Wednesday I drank a full bottle of kombucha. Now that may not seem earth shattering to most people, but I do not drink anything liquid except for water and some milk. I do no drink juice, I do not drink beer, I do not drink coffee or tea and an occasional glass of wine lasts all night. But on this day I drank the whole bottle. Why? Because it was free and handed to me and since I will be fermenting up a storm in preparation for workshop, I thought I would drink it and get a good sense of what is in the market.
That day, I was working in the gluten-free bakery, doing a small trial production. I was standing all day on a concrete floor, lifting heavy trays and it is very hard on my body. I have missing cartilage in my left hip, a bad right knee and my back likes to lock up after a while because of the missing cartilage making one leg shorter. Usually after a day like that, I hurt. I am stiff and achy, my feet are tired and before Christmas my back was locking up and so was my bad knee. But not on this day. I felt great. As I was driving home stuck in traffic, I felt normal. Usually, I can feel the aches as I sit in my car but not on this day. All I was feeling was the beginning of a detox headache. Really? I said to myself – a bottle of kombucha put me into detox. That would really suck since I felt good everywhere else. Could the kombucha also be responsible for the lack of aches and pain?
Well, according to the claims for kombucha, it could. According to the research, who knows?
What is kombucha? It is a fermented beverage made usually from black, oolong or green tea, water, sugar and a scoby, which is the fermented mother substance that contains all the good bacteria and beneficial yeasts use to ferment the beverage. There are a number of kombucha drinks on the market – the one I drank was Kombucha Wonder Drink, made from all organic ingredients including oolong tea, which is lower in caffeine than black tea. I bet I work for the only bakery that sell organic kombucha.
Here are the most common beneficial claims for kombucha:
1.It Is Anti-microbial and Good For The Immune System: There are actually several studies that have found antimicrobial properties for kombucha. Originally it was assumed that it was the acetic acid that is present but subsequent studies found there are other microbial substances so claims that it is beneficial for the immune system have some merit
2.It Aids Liver Detoxification: The claims state this is due to its glurcaric acid content, which does aid in binding toxins for excretion except there is just one problem – kombucha does not appear to have any glucaric acid. It has gluconic acid. Both are made by the body from glucose (or can be found in food). I would like to say I found the purpose of gluconinc acid but I am aging rapidly just trying to get a simple answer to a simple question. The best I can find out is that it appears to be involved in mineral utilization, or at least its dervivatives are. Who knows and who cares? I did get a detox headache but that does not mean it was my liver that was detoxing.
3.It Is Good For Joint Health: This is supposed to be because it contains glucosamine. There are those that say it does and there are those who says it doesn’t – can’t find a study confirming any of this but it may contain the precursors to glucosamine. This seems possible since glucosamine is a derivative of glucose. It may also contain malic acid, which can help with aches and pain plus fermented foods are known to be anti-inflammatory.
4.Aid in Digestion and Gut Health: Well it is a fermented foods and that is the key reason for consuming fermented foods so we should be able to assume that kombucha should have some ability to do so.
The problem here is that a lot of information is being circulated about kombucha, both pro and con. The vast majority of the research was done in Russia and is not easily accessible for us to read. And most of those writing about kmonbucha, especially those who are not in favour of it, are only using information available in North America which is not much. All the information claiming that it may be harmful is anedoctal and based on assumptions not proven. So what are we to think? From my perspective, if it makes me feel better and more importantly if it makes me feel less achy and able to do more physical work – I do not care what anyone says and it is certainly worth my while checking it out and seeing what it does for me. If it works for me, then why it works is irrelevant – at least to me. Would you all not agree?
I have already started my test – yesterday I bought another bottle (made from green tea) and only drank a third – I will go slow so there is no detox headache. I also will be making my own again. I use to make it in the 90’s but stop because I could not drink it as fast as I could make it. But I liked making it – and I like the idea of controlling the flavour and adding other ingredients. In the end, everyone has to find what works for them and sometimes, it is okay to have no proof as long you whatever we try can help us feel better.
Fermented Foods – How Many and What Kind?
1. Potential use of D-glucaric acid derivatives in cancer prevention. Walaszek Z.Cancer Lett. 1990 Oct 8;54(1-2):1-8.
2.Effects of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate on Cartilage Metabolism in OA: Outlook on Other Nutrient Partners Especially Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Jörg Jerosch, *Int J Rheumatol. 2011; 2011: 969012.
3.Detoxifying Cancer Causing Agents to Prevent Cancer, Zbigniew Walaszek, PhD, Thomas J. Slaga, PhD, Margaret Hanausek, PhD AMC Cancer Research Center, Integr Cancer Ther June 2003 vol. 2 no. 2 139-144
4.Kombucha Fermentation and Its Antimicrobial Activity, Guttapadu Sreeramulu, Yang Zhu,* and Wieger Knol, Department of Applied Microbiology and Gene Technology, TNO Nutrition and Food Research Institute, The Netherlands, J. Agric. Food Chem. 2000, 48, 2589-2594
5.Gluconic Acid: A Review, Food Technol. Biotechnol. 44 (2) 185–195 (2006)S. RAMACHANDRAN et al. Food Technol. Biotechnol. 44 (2) 185–195 (2006)
6.Effects of low-fat or full-fat fermented and non-fermented dairy foods on selected cardiovascular biomarkers in overweight adults, Nestel PJ, Mellett N, Pally S, Wong G, Barlow CK, Croft K, Mori TA, Meikle PJ. Br J Nutr. 2013 Dec;110(12):2242-9. doi: 10.1017/S0007114513001621. Epub 2013 Jun 12.