Sparkle with Kombucha

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This article was originally posted on sexfoodandkettlebells.com, Sept 20 2012. 

I first heard the word Kombucha about a year and a half ago, and was immediately intrigued. A sparkling fermeted tea drink? ... They had me at tea.

I looked for it the next time we were at Natures, and began experimenting with different flavours and amounts. It is something we have come to enjoy as a treat that is both healing and nourishing for our bodies. The aim of this post is therefore to introduce you to kombucha, and provide you with some guidance on determining whether it is right for you.

As it is whenever I discover something "new", my whole family hears about it - and that includes my amazing grandparents who live in Russia. Upon describing this sparkling fermented tea, their response was "yes, of course. We have been making that for years. We have it in our kitchen at the moment". Needless to say, I was (sort of) shocked - sort of in the sense that the more I learn for myself, the more the wisdom of my ancestors is revealed to me.

Anyway, it turns out they had been making kombucha for generations, which makes complete sense historically. From my understanding, this beverage has been used for centuries in China, Russia, and Japan - and has now made its way here to North America. It is likely to have originated in China in 212 BC - that's a long time ago, folks - and spread to other areas through trade. Some sources say the current name "Kombucha" is based on a Japanese physician who introduced it to Japan after travelling in Russia. If you're wondering whether the samurai drank it - the answer is yes! I don't know about you, but that spells badass to me. I'm easily impressed like that.

The popularity of this beverage grew and it was introduced to other European countries as word of the health benefits spread; (we will briefly address those in a bit) And now, it is our turn to enjoy it. So let's see if we can answer some common questions.

What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented yeast enzyme tea = sparkling flavoured probiotic drink.

How is Kombucha made?

Kombucha is made through the slow fermentation of brewed and sweetened tea by a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria). In lay terms, an alien-looking creature (seriously) ferments differently flavoured teas sweetened by honey, sugar, juice, etc into a delicious sparkling drink. If you have not had it before, it will remind you of a mix of sparkling water and pop, only this is much healther.

If you're adventurous, you can learn how to make it here. I tried it once, and immediately concluded that I would much rather support some local companies by purchasing it - in other words, the SCOBY scared me. But I'm a bit of a chicken, no one else seems to have that issue. So you should still try it... And bring me some.

What probiotic sources does it specifically yield?

Well, the answer to this question is pretty important as we will see later in the "is Kombucha right for you" section.

But in general, most sources say that: "the principal yeast is Schizosaccharomyces Pombe; others varyingly include Saccharomyces Ludwigii, torula and apiculatus types, Pichia fermentans and Mycoderma. Principal bacteria are Acetobacteria xylinum, Gluconobacter bluconicum and Acetobacter xylinioides; others varyingly include Acetobacter aceti/ketogenum/ pasteurianum."

In other words, lots of fun stuff!

How could Kombucha benefit my health?

Kombucha has often been referred to as the tea of immortality. Which is perhaps a little dramatic, but it gives you the general idea - this beverage has a systemic effect on the body. Some things it is claimed to improve are:

  • digestive support
  • liver support
  • supports intestinal health and proper gut flora

LEARN MORE about gut health in an article from Whole30 HERE.

Some results that are reported are:

  • healthier skin and hair
  • improved eyesight
  • increased energy
  • increased mental clarity
  • blood sugar regulation
  • improved metabolism

Nutritionally, some components reported in Kombucha:

  • probiotics
  • B vitamins
  • organic enzymes
  • amino acids

Specifically: Various Enzymes, Acetic acid, Carbonic acid, Folic Acid, Gluconic acid, Glucuronic acid, L(+) Lactic, Usnic acid, Amino acids (various), Hydroxy acids (various), Vitamin B1 (Thiamin), Vitamin B2(Riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (Niacin, niacinamide), Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine), Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin, cyanocobalamin), Vitamin C (from Lactic acid)

That all sounds great - but is Kombucha right for ME?

This is the sole most important question you can ask with regards to any food or therapy. Always remember that your body is individual.

People hate it when I say ‘maybe’ in response, but it is honestly the best answer. The gut biome story is one that is only beginning to be unraveled now by the scientific community, and different estimates are being thown around - either way, no matter the exact giant number, we know that these organisms are critical to our immune and intestinal function.

The primary issues here are: (a) is your body ready for fermented foods and (b) does this fermented food represent the strains that your body needs. Either way, it is best in moderation, as it is a supplement to your regular diet.

Why might I not be ready of fermented foods?

There are many possible reasons – ie. some in the holistic community would cite avoiding all fungus and fermented products during dysbiosis, while others (like myself for example) report marked improvements with certain products.

Either way, some reasons to be careful could be:

  • dysbiosis of the small and large intestines
  • associated symptoms of dysbiosis (ie. UTIs or yeast infections, fungal concerns around the body, mind fog, fatigue, etc.) - For a summary of symptoms refer to the Whole30 article I linked earlier.
  • severe environmental allergies (ie seasonal, severe chemical allergies)
  • poor liver function
  • overactive immune system

“But I have one of those concerns, and yet Kombuncha works well for me!”

Perfect, continue on. Remember that guidelines are just that, guidelines. Your body is individual and it is through self experimentation that you can determine what is most effective for you.

"I’m unsure but want to try it!"

Great. As always with any new addition, start slow and chart. Take note of your digestive health, skin (maybe take photos), allergy symptoms, body temp/heart rate if you want to get technical a few days prior to the change, and then add a small amount into your diet (ie. 1 small shot of kombucha), and track and monitor your health for the week or so. Go over your notes and assess.

Remember that if kombucha does not work for you does not mean that all fermented foods are a no-no. Try them, but be gentle, and if at that point you find you cannot handle them, then that is a great indication that you should be looking into doing some specific rehabilitative work for your digestive system and body overall. Go find a naturopath, homeopath, etc that you resonate with and embrace the journey.

Fine, but how do I use it? Here are a few ways via Tonica Kombucha:

  • as a digestive with any meal, enjoy 20 minutes prior to or after eating.
  • to boost energy levels throughout the day, enjoy on an empty stomach, and follow with equal amounts of water. Be sure not to drink too close to sleep time as it can be quite stimulating.
  • Pamper yourself with a pint of Kombucha in place of beer, wine or champagne. Alternatively, enjoy your alcoholic beverage with a mix of TONICA to increase liver cleansing and restoration.

Personally, I don't drink alcohol for heath reasons, so it is perfect in a champagne glass on a nice occasion. Or just during the week in a martini glass (I like using my prettier glasses) while relaxing to some music from DubFx - my official Kombucha soundtrack.

So, Barbara, if you're too chicken to make it yourself - where do you find it?

I know, I know I could make it myself. I'm ok with making my own toothpaste, but you better bet I buy kombucha.

Many wholistic food stores/health stores will carry it, we buy ours at Nature's Emporium (obviously!). To that end, it is important to ensure quality, particularly in a fermented product. Since Jon and I also prefer to support local companies, we searched, tried a bunch of options, and found that we personally prefer TONICA KOMBUCHA. It's local, organic, raw, made with love, and tastes amazing. All the things we look for. In fact, Tonica's story is a wonderful one, and you can read it here. We recently had the pleasure of meeting the owner, Zoey, and she is very lovely and passionate about her product.

If you're unsure where to start flavour wise, let me recommend to you my favourites:

Vibrant Bluberry & Peach Resolution

 Yum!

.. Well, that's all, folks.

I hope this post has been helpful in addressing some common questions and concerns.

Enjoy kombucha, and keep up us updated on your experiences and journeys!

- With love,

Varya

Note: Please remember that while I am registered holistic nutritionist, the articles I post are to be used as information, not professional advice, and you should always speak with your heathcare professionals when making dietary or lifestyle changes.