Living a healthy lifestyle focused on the consumption of superfoods and doing power-workouts has become a trend these days. Instagram models flood your feed with endless weight-loss tips on proper dieting and exercise ideas.
In line with the functional food movement, kombucha tea has become immensely popular in the United States (1). But, what is Kombucha? And more importantly, can kombucha help you lose weight?
Kombucha: A Fermented Beverage
Fermented foods have been consumed all over the world. Fermentation is done to preserve and lengthen the shelf-life, texture, flavor, and functional properties of food. Additional nutritional properties are also imparted to the fermented product, manifested as the presence of vitamins and bioactive molecules (2). A lot of fermented foods improve the digestive tract’s health and lower the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes.
Kombucha is a fermented tea that has been around since 220 BC. It originated in northeast China and was introduced to Japan in 414 AD. In Japan, it has been considered as medicine. After dome time, it was distributed to Eastern Europe (3).
Kombucha is made from black or green tea. A traditional kombucha only has four ingredients. Sugar, bacteria, and yeast are added to ferment the tea. Simply put, the fermentation of sugared tea facilitated by a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) produces the kombucha drink (4). The SCOBY is formed when the yeast and bacteria consume the added sugar in the tea, jumpstarting the fermentation process. The SCOBY creates a frothy texture on top of the drink that looks like a mushroom cap. This can be used as a starter for the next brewing.
It takes quite some time for all of the ingredients to come together and form the refreshing drink many health-conscious people know and love. Generally, the process can take from 7 to 10 days, but it can last for several more days to a month. The resulting product is a carbonated drink with a sweet and tangy taste similar to apple cider.
This fermented tea retained the same beneficial effects of tea and gained so much more. It is packed with healthy probiotics, antioxidants, and anti-bacterial properties. Kombucha is a cocktail of sugars, polyphenols from tea, fiber, organic food acids, ethanol, amino acids, essential elements, vitamins, antibiotic substances, hydrolytic enzymes, and carbon dioxide (3).
Kombucha lost popularity during World War II, but in 2016 the Pepsi Company bought out a popular kombucha beverage maker called KeVita as a response to the growing functional food movement. In just one year, kombucha’s retail sales along with other fermented beverages increased by 37.4% (5). Its sudden popularity might be linked to its weight loss benefits and the array of health advantages that it brings.
Kombucha and Weight Loss
While there are not enough studies done to support kombucha’s ability to promote weight loss, its proponents are testament enough. Do not underestimate this drink. It is a lot more than sweetened tea.
1. Improves Gastrointestinal Health
Kombucha tea can improve the health of the gastrointestinal tract, thanks to the probiotics it contains. The good bacteria strike a balance with the bacteria to establish equilibrium and promote good health. Studies conducted on mice show that gut microbes affect behavior (6). People are also observed to experience depressive moods. Cravings and other unhealthy eating habits are linked to depression. Consequently, an unhealthy diet is associated with a tendency to experience depression (7).
2. Promotes Weight Loss
A healthy gut flora not only improves general health, but it also promotes weight loss. Numerous studies have proven that gut microbes are associated with obesity. In one study, human twins with one obese and the other lean showed a difference in the microbial communities found in their guts. The obese twins possess fewer variants of bacterial species than their lean counterparts (8). Fermented foods and probiotics provide a healthy supply of good bacteria, ensuring flourishing microbiome communities in the gut.
3. Boosts Digestion
Weight gain has been linked to poor digestion. The good bacteria that come from kombucha can facilitate improved digestion the same way that yogurt and kefir do. At the same time, it increases nutrient absorption and decreases the odds of developing diseases.
4. Removes Added Sugar
The probiotic film of kombucha eliminates about 90% of the added sugar. This turns the sweet tea mixture to a bloat-diminishing drink that can flatten the belly in no time. It stimulates digestion, so you can easily excrete waste products regularly.
5. Assists in Blood Sugar Regulation
The resulting acetic acid available in kombucha is known for its blood sugar regulation capability. While this acid made the kombucha sour and vinegar-like in taste, it can help improve blood sugar levels and positively influence insulin sensitivity. It can also interfere in the disintegration of sugar and starches, so they will not affect the blood glucose level. An elevated blood glucose level will only encourage the production of insulin leading to increased fatty deposits (9).
6. Decreases Cravings
Kombucha can pacify sweet tooth cravings. Those who cannot live without carbonated drinks will experience satisfaction without the added calories by consuming this fermented tea drink.
7. Contains Fewer Calories
Kombucha only contains about 30 calories. By drinking it, you can say goodbye to fruit juices and carbonated beverages. Its tea properties can also promote a reduction of calories in your diet.
8. Enhances Energy Level
People also report boosted levels of energy, which aids in better workout performance. Iron plays a huge role in energy production from nutrients. The organic acids in kombucha help iron to be more readily available in the body.
9. Eliminates Toxins
Glucuronic acid is found in kombucha beverages. This substance is observed to combine toxins inside the body and form a mass that is excreted easily (10). Also, tea properties have the ability to limit industrial toxins absorption.
Based on the number of ways kombucha promotes health and weight loss, there is no wonder how it became very popular. Kombucha is considered as the most rapidly growing product in the functional beverage business (11). Additionally, it is the best-selling low-alcoholic fermented drink in the whole world, not just in the US (12).
Aside from the benefits mentioned above, here are more benefits and functions of kombucha:
- Prevents and Manages Arthritis Symptoms
People who suffer from arthritis stated that kombucha stops joint pain, even in the knees. Even though there is not enough research done on this, it is believed that the tea enzymes are responsible for its anti-arthritis effects.
- Lowers Cholesterol Level and Prevents the Occurrence of High BP and Cardiovascular Diseases
According to one study, the polyphenol content of kombucha can prevent the oxidation of LDL and regulate the metabolism of cholesterol. The relaxation of smooth muscles also lowers down blood pressure (13).
- Improves Mental Health
As mentioned earlier, the gut flora is linked to mental health. This is why tea is known to calm the nerves and prevent anxiety and depressive moods. By maintaining a healthy git, you can even experience mental clarity.
- Promotes A Youthful Glow
Antioxidants are abundant in kombucha, thanks to its fermentation process (14). Accumulated free radicals are believed to cause aging (15). Antioxidants stop the production of these free radicals and provide additional protection of the cells from potential damages.
- Prevents Cancer
Because of kombucha’s antioxidant components, the cells have a defense against free radical damage caused by cancer cells. Furthermore, its glucaric acid is being considered to have anti-carcinogenic properties supported by a certain study (16).
- Possesses Antibacterial and Antimicrobial Properties
Vinegar has been used as an antibacterial agent in the golden years due to its acetic acid component. Kombucha also contains acetic acid. Surprisingly, a study proved its strong bactericidal effects by concluding that acetic acid can kill M. tuberculosis strain. This is after exposing the bacteria to a 6% acetic acid solution for 30 minutes (17). The polyphenols from the tea can also kill different microorganisms (18). It can prevent the maturation of bad bacteria and yeasts without affecting the good bacteria created during the fermentation process.
- Helps Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Patients
The slow digestion of carbs and decreased levels of blood sugar are beneficial for patients with this metabolic disorder. Kombucha made from green tea also has an advantage. One study proved that green tea drinkers have and 17% decreased the risk of having diabetes (19).
Despite its numerous health benefits, kombucha has a few side effects. It is up to you if these cons outweigh the pros.
The Other Side of Kombucha
Below are some issues some people encounter when drinking kombucha regularly:
- Traces of alcohol are available in kombucha. It is not an alcoholic beverage, but it contains more than 0.5 percent of alcohol. However, excessive consumption may lead to a hangover.
- Kombucha has acidic properties. Continuous intake can stain your teeth and break down its enamel. Use a straw when drinking kombucha and always do so in moderation. After intake, wash your teeth with water or better yet brush them well.
- Because of too much acid, it can lead to a build-up in the body. Metabolic acidosis is quite common in women. More than 50% of the population can get affected. Two women who suffered from acute metabolic disorder (20). Both had a cardiac arrest and were resuscitated. Unfortunately, one of the women’s health continued to decline and died. The surviving patient-reported Kombucha intake for the past two months.
How to Make Your Kombucha
Starter liquids and SCOBY are now available in the market. Some can even be bought online. Prepare the following ingredients and start on your kombucha project.
What You Will Need
- 4 to 6 tea bags or tablespoons of tea leaves
- 3 quarts of purified water
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 to 2 cups of starter liquid
- 1 glass container (a gallon)
- Coffee filter
- Rubber bands
What You Need to Do
- Boil 4 cups of purified water. Remove and cool down for two minutes.
- Steep the tea for about 15 minutes.
- Add the sugar and wait for it to completely dissolve.
- Transfer the liquid to a glass container.
- Add the remaining water.
- Put the SCOBY and starter liquid.
- Seal with a coffee filter and secure with a rubber band.
- Put the container in a warm room of about 75 to 85 degrees without any sunlight interaction for a week to three weeks.
- Remove the SCOBY on top of the mixture.
- Transfer in a container and add 2 cups of liquid from your brew. This is your starter liquid for the next batch.
- Store your kombucha in clean bottles with tight covers. Use a cheesecloth when transferring the kombucha into the bottles.
Although making your kombucha is fun, there is a danger that goes with it. Kombucha brewing may affect your environment, rendering it attractive to all forms of microbial life. To avoid this, always sterilize the lids and jars you are going to use. Do not just wash with soap and warm water, invest in sterilizing agents.
How to Drink Kombucha
When introducing a new addition to your diet, it is best to practice caution. Start slow. Begin by small sips to adjust to the taste. Drink 3 to 4 fluid ounces twice or thrice a day. Since Kombucha affects your gut, easing into it can prevent possible stomach problems. You can take up to 350 mL of kombucha in one day. Anything in excess will not lead to more health benefits.
Experiment with different kombucha flavors. Ginger, raspberry, strawberry, and mango are some of its popular flavors.
Before consuming kombucha regularly, always make sure that it is okay for you to do so. For instance, people who have a weakened immune system, women who are pregnant or currently breastfeeding, or are inflicted with a preexisting condition should avoid kombucha. Consult your physician before making any dietary changes.
Kombucha has been around for a long time and with good reason. Most of its numerous health benefits are not backed up by science, but its proponents are all qualified with the health claims. In terms of weight-loss, its effect on the digestive tract seems promising. Before incorporating kombucha in your weight-loss program, talk to your doctor first.