Kombucha Tea: Miracle or Mindset?

February 6, 2014
My go-to Kombucha brand is GT. I've tried every other brand out there, and nothing compares to the sweet/spicy/pungent fizz of the Synergy drinks.

My go-to Kombucha brand is GT. I’ve tried every other brand out there, and nothing compares to the sweet/spicy/pungent fizz of the Synergy drinks.

Back when I was in college, we all had our way of nursing our hangovers. Some gulped energy drinks, others swear by greasy foods; I drank Kombucha.

Produced by fermenting sweetened black or green tea using a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (AKA,  SCOBY) this bottled elixir, often made with different flavors or mixed with chia, flies off the shelves at an average of $5/8-oz bottle.

I first discovered it in my favorite Iowa organic food store, the New Pioneer Co-Op, picked it up, and diligently read the ingredients and health benefits as I always do. I was intrigued with its claim to boost immunity, support healthy liver function and boost metabolism. In addition, it also boasted probiotics, organic acids, vitamins and antioxidants. I took a sip, and as soon as the bubbles hit my tongue, I was hooked. Well, hooked as my pocket book allowed.

It became my In-Case-Of-Emergency-Button. If I had to pull an all-nighter to study for a big test: drink Kombucha. I caught a bad cold and still decided to go out that night: drink Kombucha. I was gaining weight from too many late-night Pokey Sticks: drink Kombucha. And whether the effects were physical or mental, I always felt like I’d just been given super powers.

There has been some evidence to prove its immune boosting properties. For example, when rats were given lead, known to suppress the immune system, drinking Kombucha improved levels. Additionally, when rats were given the painkiller, acetaminophen, drinking kombucha showed to reduce liver damage.

As previously discussed in my last post, a class in Food Chemistry has made me question health claims rather than accept them for truth. So with further research, I found the other side of the coin, claiming the dangers of Kombucha and a lot of inconclusive evidence to its benefits.

Two cases of lead poisoning occurred when the fermenting beverage was brewed in a ceramic pot with a lead glaze.

The FDA found that the tea had alcohol levels as high as 3 percent – far higher than allowed in non-controlled beverages. The product was pulled off the shelves, and has since been adjusted. (not sure if this is one that actually turns me away from the stuff)

Then there was the report of a death that may have been accounted to the tea (after the consumer drank it daily for two months).

Kombucha has yet to be tested on humans for research to determine if its health claims are true. There has only been preliminary research with animals.

I found this information interesting, as I hope you will too. And in all honesty, this bad news kind of breaks my heart because I want to believe that Kombucha is good. We all need a “miracle food” when we’re feeling down. Whether that’s chocolate for PMS, chicken soup for a cold, or fermented tea to make us feel stronger. 

Even though I don’t like hearing that my health food products don’t deliver on their claims, I do think this new frame of mind is a much healthier way to approach my diet. There’s good, there’s bad; it’s up to me to find that balance. So now I know not to consume Kombucha every day after stewing it in a lead-glazed pot. And I know that there is no real evidence to prove that Kombucha is boosting my immune system. But I also know that next time I have a hangover, nothing is going to make me feel as good as that first gulp of Kombucha. Why? Because I say it does.

Does anybody else drink Kombucha? Do you love it/hate it/can’t live without it? Would love to see your comments!

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