Whether you’re scrolling your Pinterest feed or strolling through your grocery store, you’ve probably noticed kombucha becoming more and more popular — but what the heck is it? Well, the fizzy drink is made by fermenting black or green tea. You’ve maybe seen some frightening photos of the “SCOBY,” or symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, floating around in the liquid. The blobby orb doesn’t look all that appetizing, but it creates a surprisingly refreshing (albeit slightly vinegary) beverage.
There have been so many testimonials about the benefits of chugging kombucha that it’s hard to keep track of which ones are legit. Thankfully, there are several health claims that have been tested and verified. A study from March 2018 by researchers at the Laboratory of Chemical Engineering in Toulouse, France, lists potential perks ranging from anti-inflammatory and antioxidant elements to the growth of “good bacteria” and the inhibition of “bad bacteria” like Candida. Plus, the study suggested kombucha could even aid in lowering diabetes symptoms. Each batch of kombucha is unique, but the study found 14 types of amino acids, vitamins, and enzymes on average. Keep scrolling to find out how stocking up on kombucha can help boost your well-being.
1. Kombucha fermentation produces lots of probiotics.
There are three types of fermentation: alcoholic, lactic, and acetic. Kombucha uses a combination of all three with the presence of several yeasts and bacteria brewing from the SCOBY. This means it can contain trace amounts of alcohol, but definitely not enough to worry about getting tipsy. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau cites an average .5 percent alcohol found in most manufactured kombuchas.
Aside from that, the fermentation process also produces tons of probiotics that can help maintain a balance in your digestive system. This helps re-align the system after a round of antibiotics, and it can also stimulate your immune response, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. If you’re not a fan of probiotic yogurt, kombucha can be the perfect solution to keeping your gut balance in check.
2. Antibacterial elements can ward off yeast infections.
Ladies, let's face it: Yeast infections are never fun, but they're especially uncomfortable in the summertime. The pesky condition often occurs during or after taking antibiotics and can be especially difficult to get rid of no matter how many creams or treatments you try. Kombucha might be able to kick those efforts into high gear, or help you to avoid the issue altogether. The 2018 French study found antibacterial and antimicrobial elements that helped fight against issues caused by the Candida species, the very same culprit for yeast infection breakouts. So, a refreshing drink that keeps us cool in the summer and helps deal with yeast infections? Sign us up ASAP, please.
3. Antioxidants in kombucha could keep cancer at bay.
Since kombucha is fermented tea, it’s also full of those antioxidants that kick cancer’s butt before it can even get its hold on us. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health explains how antioxidants stabilize free radicals, which stops them from damaging our cells and causing cancer. That said, you should pay close attention to the label when selecting your bottle of kombucha. Some companies use other fillers and sugars to round out their beverage, which cut back on this particular benefit. Kombuchas containing higher concentrations of the actual tea will, of course, also have higher levels of antioxidant activity — so be picky!
4. Kombucha can boost your heart health, too.
It’s not just about the gut when it comes to this trendy beverage. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Food Science tested the cardiac benefits of kombucha (or “bio-tea,” as they called it). They claim that by drinking kombucha, patients showed a high preventative effect against myocardial infarction, also known as a heart attack. It also significantly decreased heart weight, blood glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL and VLDL (“bad cholesterols”) while elevating levels of HDL (“good cholesterol”) and plasma albumin, a protein that regulates blood volume and pressure. Basically, it’s a whole lot of really good stuff for your heart.
5. Sipping kombucha might help keep your blood sugar in check.
There's sugar in pretty much everything these days, and as much as that might keep our sweet tooth happy, it does no favors to anyone struggling with diabetes. The most recent study from France tested the protective effect of kombucha on various organs including the pancreas, liver, kidney, and heart in diabetic rat models. The results showed “significant antidiabetic potential,” which could make a huge difference for folks who are constantly struggling to keep their blood sugar levels in check. We aren’t saying kombucha will rid bodies of diabetic symptoms full stop, but it might be worth testing out while continuing treatments prescribed to you by your doctor.
6. Regular kombucha drinking could reduce anxiety and depression.
Elevating your mood is perhaps the most surprising benefit you might unlock with kombucha. A 2014 study from CNS & Neurological Disorders-Drug Targets looked at the correlation between a happy belly and the brain. It makes sense — it’s hard to be cheerful when your stomach is acting out against you. But the study looked even deeper at the microbiota, also known as flora, in our guts and how this connects to stress responses. Surprisingly, they found that levels of anxiety and depression decrease as the probiotic elements of kombucha increased, helping balance everything out.
Who knows what other benefits of kombucha we’ll uncover as researchers continue to investigate the intriguing tea. Again, you shouldn’t look at it as a replacement for any treatment your doctor has prescribed to you. Some struggle to appreciate the vinegary flavor, but it might be worth testing out the promising effects for yourself!