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Kombucha 101 (What is Kombucha and Is It Safe to Drink?)

Kombucha is thought to have originated in China over 2000 years ago. It has been referred to as the tea of immortality or the ‘immortal health elixir‘. Now Kombucha definitely won’t make you immortal but there are many health benefits associated with drinking this liquid every day.

Learn what exactly Kombucha is, if it is a miracle elixir like everyone is claiming, and if it is really safe to drink.


What is Kombucha?

kombuchaKombucha is a fermented tea, which is used as a functional food. Kombucha is made by brewing tea together with sugar, and then letting the SCOBY (which stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) perform the magic of turning the sweet liquid into a healthy, fizzy, carbonated drink. Before this starts to freak you out, note that this process is very similar to how some of our favorite beers are made.

When consumed in moderation, Kombucha is a Paleo approved alternative to water. This may seem confusing, as one of the ingredients in making Kombucha is sugar, however the SCOBY uses most of the sugar as fuel or food to perform its magic. The amount of sugar left over in the Kombucha is dependent on the length of brewing time.

What are the benefits to my health?

There has to be a reason that so many are loyal brewers and drinkers of this tea. The global market is currently worth $0.6 billion and it is expected to grow to $1.8 billion by 2020.

kombucha benefitsKombucha has a wide range of benefits starting with the nutrient content of the brew. Firstly it is incredibly rich in B vitamins, which help to support a healthy immune system.

Next up Kombucha contains a healthy dose of Glucaronic acid. Glucaronic acid binds with environmental and metabolic toxins, which are then excreted by the kidneys. The liver ordinarily produces the acid but the tea simply aids in detoxification by supplying the body with more. 

Thirdly and perhaps the most widely promoted benefit, Kombucha helps to restore the natural gut flora in our intestines. Kombucha is a probiotic and as such aids in digestion and reducing the symptoms of overgrown undesirable bacteria in the gut.

Lastly, it is a great drink for people who are not mad keen on eating breakfast as it gives you a boost of energy and nutrients first thing in the morning.

Is Kombucha safe?

There are isolated cases of reactions to Kombucha such as nausea and vomiting, and two cases of unexplained illness associated with Kombucha. To answer the question-is it safe, yes, as with any functional food or supplement, moderation is key. For pregnant and lactating women, Kombucha is not advised, as the effects have not been adequately explored.

One more way to ensure you only consume Kombucha safely, is to ensure that you only brew the tea in glass containers and not ceramic jugs/containers. The glaze from some ceramic ware contains lead and Kombucha often reacts with the glaze, leaching the lead into the tea. Consuming lead contaminated Kombucha can cause lead poisoning over a long period of time.

There is no substantial evidence that Kombucha has ever caused harm (1).

Will I get drunk?

It is highly unlikely as the levels of alcohol found in Kombucha are extremely low (less than 1%). Practice caution if you are quite sensitive to alcohol but most people only report a slight ‘buzz’ with no after effects.

kombucha alcohol

It is also interesting to note that the older the batch of Kombucha is, the higher the alcohol content is. Combat this by brewing smaller amounts and drinking it in moderation.

Happy brewing!

12 Comments

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  1. Hi Jess, what is the correct amount of Kambuca to drink in a day and is there a certain time of day that is better to drink it. I am having half a cup every morning as soon as I wake up, wait half an hour and then have my cup of normal tea with my breakfast.

    • Start with a small amount of kombucha daily and see how your body reacts to it. Best to start with 4 ounces a day (or half a cup) and increase to 16 oz a day, if there are no negative reactions. There isn’t one certain time of day to drink kombucha, but best to avoid in the late afternoon or evening as it can be energizing. Kombucha is great to enjoy in the morning or as an afternoon treat!

  2. Great article, thanks! I’d just like to add that some people (like me!), need to consume kombucha with food or it can give you terrible reflux like symptoms.

    • For many people, kombucha can help ease acid reflux symptoms. If you’re experiencing these symptoms while drinking kombucha, yes pairing with food can be helpful and also look to reduce the amount you drink and see if that helps.

  3. President Reagan drank a quart a day! I make 1.5 gallons per week-10 days. We use it in morning Green drinks or straight. It’s so easy to make, and a SCOBY can be found on your local Yahoo Freecycle groups. VERY inexpensive to make considering how expensive it is in the store.

    • Once you get the hang of it, making Kombucha is very simple and an inexpensive health drink. Great idea to drink it in the morning for an extra boost!

  4. Hi Jess, what is the ratio of the tea and sugar. What is the best tea to use and how long should you leave it before drinking. I am new to Paleo.

  5. I just bought the Kombucha tea because my Psychologist told me to try it. I have a sensitivity to the B6, it makes me toxic, a full shot made my wrists get inflamed, but a half a shot didn’t seem to bother me, how much should I take? I was hoping it would help my Gastritis because having gluten free foods has helped my bloating.

    • A good amount to start with is 4 ounces a day. Though there are many benefits to drinking kombucha, it is important to watch out for adverse reactions. If you are having an allergic or inflammatory response to a 1/2 shot (or 1/2 ounce) of kombucha, it may be best to avoid the drink. If eating gluten free has been helpful with bloating, a good idea would be to continue with a gluten free or paleo diet and concentrate on those dietary changes before adding kombucha into your diet.

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