Kombucha is a trendy probiotic packed beverage that helps decrease inflammation, improve mental health, and support a healthy gut flora (1).
That said, many of these aforementioned benefits have been observed in animal or lab tests, rather than nonhuman clinical trials, so more research is required. Of course, as the trendy beverage picks up, more and more human trials will come out. As such, there may be some possible side effects or adverse conditions associated with kombucha consumption (2).
Overall, kombucha has a lot of benefits to offer all populations.
1Kombucha is a powerful probiotic and helps support a healthy gut. Due to kombucha’s fermentation process, it includes a potent mixture of both bacteria and different fungi (3).
But don’t worry, that’s not a bad thing, and it won’t hurt you. In fact, it’s good for you and your digestive system. Your body actually needs a healthy system of bacteria and fungi to function properly and repel illnesses.
Probiotics as a whole category are absolutely chock-full of benefits. For example, the healthy bacteria in such consumables may help fight against illnesses like upper-respiratory infections, either preventing them altogether or reducing the duration of said conditions when they’re taken as a treatment (4).
Their most well-known benefit is probably their effect on irritable bowel syndrome and other afflictions of the gut. Probiotics are a commonly prescribed treatment for diarrhea, atopic disease, immune infections, and Helicobacter pylori (the bacteria that commonly causes stomach ulcers and gut inflammation) (5).
Diarrhea, especially the variety caused by antibiotics, is also easy to treat with probiotics (6).
Many antibiotics upset your stomach’s normal systems of bacteria, killing them off and causing diarrhea (7).
There’s some evidence that probiotics can be used as a source to replenish said positive strains of bacteria, helping to stop or alleviate the symptoms of such diarrhea. Effectiveness for these kinds of gut treatments seem to vary by strain of probiotic (8).
But as kombucha contains multiple strains and a wide variety of different bacteria and fungi, it can be used as an effective gut inflammation treatment.
2Kombucha may help combat inflammation as a source of antioxidants. Kombucha’s claim to anti-inflammation greatness is that it’s rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that help your body fight free radicals, which are the normal byproducts of the way your body’s metabolism works (9).
They also contribute to not only inflammation but aging. A diet rich in antioxidants may be one way to delay or prevent the onset of adverse effects related to aging, such as neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s (10).
Kombucha is no exception that rule. When measured, kombucha has been shown to have not only antibacterial but marked antioxidant properties (11).
In one study, four different preparations of kombucha were made with a fungus starter, black tea, and kombucha in varying quantities. After eight weeks (a normal incubation period for a kombucha beverage), researchers found a significant increase in the antioxidant activity of each solution (12).
As such, kombucha is just as antioxidant-rich as other common sources you may have heard of, like red wine and green tea.
3Kombucha made from green tea has many of tea’s normal ingredients and benefits. Though it may seem a world of difference, most kombucha is brewed with nothing but a fungus starter, sugar, and yes — tea.
That means that your tea-based kombucha has many of the benefits a normal tea beverage would have (13).
Both black and green tea, for example, have been shown to have strong antioxidant properties (14).
Green tea, in particular, may even help with fat oxidation, among other things (15).
In other things, it’s a healthy dietary choice that can help you get slim more quickly than soda or even plain water. Furthermore, not only does regular consumption of green tea, which is high in catechins (a type of compound found in teas and berries) help reduce body fat, it’s also good for your cardiovascular health (16).
According to one study, green tea consumption led to a reduction in both systolic blood pressure and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. This is one benefit that may only come if you choose your kombucha variety carefully, however, as not all kombuchas are high in catechins or in tea content. Coffee kombucha, for example, likely won’t provide the same benefits.
4Kombucha has a lot of Vitamin B to offer. Kombucha is particularly high in B vitamins (17).
Just like its probiotic properties, this is another facet of kombucha with a myriad of health benefits, as B vitamins are great for you. For example, they may help reduce stress and improve mood (18).
Moreover, this is still relevant even for those who are already taking conventional antidepressants. In one study, supplementing with B vitamins helped improve antidepressant treatment over one year for adults aged 50 years or over who had been diagnosed with major depression (19).
Research has also established that low levels of folate (one particular strain of B vitamin) are linked to depression (20). Regular intake of kombucha is one way to ensure that your body gets the B vitamins it needs for proper mental health.
5Kombucha can help your gut get, and stay, healthy. One of the most commons reasons people may drink kombucha is for their gut health. That’s right on the money, as kombucha has been shown to promote gut health the same way that black tea does. In one study, both black tea-based kombucha and black tea were shown to help improve the condition of mice who suffered from stomach ulcers (21).
Furthermore, a myriad of research results suggests that kombucha may be effective against a wide range of gastrointestinal disorders, not just stomach ulcers (22).
Moreover, kombucha as a probiotic has access to all of a normal probiotic’s benefits for gut health (23). As previously stated, probiotics seem to have a radical effect on gut health, which in turn affects your whole body’s well-being, including even mental health (24).
6Kombucha may improve mental health. There is a growing body of research that suggests gut health may be inextricably intertwined with mental health (25).
So if kombucha helps your gut, it may also help your mental health.
Probiotics have been shown to have a positive effect on psychiatric disorders such as depression (26), anxiety, autism spectrum disorder, OCD, and even the ability to remember things both spatially and non-spatially.
In one study, 70 petrochemical workers were arranged to either receive a placebo in the form of conventional yogurt and a placebo capsule or several hundred grams of probiotic per day through probiotic-reinforced yogurt and a capsule supplement (27).
Researchers found that after six weeks of said treatment, a significant improvement was recorded in comparison to the placebo group, while there was no improvement from the group given conventional yogurt. They had higher scores both on a general health questionnaire (GHQ) and the depression, anxiety, and stress scale (DASS).
7Kombucha might be good for your cardiovascular system and blood pressure. As a byproduct of kombucha’s tea and antioxidant content, it can help bolster your cardiovascular system and fight high blood pressure. Antioxidants alone, for example, have been shown to have a positive effect on coronary artery disease (28).
8Kombucha’s bacteria strains might help combat bad bacteria. You’d be forgiven for thinking this one is a little weird — in order to combat bacteria, you should drink more in the form of kombucha. According to previous research done on kombucha and other similar treatments, experts thought that it was the acetic acid present in kombucha fighting harmful microorganisms in the body (29).
But as it turns out, kombucha also helped fight against bacteria like E. Coli at a neutral PH. Such findings would suggest that kombucha has some ability to help fight against infections even beyond its acidity and protein content. Overall, researchers found that it helped against a wide range of bacteria, including C. Jejuni, one of the most common causes of foodborne infections in the United States (30).
Notable bacteria found to be sensitive to kombucha were Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermis, Salmonella typhimurium, and Salmonella enteritidis, among others.
9Kombucha can help protect against cancer. Test-tube studies show that kombucha may suppress the growth of cancer cells.
How the anti-cancer properties of tea polyphenols work is not well understood.
However, it’s thought that the polyphenols block gene mutation and growth of cancer cells while also promoting cancer cell death (33).
However, whether kombucha has any anti-cancer effects in people has not been confirmed. Further studies are needed.
10Kombucha can help manage type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes affects over 300 million people worldwide and is characterized by high blood sugar levels and insulin resistance.
A study in diabetic rats found that kombucha slowed down the digestion of carbs, which reduced blood sugar levels. It also improved liver and kidney function (36).
Kombucha made from green tea is likely to be even more beneficial, as green tea itself has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels (37).
In fact, a review study of almost 300,000 individuals found that green tea drinkers had an 18% lower risk of becoming diabetic (38).
Further human studies are needed to investigate the benefits of kombucha for blood sugar control.
1Some people may be mildly allergic to kombucha. Though it’s very uncommon, some users have occasionally experienced mild allergic reactions when consuming kombucha (39).
As such, users who already know they’re allergic to certain strains of bacteria or fungi, or who have bad reactions to kombucha components such as tea should be careful when considering it as a treatment.
2Kombucha may cause IBS like symptoms such as bloating and mild nausea. In some users, kombucha may cause slight gastrointestinal toxicity. Rather than soothing your stomach, it may actually upset it a bit.
This side effect can be alleviated by introducing yourself slowly to kombucha in the case that you’re a new user or lowering your dosage to help with any bloating or nausea.
3Some users who consume kombucha report headaches. Headaches, among other side effects, are uncommon but previously reported side effects of kombucha. Researchers have established that while there are many health claims about the efficacy of kombucha, it hasn’t been as extensively researched as something like black tea (40).
According to the FDA, only four ounces a day of kombucha can be safely recommended, as in some users, it causes gut issues such as mild nausea and gastrointestinal toxicity (41).
Of course, that’s well under the most common bottles of kombucha you’ll find at the grocery store, which are more like 12 or 16 ounces. With that in mind, new users should probably only consume a couple of ounces, to make sure they don’t have a bad reaction to the bacteria and fungi present in the kombucha.
Experienced kombucha drinkers can likely consume more than just a couple ounces, and a bottle within the span of a single day is probably okay. Regardless, drinking excessive amounts (over 16 ounces) of kombucha on an everyday basis could very well be unhealthy, as there are no FDA guidelines or extensive research on such kombucha usage that have been published as of yet. New users, in particular, should monitor their body’s response as they increase their kombucha dosage, making sure to look out for any adverse effects.
Is kombucha safe? Yes, kombucha is perfectly safe. While it contains a lot of bacteria and fungi, they’re the kinds that are good for your gut and the rest of the body. However, the FDA-recommended dosage is only four ounces, which is what we’d recommend users, especially new ones, to stick with.
And most reported side effects are generally mild, so the great majority of users should have nothing to worry about. However, drinking in excess could be harmful, and users should always start with a small dosage to prevent major allergic reactions or other adverse effects.
In addition, kombucha should always be brewed in a sterile, controlled environment to be considered safe. According to some studies, home-brewed kombucha can possibly have a much higher rate of toxicity than store-bought varieties due perhaps to discrepancies in the brewing environment.
As such, users who are brewing their own should be careful to keep their environment sterile and to note any strange flavors or smells when brewing. Store-bought kombucha, on the other hand, is overwhelmingly safe.
Can you lose weight by drinking kombucha? Kombucha can help with digestion, bloating, and a whole range of ghastly gut-related issues which may help with weight loss.
Can pregnant women drink kombucha? While kombucha has never been explicitly banned as a drink for pregnant women, it’s probably best not to drink it while pregnant. That’s not because kombucha is harmful or toxic, but because its ingredients may not be great for pregnant women to consume. For example, the production of kombucha generally results in a small amount of alcohol.
The amount is actually less than most common beers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy for pregnant or breastfeeding women to consume.
Can kombucha kill you? It would be very difficult to die from kombucha. If you get some particularly nasty bacteria in your kombucha and you drink a lot of it, you could cause an allergic reaction, an infection and/or an upset stomach.
Does kombucha have any drug interactions? Kombucha doesn’t have any thoroughly researched or well-established drug interactions, but it does contain alcohol and often caffeine. As such, users who drink kombucha should be careful not to drink it with any drugs that usually interact with alcohol.
Drugs which interact with alcohol are incredibly common, so even users who take conventional medication like aspirin should exercise caution when combining it with kombucha consumption.
Does kombucha make you poop? While kombucha doesn’t have any fiber or directly cure constipation, it does contain beneficial gut bacteria – helping to bring things back into balance and make you poop easier.
Can I drink kombucha every day? Yes, drinking one kombucha a day can lead to a healthier gut. However, do make sure it has low or no added sugar.
How much kombucha should I drink per day? That depends on your body and how used you are to kombucha. As previously stated, the FDA-recommended guideline for kombucha consumption is four ounces, but that’s probably well under the amount that the great majority of regular kombucha users consume. Experienced kombucha drinkers may be tolerant of a much higher dosage, but caution should still be exercised.
Regardless, new drinkers should start out with the FDA recommendation of four ounces, and upping one’s dosage becomes possible once users have established that they don’t have any negative reactions to the drink.
Is the sugar in kombucha bad for you? The sugar in kombucha is for the culture to consume, not for you. When done fermenting, there will be about 2-6 grams per 8-ounce glass of unflavored kombucha. By contrast, an 8-ounce glass of orange juice has about 24g of sugar. The damage comes when a company adds a ton of extra sugar.
Can I drink kombucha every day? Again, drinking kombucha every day (especially in small doses of less than four ounces) is more than possible, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone should drink that much. If you drink a small amount every day without noticing any negative effects, then the drink may be safe to consume, but new or unsure users should still take it slowly before starting to drink it every single day.
Can Kombucha make you drunk? Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage, and fermentation does create alcohol. However, there are only trace amounts and pretty much impossible to make you drunk.
What is kombucha made from? Kombucha only needs three things to start: fungus, bacteria, and a sweet solution to nurture the microorganisms as they grow.
Commonly, this is done by combining black tea, sugar, vinegar, and a kombucha starter culture. However, kombucha can also be made from a coffee base rather than tea, and certain medicinal plants such as cinnamon can also be added for additional or more potent health benefits than a normal variety.
Is kombucha safe if not refrigerated? If it is not refrigerated, the content will become vinegary, continue to ferment, and it will create more CO2.
Can you get addicted to kombucha? While it’s not as addictive as coffee or tea, many people who drink kombucha find they start to crave it. With a low-calorie count and that delightful carbonation, go ahead and indulge!
Where did kombucha originate from? Though it’s not entirely clear, kombucha is thought to originate from China’s northeastern region. Early usage has also been recorded in Russia.
What’s the best variety of kombucha to drink for the health benefits? While pretty much any variety of kombucha will have many of its proprietary benefits, some may have more than others. If you want the benefits which are proprietary to green tea, for example, such as high antioxidant content, then drinking green tea-based kombucha is clearly your best bet.
Should you drink the whole bottle of kombucha? Many experts recommended drinking just a small amount of kombucha per day, roughly no more than eight ounces (about half a bottle of store-bought stuff). Anyone drinking kombucha tea for the first time should begin with a small amount, to see how the body will react, according to organic kombucha.
Can I drink kombucha and drive? Kombucha generally has low levels of alcohol up to 2.5 % ABV. It is unlikely that this level of alcohol will make you impaired and unable to drive.
Is it okay to drink kombucha at night? Some people may prefer drinking kombucha early in the day, and others may find having it midday helps with digestion more. Due to the small amount of caffeine, it should be avoided at night time.
While kombucha may not be as well-researched as more common drinks such as tea, it has a clear host of health benefits. These benefits include antioxidant content, anti-inflammatory effects, an ability to bolster cardiovascular health, and well-touted benefits for the gut and digestive system.
While new users should be careful about ingesting large amounts of kombucha, these benefits are, for the most part, conveyed without any large or truly adverse side effects.