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Does Kombucha Really Improve Gut Health? We Asked our Gastroenterologist

Does Kombucha Really Improve Gut Health? We Asked our Gastroenterologist

Kombucha is a sweetened, fermented black or green tea that’s gained popularity in recent years. Bacteria or yeast strains including Saccharomyces and Gluconacetobacter xylinus cause the drink to ferment, growing beneficial colonies called symbionts. In the gut, symbionts help us digest food, synthesize vitamins, and modulate the gut immune system.

But do the claims about kombucha hold up? We asked Dr. Chad Gonzales, Gastroenterologist, at Ogden Clinic GI at McKay to spill the tea on kombucha’s reported health benefits.

What should people know about probiotics and gut health?

Woman in front of food

Trillions of bacteria call the human gastrointestinal tract home. Thousands of species of bacterial microbes live within our GI tract. Some are beneficial symbionts (or “good bacteria”) while others are pathogenic and can cause disease. Symbionts help us maintain a healthy bacterial count and crowd out the bad bacteria.

The gut microbiome influences our health. Research has shown that diets high in diverse fruits, vegetables, and fiber have a healthier bacterial microbiome and are associated with improved health.

Fermented kombucha is one form of probiotic—among many—that can improve GI health by introducing those beneficial symbionts, antioxidants, and nutrients into the gut. Several brands of kombucha even list the number of beneficial bacterial colonies right on the bottle.

Research is limited (but interest is high!)

It is important to note that there’s just not much high-quality clinical research on kombucha. We don’t know how much kombucha is necessary to keep us healthy. Clinical studies are lacking and many of the reported benefits of kombucha come from people who are proponents of the beverage itself.

That being said, in the last 10 years, we’ve seen an explosion in the interest in probiotics and human gut microbiome research. We’re understanding more about the human digestive tract’s inhabitants than we’ve ever known before.

I believe the day will come that we will very precisely know how the gut microbiome (bacteria and yeast) interact within the human body to cause disease and maintain health and that understanding will help us incorporate probiotics and fermented foods into our diet with confidence that our digestive health will benefit.

Which brand of kombucha is best?

Not all kombucha is created equal. Some brands are high in sugar and taste more like soda. Here’s what to look for when choosing a kombucha that supports your health:

  • Choose one with less than 9 grams of sugar
  • Choose dark bottles, preferably made of glass
  • Look for a fresh product that’s low in artificial ingredients
  • Look for a longer fermentation cycle. It’s reported that 21 days is necessary to adequately ferment kombucha.

The future of gut microbiome research is exciting. In the meantime, I say enjoy a nice cold bottle of high-quality Kombucha. Cheers!

Dr. Chad Gonzales

Dr. Gonzales performs the full scope of Gastroenterology at Ogden Clinic GI inside McKay Dee Hospital. To schedule a visit with him, call 801-475-3680 or book an appointment online.