Seltzers, spritzes and the like – we’ll put almost anything in a drink if we’re told it has health benefits. But one drink seems to have soared in popularity above the rest: kombucha. The sweet, sour, fizzy tea has been hailed a cure-all and is said to help with everything from hair loss to heart disease. Compare Retreats spoke with Jo Herbert-Doyle, a naturopath at Central Wellness and Stanley Wellness. Jo draws upon more than 20 years of experience in the health and wellness realm to share her insights on the magic brew that’s been taking the wellness world by storm…
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented green or black tea drink, often sweet and fizzy to taste. It has become synonymous with the rising wellness trends of the last decade and has become a mainstream fixture in the soft drink industry: the market is estimated to be worth US$1.8 billion by 2020, with sales having doubled from 2016 to 2019. Due to the fermentation process, kombucha contains around 0.5% alcohol content.
What are the main benefits of Kombucha?
From curing asthma to cancer prevention, the rumours surrounding kombucha’s reputation as a cure-all health tonic vary wildly and are largely without scientific backing. However, it doesn’t mean kombucha doesn’t have any health perks: Jo Herbert-Doyle highlights that due to its ingredients and fermentation process, kombucha can be beneficial for the digestion system.
“Regular consumption of fermented foods, including kombucha, can encourage healthy digestion and gut function,” says Jo. “Some fermented foods contain probiotics, other enzymes, and most are a little sour, which increases our own digestive capacity.”
As the mind-gut connection is further studied and its importance recognised, kombucha can be seen as a great booster for both physical and mental health. “Eating a colourful, fibre-rich wholefood diet that includes fermented foods helps support diversity amongst the trillions of microorganisms who make up the gut microbiome; something we now understand is one of the foundations of whole-body wellbeing,” explains Jo. “The microbiome communicates directly with our immune system and our brain, and helps us detoxify. Supporting our gut microbiome supports us.”
Can and should people be making Kombucha at home?
Making kombucha at home is surprisingly simple—but Jo warns about the risks associated with this. “It’s very important to learn how to correctly brew kombucha whilst maintaining excellent food hygiene. For example, sterilising all equipment and learning how to recognise if a batch spoils and is therefore unfit to consume.” Explore wellness cooking classes to learn from an expert before going it alone.
Who benefits most from Kombucha and other fermented foods?
“Most people can enjoy kombucha in moderation,” says Jo, “but its best suited to those who may not feel they digest as well as they would like, or who are specifically looking to optimise their gut health.” Speaking with your GP, a dietician or naturopathic doctor before making significant changes to your diet is advisable. Jo suggests those unfamiliar with kombucha start slow: “I recommend those new to fermented foods start with a small amount and increase this slowly over time: this helps allow the gut microbiome to adjust accordingly.”
Is Kombucha safe for everyone to consume?
Assuming you’ve got your brew-technique down, or are buying from a reputed seller, kombucha is like any other soft drink: fine in moderation. Jo highlights that certain people may wish to steer clear of the fermented beverage though: “Though fermented foods are typically well-tolerated, as with any food item, kombucha would be unsuitable for a person with a related food allergy or hypersensitivity. I would not recommend kombucha be consumed by someone with a yeast sensitivity or a person who is unable to have any alcohol, as the fermentation process does produce a small amount. People who are severely immunocompromised would also typically need to avoid any fermented food that includes live cultures.” Kombucha should additionally be used as part of a healthy diet, and not as a replacement for medical treatment.