15 Jul Kombucha – a Miracle Drink?
There are many outrageous claims about Kombucha, including that it can “cure cancer” – but what is science telling us?
The team here at Norbucha has worked together for a long time in making an honest product ready for market, and all of us take health and nutrition seriously. Moreover, we try to learn as much as we can about it and we keep ourselves on the safe side by using only verified and credible sources.
Unfortunately, the stellar rise of Kombucha products over the last years has been translated into a billion dollar industry that came, of course, with a lot of groundless claims.
We are not scientists, nor are we certified nutritionists. When trying to change dietary habits, those are the ones you should listen to and trust. Food is a highly personal and emotional topic. The following observations (and conclusions) are personal, and we encourage everyone to start educating themselves independently.
Fundamentally, Kombucha is a fermented, probiotic drink, nothing more and nothing less. Let’s see what hard science tells us about both of these properties.
Fermentation, according to definition, is a complex metabolic process that converts sugar to acids, gases or alcohol. Yeast and bacteria do it, and our own body does it, for example in our muscles. It is a natural process that has been exploited by humans since the Neolithic Age to keep food fresh, and has been shown in numerous studies to be very beneficial for your gut health.
Fermented food aids the growth of friendly intestinal bacteria, and helps digestion by supporting immune function – including an increase in B vitamins (even Vitamin B12), omega-3 fatty acids, digestive enzymes, lactose and lactic acid, and other immune chemicals that fight off harmful bacteria and even cancer cells.
Olives, pickles, grass-fed cheese, wine, yogurt, sauerkraut, Kombucha, and the seasoned, aged sausages the French call “charcuterie” – and in Norway, Rakfisk – are some of this category’s most popular delicacies; here the lactic acid produced plays an important role.
If you want to read more about that, here is a conveniently summarized overview on the example of pickled cabbage, linking to the corresponding studies. (I could link directly to the study abstracts, but most of you would die of boredom – if you are that hardcore, google it yourself).
Fermented food is mostly probiotic, as bacteria do the work, and as soon as bacteria are involved, you have something you can call “probiotic”. Studies have found evidence suggesting probiotics might reduce weight gain, decrease anxiety and depression and boost your immune system, because the magic is happening in your gut, most of which also have been observed in studying fermented foods.
Popular probiotic foods are yogurt (not only YAKULT and ACTIVIA, which just use one designed and well marketed type of culture), dark chocolate, kefir, pickles, the good ol’ sauerkraut again, kimchi, miso soup, and Kombucha.
Gut Health – the really Big One.
Lets recap for a second what is happening when you eat food that is prepared in the above mentioned fundamental, traditional preparation methods: Your gut gets exposed to a variety of acids and bacteria, and changes in your gut influence the immune system and your overall health in a dramatic fashion. In fact, a healthy gut, populated by the right bacteria, has shown to be one of the best ways to increase your overall health.
Hundreds of studies from the last two decades have found a profound connection, linking a poor gut flora to anything from Anxiety, Depression, Autism, Allergies, Weight issues, and many other first world diseases.
A diverse and healthy gut flora has by contrast been shown – with a very strong correlation – to improve your mood, help you control your weight, and strengthen your immune system.
Think about that for a second. Only in the last decade are we beginning to understand the significant role our gut has for our health.
(I mostly liked to interesting articles that themselves link to the studies, so if you want to go deeper own the rabbit hole, feel free to research this topic more.)
My personal experience.
As you may have noted in how this post is written, i am a skeptical person. Every claim that is made gets a reality check. It is my job to think critically.
In the beginning I didn’t pay attention to the various advertised health benefits that Kombucha has been credited to, and just wanted to make a great tasting lemonade on a tart Kombucha base, while not objecting – but also not relying on the fact – that there were outrageous health claims. I did not expect what happened over the next few months.
For at least 10 years, i paid close attention to my nutrition while i did a lot of fitness-related activities (bodybuilding, cycling, swimming, jogging), up to 20 hours per week. Being in a new relationship, i stopped suddenly and have been fighting with my weight ever since, because i found it hard to eat less. There have also been some profound events in my life that took the wind out of my sails, and left me dormant and without energy, which was unprecedented for me (well, except that Burnout i has a few years earlier while working in Advertising 80-100 hours a week).
In December of 2014, two things happened: I started to switch my personal nutrition to the Paleo Diet (a Low-Carb, High-Fat diet), and the intense testing phase of our Kombucha Recipes began, so i started to drink Kombucha every day, going through hundreds of samples. Both of these things are known to have a profound impact on your gut.
Fast forward to March 2015: While testing our Electric Distribution Croth Rockets, i have noticed that i didn’t get pinkeye anymore. I have been plagued by multiple allergies my whole life, including birch pollen. And it was the exact same time as an year before, the same place. Spring has always been a pain for me. Not this year though.
I remember having to remove the birch pollen from my bike every morning before testing (we have many birch trees around our garden), but not thinking a lot about it. All of a sudden i had an epiphany. I immediately went home and made a Smoothie consisting of carrots and apples and downed it – no reaction. I then ate multiple nuts – no reaction, no swelling, no itching.
All my allergies, which plagued me for 35 years of my life, were gone.
It was as if they never existed – and my partner could witness the exact same reaction on herself. (I also started to constantly losing weight each week, to the point that clothes i wore over the last 10 years started to not fit anymore / things i wore in the 90s fitted me again, even before i started to cycle a lot there was a significant weight loss). Also, my mood improved significantly over the span of 6 weeks (early 2015) , and i was ecstatic and energetic about life again, starting to work on multiple projects, not feeling stressed in doing it.
So, what changed?
Nothing changed, besides what i ate. I lived in the exact same spot as one year ago-2014 (when i had big problems with birch pollen for almost three months). On top of all, this year i have been spending more time outdoors than the previous year which is why i have realized the big difference – in a positive way.
The only logical explanation i have given myself for what happened is the change my gut flora underwent over the last months, and the corresponding changes to my immune system / my mood / my weight. Only after i have seen this profound changes, have i started to pay more attention to what a good gut can do for you. The mix of my new diet and Kombucha changed me in a way i did not hope for (in such a short time) and i am believer in it’s positive power.
I encourage every one of you to give it a try, “renovate” your gut and refresh yourself if you experience similar issues.
Can Kombucha do all of that for you? I don’t know, there is a 50% chance that it helped me. One thing is for sure: One must pay attention to their gut, and it may very well change one’s life.
All the best :-)