The Facts about Kombucha
The fermented drink, kombucha (pronounced, kom-BOO-cha) originated in China about 2,000 years ago but has been growing in popularity in the U.S., with projected sales of $600 million this year.
The basic ingredient in kombucha is sugar-sweetened black tea. Add a colony of bacteria and yeast to the tea, and allow it to ferment, which produces bacteria, acids and a small amount of alcohol. The result is a fizzy drink that has an unusual smell and flavor.
Most people drink kombucha for the proposed health benefits but not the taste.
The health claims for this fermented tea include increased energy, boost to your immune system, weight loss and management of health conditions from blood pressure to cancer. Research has not supported any of the health benefits in humans, and there are risks to consider before drinking kombucha.
Because kombucha is a tea-based drink and is full of healthful antioxidants and polyphenols. But you also get sugar and increased risk for contamination during processing. Instead, consider drinking unsweetened black tea or green tea, rich in flavonoids, which are antioxidants that protect against heart disease.
Making kombucha involves letting bacteria grow during fermentation. This provides good probiotic bacteria for digestion in the gut that can fend off problems like diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome.
However, if it is not prepared properly, the beverage can grow harmful bacteria or mold. Probiotic-rich or fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, yogurt and green tea might be an immune booster and decrease your risk for allergies and other health problems.
Eating more vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts and seeds can also help boost your immune system and provide prebiotic fiber that helps your body make its own probiotics.
Since the mid-1990s, several cases of illness and at least one death have been reported because of drinking kombucha. Illnesses include liver failure, severe buildup of lactic acid in the body, allergic reactions, nausea, vomiting, jaundice, head and neck pain and yeast infections.
Drinking unpasteurized beverages such as fermented kombucha can lead to a seriously upset stomach or harmful microorganisms taking over and causing serious problems, including food poisoning. If the environment where the kombucha tea is brewed and fermented is not clean, it can increase the risk for contamination.
There are differing opinions on the safety of this beverage. Consumer Reports advises against drinking it because of the risk of contamination and little proof of health benefits. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) say kombucha is safe when properly prepared. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises healthy adults to limit their consumption of kombucha to four ounces a day to avoid risks associated with overconsumption. Before you start drinking this tea beverage, check with your health care provider, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions, or are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Lisa McCoy is a family and consumer-sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.
Source - www.heraldmailmedia.com/life/columns/the-facts-about-kombucha/