Kombucha: The Potential Benefits of This Evervescent, Ancient Tea


Sometimes, when I feel like my tummy is off in that “stormtroopers are doing battle down there” kind of way, I start shooting apple cider vinegar to balance the belly and help the good bacteria to flourish … may the best bacteria always win. The apple cider vinegar quite literally makes me gag, though it helps a bit when I chase it with a piece (or three) of chocolate covered coconut. A better alternative for me is kombucha tea. It, of course, is not a fix all, and kombucha has gotten a lot of hype in the past couple of years, which makes it feel faddish. I don’t eat and drink just for the trend of it, but kombucha is one kind of probiotic among many that I think is tasty.

As my two most health-educated friends have endorsed kombucha, I have been sipping it for a couple of years, skipping into Whole Foods, when I am stateside to pick up a couple of those nice glass bottles of the fermented tea. I threw my hands up in celebration when I discovered that my local organic market here in Quito had started selling it as I felt that my apple cider vinegar shots could be put on pause.

And then I set out to research for this post, and my eyes began to cross a bit. Scientifically speaking, the jury is divided on the kombucha verdict.

In an article for The Washington Post titled, “Kombucha: Is it really good for you?” Ellie Krieger, a registered dietician, nutritionist and one of my favorite cookbook authors, explained that “Kombucha has been touted as a magic elixir, curing everything from digestion problems to arthritis and cancer, but it has also been maligned as a potentially toxic alcoholic beverage. As with most things, the truth of it lies in the middle.” Krieger clarifies that in order for kombucha to offer the potential health benefits, largely that of helping keep your gut flora balanced, you must drink it in its unpasteurized state. This does pose potential threats as unpasteurized food and drink processed in unsanitary conditions can make you sick. The logical part of my brain here says, “Okay, if you’re into brewing, stick with beer and buy your kombucha at a trusted market.”

On the other hand, Hannah Krum, touted as the kombucha-brewing guru, could make a case for making kombucha from scratch. She was featured on a PaleoHacks Podcast titled, “The Surprising Benefits of this Cloudy, Ancient Tea,” and her conversation with host Clark Danger did help to intrigue and school me further. Throughout the podcast, Hannah argues that the good bacteria and yeast in kombucha boost immunity, aid in healthy liver functioning and reset the pH in your gut so that digestion can properly occur.

As Danger and Krum were speaking, the part of the conversation that really struck a chord with me is that if our gut pH is out of balance, we cannot absorb nutrition from the foods we eat. Our gut health affects our wellness in a big way, even our brains, as we may experience brain fog and notable mood swings if the equilibrium in our gut has really been disrupted. As I listened to the podcast, I did feel that Krum created a compelling argument for how kombucha can play an important role in keeping your gut healthy.

Scrounging the internet for reliable sources about kombucha has been a useful reminder not to hop on any health-trend trains just because you start seeing and hearing people tout the miraculous attributes of a particular food and drink. Based on what I have read, and the advice of my trusted people, I will continue to enjoy kombucha. Krieger offers some wise words to remember: Kombucha is not a magic potion, but it is a potentially healthful, flavorful drink that is relatively low in calories and sugar.

As with any food or drink, it is wise not to overdo it but to enjoy it in moderation.

Eat Nutrition

About Jamie Bacigalupo

Having first traveled from her hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota, to live in Quito, Ecuador, she decided to give the East a run and is now a resident of Shenzhen, China. She earned her degree in Communication Arts/Literature and Communication and Secondary Education from Gustavus Adolphus College and is enthusiastically exploring Asia by teaching abroad. She digs hanging out with her students by weekday, and relishes finding new restaurants to eat authentic Chinese food and finding new hiking paths on the weekends. In addition to sticking her nose in a book to recover from an intense workday, Jamie also loves exploring all manner of flavors in the kitchen, especially when she is whipping up some recipes for her friends and family.