Is kombucha good for you?
He said, she said...
There are a lot of zealots out there who love to talk about how good kombucha is for you. People say that it’s loaded with probiotics, that it helps detox your body and contributes to a whole host of health benefits. There are also a lot of naysayers that say that it’s all a lot of nonsense. They say that the supposed health benefits people experience are really just a placebo effect, or they accuse kombucha of being "secretly" alcoholic and attribute the "benefits" to that. A lot of those people (on both sides) really like to rely on subjective claims and assumptions to drive their points home.
The truth of it is that there’ll always be a “well-researched” article (and I really want to emphasize those quotation marks here) or two that can “prove” pretty much whatever point you want to make.
My perspective on this is that in its most basic terms, kombucha is simply just fermented tea.
I don’t believe that it cures anything or that it’s guaranteed to help any medical ailment. I do believe that like any food we consume, it affects our body in a unique and individual way. We’re all different, after all. So if you have concerns about your own personal health, you should always heed your doctor’s advice and listen to your own body above all else.
So here’s my personal anecdote…
I’ve personally experienced some good effects from drinking my home-brewed kombucha regularly. My gut feels healthier, it helps when my stomach feels upset or when I feel bloated. I feel like my skin looks and feels great when I drink kombucha. I feel more alert and energetic, and I just feel generally well when I drink kombucha. But even all that aside, I just like the way it tastes. It’s a nice, subtly sweet, bubbly refreshing beverage that I enjoy drinking. I loved buying bottles of it at the store to sip on, and I love the process of making my own kombucha even more. It’s a great substitute for sugary sodas, and it helps curb my cravings for alcohol.
But that’s just me.
There are other people that experience other benefits. And others out there that experience no benefits at all. Some people even claim that they experience some ill-effects (like headaches, tummy issues, etc.) from drinking it. But tell me this: Can you name a single food or drink that affects every person on the planet the exact exact way? If you can think of one, I’m all ears (seriously, email me here). Even water affects us all slightly differently. And kombucha is the same way. It might work really well with my body, but not with yours.
Don’t believe that food works this way? Go ask a peanut butter-lover and someone with a peanut allergy how they feel about it.
So why all the “controversy”?
I think a lot of the “fear” and fear-mongering circulating around kombucha is happening because it’s fairly new to the mainstream market (though it’s really been around for ages) and people don’t know a whole lot about it.
We don’t make a huge deal about how healthy yogurt (fermented milk) is for us or if it’s good for every single person out there, do we? Yogurt is supposedly packed with probiotics, just like kombucha allegedly is — and a lot of people say that yogurt helps with digestion. But a lot of lactose-intolerant/lactose-sensitive people can get an upset stomach if they eat yogurt.
Does that mean we should never make yogurt and we should villainize yogurt or claim that it’s not healthy at all, just because a segment of the population can’t/shouldn’t eat it?
I also think that the controversy over whether or not kombucha is alcoholic is also a tad overblown. It’d be really difficult for a homebrewer to make their brew alcoholic. It’d be unlikely for your home brew to even reach 2% alcohol by volume (ABV) and at that point, you’d have to drink 10 bottles or more of kombucha to even feel a slight buzz. I don’t know about you, but if I’m looking to get a little boozy, I’m aware of a few other liquids that’d do the job much more efficiently. But again, it’s totally dependent on the person. A pregnant/nursing woman or a recovering alcoholic may prefer to steer totally clear, and that’s perfectly fine.
The choice is ultimately yours
Ultimately, there’s a lot of variance here because kombucha cultures (SCOBYs) and the kombucha itself will be unique to its maker. Its nutrition content and effects are entirely dependent on the unique yeasts and bacteria that inhabit a brew, depending on where the culture was sourced, how well it was taken care of, what ingredients were used and the environment the kombucha was brewed in. But the risks here are low. It’s just fermented sweet tea. You’re not dealing with hazardous chemicals here. It’s food. People make food in their home kitchens every day.
That’s another reason why I’m such a proponent of home brewing. If I control all my variables and can see how it affects me for myself, then I’m the only “proof” I need.
If you want to learn more about how much kombucha to drink and who should/shouldn’t drink kombucha, you’re welcome to read my perspective on that. But drinking kombucha is ultimately a personal decision that you need to make. No one should pressure you into drinking or making kombucha if you don’t want to.
And if you do have an interest in learning how to home brew it yourself, we here at You Brew Kombucha are happy to give you the information and tools to get you off on the right foot!
I have to put this disclaimer here because this is the internet and people like to nitpick, but I make no medical claims about kombucha. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.