You probably know about kombucha tea if you’re a health nut. This fermented, slightly sweet drink has been touted for its health benefits, and celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon, Halle Berry, and Madonna are all known to be fans of this seemingly magical drink (via Daily Mail). However, the science is still out on whether or not this drink is all it’s cracked up to be. As with anything you’re putting into your body, you need to be aware of any and all potential risks and side effects before you decide to drink kombucha tea every day. When in doubt, a little extra research can’t hurt.
However, if you do your research and still find yourself wanting to test out kombucha tea, then keep reading to find out what happens to your body when you drink kombucha tea every day. Both the risks and the alleged benefits are sure to surprise you!
If you drink kombucha tea every day, you should know the fermentation process is the key to its unique flavor
What makes kombucha tea stand out from the other health-focused drinks is the fermentation process. Fermentation, according to Healthline, involves the breakdown of carbs into alcohol or acid by bacteria and yeast. The drink is made from fermenting green or black tea (or both) along with sugar, yeast, and bacteria. Kombucha’s properties come from a SCOBY, which stands for “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast,” as noted by Time. The SCOBY is mixed with the tea and is set aside to ferment for a week or more. Once the process is finished, what we know as kombucha tea is separated from the SCOBY and bottled to drink.
The fermentation also gives kombucha it’s slightly sweet yet tart taste, according to The Kitchn. And if you’ve ever noticed a weird, alien-looking substance at the bottom of your glass when you drink kombucha tea, that’s also a byproduct of the tea fermenting. That substance is mostly yeast, and even though it looks funny, it’s safe to consume, according to Mike Burns and Jenni Lyons of Happy Leaf Kombucha (via The Kitchn).
When you drink kombucha tea every day, you're technically consuming a living food
The fermentation process that creates kombucha tea is what gives the beverage its probiotic properties. The SCOBY, which is responsible for the kombucha, is a colony of live bacteria and yeast. So technically, when you drink kombucha tea every day, that means you’re drinking a living food, as noted by Bon Appetit. Well, kind of.
The SCOBY is considered a live organism because of the presence of yeast and bacteria. The yeast actively breaks down sugars in the tea to glucose and produces a range of organic compounds that give kombucha tea its unique flavor (via Real Kombucha UK). But don’t worry about drinking something “living,” so long as it’s done by professionals.
“Most packaged foods on the market are processed and pasteurized, and are thus pretty straightforward and consistent,” Health-Ade Kombucha CEO Daina Trout told Bon Appetit. “But kombucha is alive! And living foods are a lot more complex.”
If you drink kombucha tea every day, your overall health may improve
Kombucha tea is a sweet yet acidic drink that’s been consumed for “thousands of years,” according to Healthline. While the exact origin of the drink is unknown, it’s believed to have its roots in the Manchurian region, which is the northeastern part of Asia (via Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets). The drink is made from the fermentation of green or black tea and is promoted as having a positive effect on a range of ailments because of the probiotics and strains of bacteria found in it.
Because of the presence of probiotics in the drink, if you drink kombucha tea every day, you could experience an improvement in your digestive health and weight loss efforts (via Nutrition & Metabolism). On top of that, some research suggests that drinking the tea daily might help manage blood sugar levels, lower risk for heart disease, and support liver health (via Healthline). Studies have even proposed that there may be a link between consuming kombucha tea every day and a reduced risk for diabetes (via BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine)!
Drinking kombucha tea every day might give your body the probiotics it needs to function better
You can get your probiotics in a lot of different forms, from taking a daily pill to consuming fermented foods or drinks like kombucha tea. Your body needs probiotics to function in a healthy way, and getting your daily dose of them can help restore the natural balance of your gut’s bacteria, which provides a handful of benefits for your body (via Nutrition in Clinical Care).
When your gut is out of balance, you might experience an upset stomach, weight changes, trouble sleeping, irritated skin, autoimmune diseases, and food intolerances like lactose or gluten intolerance, according to Healthline. Probiotics, which are live bacteria and yeasts, help send food through your gut by influencing nerves that are in charge of gut movement (via WebMD). Dr. David S. Ludwig, a nutrition professor at Harvard, noted that fermented foods and the probiotics found in them are crucial to a healthy digestive system (via Harvard Health Blog). So, choosing to drink kombucha tea every day might just lead to a better-feeling and healthier gut.
However, it’s important to note that the health benefits of the probiotics found in kombucha teas have not been confirmed, as reported by The New York Times.
If you drink kombucha tea every day, you could lower your risk for certain diseases
There are a bunch of benefits to drinking green tea every day, so it might not be surprising that kombucha retains some of the benefits when made from green tea. Studies have shown that regular consumption of green tea can help improve cholesterol levels, control blood sugar, and reduce belly fat, according to Healthline. Some studies have even connected regular green tea drinkers to reduced risks of certain types of cancers, although there isn’t any evidence that suggests that green tea is the single influencing factor, as Cancer Research UK reported.
Anyone who routinely drinks kombucha made from green tea may also experience some of the tea’s benefits, as it, naturally, contains many of the same compounds found in green tea. So to say kombucha tea made from green tea would share certain properties with the hot drink would only make sense.
If you drink kombucha tea every day, you'll consume a significant amount of antioxidants
Because of the beverage’s fermentation process, kombucha tea contains more antioxidants than other teas, according to Insider. Antioxidants, like probiotics, are widely considered to be important to the health of the human body. Lauri Wright, Ph.D., R.D., L.D., an assistant professor at the University of South Florida, told Self that antioxidants help prevent cell damage by removing free radicals before they hurt the body. Free radicals have been linked to ailments such as heart disease and cancer. Since antioxidants neutralize free radicals, it’s been suggested that consistently consuming antioxidants can help prevent these kinds of diseases (via Medical News Today).
A 2003 study in the journal Biomedical and Environmental Sciences found that rats that regularly drank kombucha saw reduced liver toxicity caused by free radicals. So something similar could be the case in humans, as well, which, if proven, would certainly make for a good reason to drink kombucha tea every day.
You might be able to cut down on caffeine if you drink kombucha tea every day
Let’s face it, kicking that morning coffee out of your daily routine can be rough, especially if you’ve been a coffee-drinker for years. If you’re looking for something to switch it out for, kombucha tea, which contains a small amount of caffeine from the tea it is brewed from, might be a good option for you. Kombucha teas are made from either black or green tea, and, although the fermentation process gets rid of about two-thirds of the caffeine, what remains might still be enough for you to wean yourself off of coffee without having to quit cold turkey (via Time).
Kombucha Kamp noted that, while the beverage does have caffeine in it, the amount of caffeine present can vary, depending on the brand and recipe. The outlet also explained that the caffeine that’s present in kombucha tends to be “paired with a natural amino acid that slows [its] absorption into the bloodstream, l-theanine,” which promotes a more relaxing feeling commonly associated with tea.
Who knows — maybe choosing to drink kombucha tea every day instead of coffee might actually leave you feeling more ready to take on your day! But first things first — here are signs you’re drinking too much caffeine and what to expect when you stop consuming caffeine.
If you drink kombucha tea every day, you'll up your intake of this bacteria-killing acid
Kombucha tea is known for its live bacteria and yeast. However, not all bacteria is good bacteria, as some are considered harmful to the human body. Fortunately, it’s been suggested that acetic acid, which is found in kombucha tea, can help eradicate potentially harmful microorganisms from the body (via Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry).
If you drink kombucha tea every day, you might experience some of the same benefits you would get from drinking the green and black teas the beverage is brewed from, and this antimicrobial, or antibacterial, property is one of them. A study published in the Journal of Food Biochemistry suggests, though, that kombucha brewed from green tea, in particular, tends to have stronger antibacterial potential than kombucha brewed from black tea. That same study also suggests that drinking kombucha tea might be a useful alternative to “current synthetic antimicrobial drugs.”
And while the tea is antibacterial, the only bacteria that gets targeted by the acetic acid are the ones that can cause illnesses. Essentially, the good bacteria stays in and the bad bacteria, in theory, gets booted out!
If you drink kombucha tea every day, you probably won't get drunk
If you’ve ever been carded while buying kombucha tea, you might be confused as to why. Turns out that kombucha tea has a minor amount of alcohol once it’s done fermenting. And while there are some kombucha brands that specifically brew what’s referred to as “hard kombucha,” usually most kombucha drinks contain no more than 0.5 percent alcohol, as reported by The New York Times. This low percentage allows them to be sold as non-alcoholic beverages (via Bon Appetit).
Notably, it’s more common for home-brewed kombucha teas to contain 3 percent alcohol or higher (via Healthline), which is a lot considering that the alcohol percentage for light beers like Bud Lite or Coors Light is around 4.2 percent alcohol. Still, don’t expect to feel intoxicated from drinking a run-of-the-mill store-bought bottle of kombucha. Its alcohol content shouldn’t be of concern to most people, as long as they’re not drinking gallons of kombucha tea per day in a short period of time!
You might experience migraines if your drink kombucha tea every day
If you’ve made the decision to drink kombucha tea every day for your health, you may start to notice an increase in headaches or migraines. And, we hate to say it, but it might be because of the kombucha. On top of the presence of caffeine and alcohol in kombucha tea, fermented foods like kombucha can be high in the substance tyramine.
Tyramine has been linked to the potential cause or worsening of migraines and headaches, as noted by a study published in The Clinical Journal of Pain, although it’s unclear exactly why. According to Healthline, the amino acid can also be found in other fermented foods like aged cheeses, cured meats, soy sauce, sourdough, and more. While there are a lot of people who can consume high levels of tyramine without any side effects, Healthline reported that the hormone, especially if consumed excessively, can cause higher-than-normal blood pressure spikes. This excessive intake might lead to a “hypertensive crisis” that could result in a higher chance of stroke (via Mayo Clinic).
If you or your doctor believe you’re at risk for this kind of reaction, then you should consider avoiding or cutting back on kombucha tea.
If you drink kombucha tea every day, your teeth could take a hit
When it comes down to it, there may be more risks associated with the decision to drink kombucha tea every day than benefits. Drinking kombucha every day could potentially ruin your smile (via Salon). Because the drink is considered “healthy” by some, it’s easy to forget that kombucha is also quite acidic and high in sugar — two things that could cause real damage to your teeth.
“The dominant type of bacteria in kombucha creates acetic acid,” Jeffery Sulitzer, DMD, SmileDirectClub’s chief clinical officer, told PopSugar. He noted the average pH balance of kombucha tea ranges from 2.5 to 3.5, which is extremely acidic. High amounts of acid, according to Dr. Sulitzer, are known to be bad for your oral health. “The acidic pH found in kombucha … allows the ‘bad’ bacteria already found in your mouth to potentially create an unhealthier environment for your gums.”
In theory, drinking one kombucha tea every day could do the same damage to teeth as one sugary drink per day because of the tea’s sugar and acidic properties.
If you're pregnant, choosing to drink kombucha tea every day might not be a good idea
If it seems like pregnant or nursing women can’t eat anything fun, well, you’re not far off. In addition to no sushi, deli meats, soft cheeses, pate, caffeine, or alcohol, as noted by American Pregnancy, it’s also not recommended that pregnant women drink kombucha tea every day either.
While kombucha tea is considered a non-alcoholic beverage, even the small amount of alcohol found in the drink could be potentially harmful to the mother’s child, according to Healthline. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among other agencies, recommends cutting out all kinds of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, stating that all types could be equally harmful. The reason why is that any alcohol consumed by the mother is directly passed to the baby through the umbilical cord. Drinking during pregnancy, according to the CDC, could potentially cause miscarriages, stillbirths, or issues for the child post-birth. So, daily consumption of kombucha tea, although seemingly not harmful, could potentially pose developmental risks to the unborn child. So, yes, you can add kombucha to the list of food pregnant women can’t have.
You might do more harm than good if you drink kombucha tea you made yourself
Even if you decided to drink kombucha tea every day as part of your routine, you might want to think twice before you try brewing your own at home. According to HowStuffWorks, brewing the popular tea at home is a lot different than buying the store-bought stuff. This is because store-bought brands produce their kombucha under sterile conditions, and, even though you might think your kitchen is spotless, harmful bacteria might accidentally end up in your batch. Notably, Salon published one woman’s story about how she found out that her home-brewed concoction had given her severe food poisoning.
In fact, home-brewed kombucha tea has been known to cause illnesses like hepatitis and, in one case, even death, according to the National Capital Poison Center. In 1995, one woman’s cardiac arrest and later passing was connected to her extensive consumption of kombucha tea. At the same time, another woman went into cardiac arrest. It was discovered that the two women, among others, had consumed kombucha brewed from SCOBYs derived from the same parent mushroom, according to the CDC.
If you want to brew your own, be very, very careful!
If you want to drink kombucha tea every day, know that science hasn't confirmed all of its benefits
It’s worth noting that choosing to drink kombucha tea every day hasn’t been scientifically proven to be completely beneficial to your health or not. There have been a lot of studies conducted on animals and various conclusions made from related studies. Experts agree that there isn’t enough scientific evidence that can support any health claims out there. “We lack a really well-controlled study to say, ‘This is from kombucha,'” said Dr. Zhaoping Li, professor of medicine and director of UCLA’s Center for Human Nutrition (via Time). “People kind take the concept and run with it.” Even registered dietician Tracy Lockwood Beckerman said that, while sources claim that kombucha can do something like positively impact gut health, there needs to be more research completed before we can confirm any of its alleged benefits.
Ultimately, drinking kombucha tea every day cannot replace a well-balanced, healthy diet, even if the drink is beneficial to your health. On top of drinking kombucha tea, should you decide that you’re able to consume it, you should also be eating foods rich in nutrients from fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
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