The Truth About Kombucha

A real review of a fad drink

Everyone is talking about it and those who drink it pride themselves on the super healthy gut-friendly drink.  However, is it really as good as we think?  Hopefully, this will provide some insight into what you’re drinking and the benefit or lack thereof it can truly give…read on to find out!

Probiotics are super hot right now.  You’ve heard of them, I’ve heard of them, your doctors have heard of them..we all know the term.  But that’s not what this post is about.  To learn about probiotics in general, read my post “Love Your Gut“.  This post is about this popular fermented drink we call Kombucha.  With a large variety of flavors and a bubbly carbonation, this drink is an ideal soda substitute (let’s be honest, not really at all a soda substitute) with some added health benefits.  There is no disputing there are benefits in ingesting probiotics, what we fail to consider is how effective drinking your probiotics truly are.  This takes a careful analysis of the nutrition label and potency claims.  Typically if you find a good brand which tests the potency, you can rely on many if not all of that brand’s products.  To analyze the effectiveness of this Kombucha drink, I’m going to use the same general outline I provided in my post “Love Your Gut“.

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Colony-forming units (CFUs) – There are 4 billion colony forming units.  This is on the low end of the standard, but it is a good number for those in good health already who are simply trying to maintain their health status and keep up their healthy bacteria.

Diversity of bacterial strains – There are 4 different bacterial strains.  These are: Bacillus Coagulans, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus plantarum, and Lactobacillus paracasei.  This is a good variety in general for a probiotic.  The diversity of strains maximizes the potential benefit.  For specifics on these bacteria, there is a list of common bacteria and specific benefit in my post “Love Your Gut“.

Potency – There is no claim for potency at time of expiration; it does say there are 4 billion CFUs at time of manufacture but this means by the time you’re actually drinking it, most of these may be dead, thereby giving no benefit.  The issue with there being no claim for potency at time of expiration is that there is no way of knowing how many are alive when you are drinking it.  This is a huge problem with Kombucha; it is underresearched and therefore we cannot determine its true efficacy.

Clean label – This label has a lot of juice concentrates which is a little alarming to me as I’m not sure how negatively this impacts the environment for the bacteria.  All ingredients are organic, however I do not believe this makes it much better for the bacteria.  There is a moderately long list of ingredients which is definitely less than ideal.

Product packaging and delivery – Kombucha is fermented, acidic drink.  This may enhance the bacteria’s ability to survive the digestive process, including through the acidic gastric juices and the enzymes which break down food products.  Some if not majority of the bacteria may be lost along the way, but there is truly no way to say if any make it to the intestine to colonize simply because these fermented drinks are underresearched and manufactured with varied and, sometimes, unnatural mechanisms.

Incorporation of prebiotics – There is no claim of prebiotics in the drink.  Prebiotics are kind of like nutritional supplements for the bacteria.  They enhance colonization of the bacteria in the gut by providing required energy for growth.

Overall: There have not been studies which show any harm to your body or your gut for drinking Kombucha drinks.  However, this is not the end all be all.  Since we cannot say how beneficial it is, it is best to incorporate probiotics in your diet through other means such as foods (like kefir or sauerkraut) or dietary supplements.

 

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