. While the history of kombucha isn’t well-documented, it’s first recorded use comes from China in 221 BC, during the Tsin Dynasty, when it was used as a medicinal tea. It was known as the “Tea of Immortality”… and really, it is a well-fitting name. Apparently, people have been drinking this stuff for over 2,000 years, so.
Now, I can understand that chugging a bottle of fermented tea doesn’t exactly sound like a picnic. So why do people drink this stuff?
Your body has around 3-5 pounds of healthy bacteria and microbes, called the “microbiome” living in your gut. Life factors like stress, alcohol, and antibiotics can deplete the microbiome, making you tired, sluggish, sick, and contributing to weight gain.
You can rebalance your gut by drinking kombucha. It’s thought to have a ton of health benefits, including detox, improved digestion, and a boosted immune system. Because this tea is full of enzymes, bacterial acids, glucosamine, and probiotics, it truly is a health tonic. Gluconic acid binds to toxins so your body can get rid of them, which helps with liver function. Glucosamines enhance the production of hyaluronic acid in your system, which protects cartilage and reduces pain from arthritis. And further research suggests that kombucha can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels.
A little foreshadowing for you: I’ve already been a consistent kombucha drinker. It gives me added energy, and the natural carbonation helps me curb any soda cravings.
But this time… I conducted a different experiment. I went and did something a little nuts, something my coffee comrades would deem downright blasphemous…
I replaced my morning coffee with this fizzy stuff.
If you know me in any personal context, then you know my love for coffee runs deep. I am a sucker for that fancy, bottled cold brew you find for $10 a bottle at Whole Foods. I am the person that has a “work French press” and a “home French press”… I’m pretty hardcore about it.
Coffee, when done right, is my ultimate swoon. But here I was, kicking it to the curb, giving it a lengthy break-up chat… “It’s not you, it’s me…”
This was the goal: Replace a morning cup of coffee with a 12 oz. bottle of kombucha. More professionally, we’re calling it the 2-week kombucha challenge. Me, personally, I’m calling it Kombucha-Fest, and it’s gonna be a party, so… all aboard the Kombucha Train. Choo-choo!
So, what happened, you ask, concerned for my enthusiasm and health? Well, let’s break it down into thirds:
Fermented foods can give your gut a boost, so if you have heartburn, food intolerances, or just feel bloated after eating some chicken wings or other yummy nonsense, you might want to start off with a swig of this tea. Because kombucha is a natural probiotic, the healthy bacteria help you break down food, so you’re not feeling miserable after you scarf down those pizza slices.
But, hold up. That doesn’t mean overdo it. Maybe don’t eat the whole dang pizza, ok? Kombucha isn’t a miracle-worker (really, nothing is), but it does mean less work for your gut after eating hard-to-digest foods. I don’t have a lot of gut issues to begin with, but I did notice a flatter stomach within my 2-weeks of kombucha replacement.
This benefit is worth noting for me. To preface, my skin is usually pretty clear. I follow a very detailed and slightly neurotic skin care routine, because it’s my life goal to age gracefully, like Meryl Streep. During Kombucha-Fest, my skin got… clearer? If that’s possible? It was glowing. Frankly, it was downright radioactive. I spent days not wearing any makeup, mainly because I would catch myself in the mirror, wink at my reflection, and say, “Hey there. You’re lookin’ alright, lady. I’m gonna buy you a drink later.” And it was because, somehow, this kombucha cocktail was making my skin look fantastic.
Now that I’ve halted my kombucha intake for the week, my skin is garbage. Literally garbage. I admit that I’m being a bit dramatic maybe, but this week, I’ve had a few breakouts (what am I, 13 again?!) and my once-smooth face has become dull, like an old penny. Without kombucha, I am not the ethereal goddess I thought… I am a sad, rusty form of currency, that should be phased out by now, right? Pennies? Obsolete? Another story for another day, I guess.
Kombucha itself contains B vitamins and iron, which increases hemoglobin and oxygen flow in the blood. Also, some of these premade kombucha recipes have small amounts of caffeine, so it wasn’t a huge change to replace my morning coffee. I still acquired all the daily energy I need to keep from falling asleep under my desk, plus I balanced it out with a healthy diet and exercise. I noticed my energy level felt more natural, less jittery and less like a roller coaster, which is how I sometimes feel with coffee.
Now for the flip side…
Not everyone is Team Kombucha. There are arguments against this unassuming beverage. Some are cautious about the possibility of candida yeast or heavy metals and fluoride in their drink. Kombucha is a wild ferment, so contamination is possible, though more likely with a DIY home brew and not commercialized kombucha practices.
Kombucha does contain trace amounts of alcohol and sugar, which are essential in the fermentation process. The levels of alcohol are low though, at 0.5 to 2 percent. For comparison, a Budweiser is 5 percent. So were talking about possibly a fraction of a beer. Side note: Soy sauce, kefir, and vinegar are all fermented foods that contain alcohol too, so if you’re feeling weird about the alcohol in kombucha, you should cut these out of your diet too.
Essentially, there are people shaking their fists at kombucha loyalists, yelling, “You’re drinking fungus! FUNGUS!”
I’ll go with the science on this one and establish neutral territory of opinion here. All things in moderation. Do what’s best for you.
So here we are. Present day. A few weeks out of my daily kombucha routine. During my 2 weeks of replacing kombucha, I was surprised that I didn’t crave coffee like I used to. To me, I like the taste of coffee, and the ritual involved with it. While I won’t entirely go back to the coffee replacement experiment, I’ve added a bottle of kombucha to my morning. Something that makes you feel this good, can’t be all that bad.
If you can get past the slight vinegary taste, let’s get together for a tea party. Kombucha-Fest Reunion, y’all! Let’s do this.