two highball glasses filled with kombucha and fruit garnish

Thursday, January 2, 2020

While some health food fads come and go, it looks like the kombucha craze is here to stay.  It’s easy to see why. Not only is the bubbly fermented beverage good for you, but it also tastes pretty good as well. The success of kombucha has sparked interest in other fermented foods. Yogurt, kefir, miso, sauerkraut and even kimchi, a traditional Korean cuisine featuring fermented vegetables, have seen a surge in popularity across the country over the last couple years. Family Nurse Practitioner Bianca Braxton, Primary Care – Noble, says fermented foods are a great addition to any diet.

“What I love about kombucha and other fermented foods is they give our bodies some good bacteria,” said Braxton. “Processed foods and medications can take away good bacteria. Fermented foods put it back.”

Ancient Remedy

The fermentation process, which has been around for thousands of years, helps preserve foods and make them last longer. Kombucha and other fermented foods are full of antioxidants and probiotics, or live bacteria, that boost the health of intestinal cells, improve immune function and aid in food digestion.

“They make the body more efficient,” said Braxton. “That helps reduce inflammation and ward off common digestive issues such as diarrhea and constipation."

According to Harvard Medical School, studies have suggested that probiotics reduce antibiotic-associated diarrhea by 60% when compared with a placebo. In a different study, researchers found that probiotics slowed "gut transit time" by 12.4 hours, increased the number of weekly bowel movements by 1.3, and helped to soften stools, making them easier to pass.

Other Steps to Improve Gut Health

But if you truly want to improve your gut health, you’ll need to do more than add fermented foods to your diet.

“Kombucha is not a substitute for a healthy diet,” Braxton said. “You also need high fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Add all that together to create a healthy gut environment where probiotics can thrive.”

Kombucha comes with a host of health benefits, but it isn’t for everyone. Since the fermentation process leaves trace amounts of alcohol in the drink, it’s a no-no for pregnant women and kids.

The Risks of Homemade Kombucha

Some people make it at home, but Braxton doesn’t recommend it.

“Contaminated or over-fermented kombucha can cause serious health problems. Don’t risk it. Just buy it in the store,” Braxton said.

However, some fermented foods may be tough to find at the grocery store. The pasteurization process used to make many prepackaged foods kills off bacteria – both good and bad – with high heat. So make sure you check the label. Look for the term “live cultures,” which lets you know the bacteria is still live and active. Kombucha though is widely available, which makes it a favorite for Braxton.

“It’s easy to get. You don’t have to go to a health food store to get it. You can get it at the grocery store and even the gas station, and it comes in many different flavors,” Braxton said.

Sugar Content

There are many brands, varieties and flavors of kombucha, but some contain high amounts of sugar. Braxton recommends checking the label before purchasing the tasty beverage. Sugar is part of the fermentation process so you can’t eliminate it all together, but look for sugar content that’s 4 grams or less per bottle.