Kombucha is made by fermenting tea and sugar with the kombucha culture. It has been around for hundreds of years. If you are concerned that it is made with sugar, don’t fret! The sugar is consumed by the culture leaving you a delicious tart, slightly effervescent drink.
I was pleasantly surprised by this fizzy fermented concoction-crazy texture, tart cherry taste and only 6 grams of sugar in the bottle (which I can never finish in one sitting), and immediately launched into an exploration of all things fermented. The super cool part about this stuff is that it contains a certain yeast called Saccharomyces boulardii, which is the same yeast used as the number one probiotic in hospitals, under the name florastor .
Fermentation sounds gross, but….
Yes, fermentation is basically the controlled process of food decomposition. Emphasis on controlled! This process of naturally breaking down the food actually creates new nutrients and beneficial living digestive bacteria, aka probiotics, making the food more nutritious. This bacteria not only helps to break down and assimilate foods, but it also produces natural preservatives. Our grandparents or great-grandparents probably fermented foods, especially before refrigeration, as a means of storing vegetables for the winter or during war time. It was one of the mainstays in their diets- though most likely due to the preservative qualities and not the health benefits. You are probably already familiar with every day fermented food: cheese, wine, beer, cider, chocolate, coffee, tea, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, salami, miso, tempeh, soy sauce, vinegar, yogurt, kefir and my new friend kombucha. The trick when consuming any of these foods is to make sure the bacteria is still alive and kicking so you can get the benefits. Sadly that excludes most commercially produced products.
So what’s the deal with probiotics?
Probiotics are what keeps your gut healthy. Having healthy gut bacteria can help fight inflammation, oxidative stress, diabetes, depression and even heart disease, while lending supersonic powers to your digestion and absorption of nutrients[1} A healthy gut contains trillions of bacteria – micro organisms that interact with your body to prevent disease, and millions of neurons that send information back up to the brain. Some even say that the gut is our second brain, making it even more important to mind our gut flora. Check out this fascinating article about the gut-brain connection in the Wall Street Journal.
Unfortunately a lot of this good bacteria is compromised by the use of antibiotics (including what you consume in commercially farmed meat), prescription medication, refined sugars and grains, processed foods, chemicals and pesticides.
The Good News
So how do you make sure you’re getting all the probiotics you need to keep your gut happy? Making simple changes in your diet to avoid these probiotic-killing foods can make a BIG difference! On top of that you could start to include some naturally fermented foods to keep those micro organisms working for you. You could try various pickled fermentations of cabbage sauerkraut, turnips, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, squash, and carrots or learn how to make your own Kombucha! Now you might say “I eat yogurt every day, so I’m good, right?” Unfortunately, no. The pasteurized yogurts and dairy products you find in your grocery store are devoid of most of the naturally occurring probiotics. They also typically contain added sugars, high fructose corn syrup, dyes, or artificial sweeteners;
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to try my hand at making some Saurkraut .