Kombucha is one of the buzzwords of the moment in the health and wellness industry, but what is Kombucha exactly, and why is this ancient Chinese beverage gaining so much popularity? This edition of our Expert Series is dedicated to Kombucha benefits, how to make it, and more, as we find out what it actually is and what it does for us and our health.
What is Kombucha?
So, what is kombucha? Kombucha is a non-alcoholic beverage that is sweet yet sour tasting (some may even say tangy) that is refreshing and has been reported to have a number of health promoting properties.
Kombucha is the result of a fermentation process using a combination of a tea infusion (tea, juices, herb extracts) with a type of yeast known as a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast).
Traditionally, Kombucha is prepared using sweetened green and black tea, but in more recent years (as a result of promising laboratory studies) other plant species have been used, which have proven to provide other types of bioactive compounds; for example, those found in other types of leaves, milk, and vegetable pulp, which have been used to create variations of Kombucha.
Variations in taste can also occur, as Kombucha is often flavoured with a combination of herbs, spices, and fruit, such as ginger, schizandra, and blueberry. Kombucha is reported to be a good source of vital nutrients, including B complex vitamins, polyphenols (plant-derived compounds), and organic acids, all of which are believed to offer various health benefits, according to research and studies.
Where did Kombucha originate from?
The consumption of Kombucha has been reported as long as 2,000 years ago which dates back to 220 B.C. Although it is now widely consumed, historically it has been consumed most predominantly in China, Russia, and Germany and is believed to be from Manchurian origins.
What are the main Kombucha benefits?
Awareness of Kombucha benefits and the beneficial properties of other fermented foods for our health has increased over recent years, as it’s increasingly understood that fermented foods have enhanced nutritional and functional properties.
With more studies being conducted all the time, there is an increasing amount of data to suggest that fermented foods have enhanced nutritional and functional properties. Research has shown that the fermentation process, which is essentially the transformation of sugars and starches in food by yeasts and bacteria, increases probiotic content and improves digestibility – both of which have been shown to have positive effects on digestive health, weight management, immunity, energy levels, detoxification, sleep, and even mental health.
In addition to the increased probiotic content, studies show that the fermentation process of Kombucha also results in the production of various active compounds that have antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory potential such as acetic acid and various polyphenols. While the exact mechanisms of the active compounds and the benefits to health are not fully understood, it is believed that factors such as the type of tea, brewing, and fermentation parameters, as well as the composition of the SCOBY, can substantially affect the activities of these compounds.
Research is ongoing, but from what we know so far about Kombucha benefits, it may help protect against a vast number of metabolic and infectious diseases and is – according to some studies – considered to be an ‘attractive fermented functional beverage for the prevention and treatment of disease’.
Kombucha, gut health and what you need to know
So, is Kombucha good for gut health? Kombucha, being a fermented beverage, is indeed beneficial to gut health. First and foremost, the lactic acid produced during the fermentation process helps to digest other foods, such as proteins. This can be particularly useful to the digestive system in helping to minimise unpleasant common gastro-intestinal symptoms, such as:
- Abdominal discomfort
The fermentation process also helps with the absorption of vital nutrients, as these foods have already been pre-digested by bacteria and yeast.
Secondly, fermentation also helps with the release of important digestive enzymes that are needed to help break down our food into smaller particles so that they can be digested and absorbed efficiently. This has a positive effect on many other bodily systems, as it helps to ensure we are getting the nutrients we need from the food we eat – we also know that certain bodily systems, such as the brain and our immune systems, are intrinsically linked to gut health.
Therefore, if our gut health is working efficiently, this will have a knock-on effect on these other important areas of our health too.
Fermented foods like Kombucha also contain bacteria that are beneficial to our gut health in many ways, including:
- Encourages microbial diversity within the gut itself
- Helping with the production of short chain fatty acids, which are needed for overall gut health and gut motility
- Help maintain the integrity of the intestinal lining and gut wall, helping to reduce intestinal permeability issues
- Play a role in regulating immunity and inflammation in the intestines
- Keeps pathogenic bacteria in check
It’s important to note that probiotics and fermented foods are not the same thing. It is not always possible to determine the exact strains of bacteria that are found in fermented foods, because the microorganism content of fermented foods is subject to the fermentation environment. However, we do know that each type of fermented food has a broad type of strain, for example in foods such as yoghurt and fermented milk, which contain a wide variety of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria.
Since probiotic supplements tend to contain specific and defined amounts of bacteria, it is recommended to view both fermented foods and probiotics separately and both as a valuable addition to a healthy diet to promote gut health.
Kombucha recipe: how to make your own
The good news is that you can reap all of those Kombucha benefits for your health by making your own at home! We’ve teamed up with our friends over at Remedy Drinks to give you a super-simple Kombucha recipe to make in your own kitchen.
The five main ingredients you will need are:
- *Water (de-chlorinated – see below for info)
- Tea (black tea is best)
- Sugar (raw cane sugar) – sugar is needed for the fermentation process to take place but is broken down during the process. The longer the Kombucha is fermented, the less sugar that will remain in the end product
- Starter culture kit (otherwise known as a SCOBY). Widely available from health food stores and specialist companies online (see below)
- Feeder/Starter liquid (this can be purchased from a specialist company or you can use pre-made Kombucha for this (please find below link to Remedy Drinks’ Kombucha recipe)
*Chlorine can have a negative effect on microbes. As tap water contains chlorine, it is recommended to use filtered water or to use cooled boiled water. Alternatively, tap water can be left in a bowl overnight to dissipate the chlorine naturally.
Kombucha recipe method
Watch this Kombucha recipe video on the method to make your own Kombucha from Remedy Drinks:
If you haven’t got the time to make your own Kombucha, check out Remedy Drinks, who make it slowly to make it right (we know, we tried it!). Remedy offer a refreshing live cultured fizzy drink made using only the best, all-natural ingredients.
Their drinks are handcrafted in small batches and delicately brewed for 30 days. The result is the tastiest Kombucha recipe around: it contains no sugar, naturally, and is chock-full of all the right stuff: live cultures, organic acids, and antioxidants. Grab yourself some tasty Kombucha right here.
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