Kombucha, although gaining in popularity, is still surrounded by mystery to many. There are some enthusiastic advocates who claim that kombucha will solve every problem from acne to world peace. Then there are those who warn that drinking kombucha will make your hair fall out and your fields lie fallow.
I exaggerate of course, but kombucha does seem to suffer from exaggerated claims. Common sense lies somewhere in between.
Kombucha Soothes My Stomach
The fact is, I personally started drinking kombucha as a last-ditch effort to solve a health issue. A few years ago I contracted a particularly nasty stomach bug. The kind that leaves you on the floor, unable to eat or even drink for a week. I recovered, but was left with a constant nausea, almost like morning sickness, that resisted all the usual remedies. Months went by. The doctor prescribed antacids. Then he prescribed stronger antacids. Still no improvement. I got tired of doctor visits and decided to solve this problem myself.
During my research I found that for most of us, especially those of us over 50, stomach problems are caused by too little stomach acid, not too much. So antacids, which help neutralize stomach acid, actually make the problem worse. But it can be confusing because antacids calm the symptoms, even while increasing the cause. It’s easy to tell if this is your problem. Drink a teaspoon of cider vinegar. It will burn going down but if your problem is too little acid you will feel better almost immediately. If your problem is too much acid, you will feel a greatly increased “burning stomach” which should be extinguished with a glass of milk.
The vinegar experiment made me feel better. So I went in search of an acid-like drink, and kombucha worked like a charm. Just drinking a few sips a day solved my stomach issue. It did take a few months, and I continue to keep kombucha in the house to this day. I also seek out kombucha when traveling to help keep my stomach from adversely reacting to unfamiliar foods. Yes, sadly this is the plight of an aging body!
Kombucha the Probiotic
Kombucha, like other fermented foods, has a probiotic effect that aids in digestion. Probiotics also have a positive effect on immunity, so drinking kombucha may help you get through cold and cough season. Some people swear by kimchi or sauerkraut for the same reason. The fact is, like anything else, kombucha may help you like it did me, or it may not agree with you at all. My personal feeling is that fermented foods and drinks have been around for eons, and used successfully as both refreshing foods and natural health aids, and thus are worth a try.
Be Smart Though
This is where common sense comes in to play. Kombucha is a living thing, and as such may not agree with your system. Make sure that the kombucha you ingest is either commercially prepared or properly made at home. You do not need to be a chemist or a professional microbiologist to make your own kombucha (see our instructions here). If you can make your own pickles or brew your own beer or even make lemonade from scratch you can safely and successfully make kombucha. Don’t use a moldy SCOBY and use clean equipment. That’s it. Common sense.
One other note, kombucha is not a mushroom or any other kind of fungus. This is a misunderstanding caused because the starter (SCOBY) looks kind of like a big mushroom.
Find my directions for kombucha here. For me, aside from the financial savings, the best part of making my own kombucha is that I get to experiment with flavors. Thus far I have made a batch of Oolong-Peach and a batch of Yunan-Berry Nectar. I am currently working on a batch of Darjeeling-Rose Hip.
If you are interested in all things fermented, check out The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz. I can’t say enough good things about this book, it’s fantastic. If you are just starting out with kombucha and other fermented foods, his first book, Wild Fermentation, is a great way to get your feet wet.