In the olden days, people spent long hours out in the sun — herding livestock, harvesting grain, and marching toward the next war. The heat dried them up, and they discovered that fermented beverages satisfied their thirst more effectively than plain water. Through the ages and around the globe, people in many different societies have made these drinks from rhubarb, roses, ginger, pomegranates, and other seemingly odd ingredients. Ideally, the flavors are complex and slightly tart.
New mothers have used fermented drinks to increase their own milk production. Another attribute of this beverage category is the ability to detoxify the body. Apparently, fermented drinks can clear the sinuses when allergies hit, and support the immune system. Entire civilizations have used them to alleviate intestinal tract problems and to increase general stamina.
Today’s most popular lacto-fermented beverages have names that begin with “K” — kombucha, kefir, and kvass. Because of the craven nature of commercial production and advertising, it is tempting to chalk up their benefits to the placebo effect. But it is quite possible that they work their magic in the realm of the microbiome.
The active ingredient of kombucha is a colony of bacteria and yeasts that live in symbiotic harmony. Bill Swindell recently reported on animal studies that indicate kombucha’s ability to take down the populations of troublesome bacteria that live inside mammals. He also mentions the need for human studies, which makes perfect sense, because if kombucha can eliminate harmful bugs while not causing some other problem, we need to know about it. Kombucha contains antioxidants, another positive trait.
Daily Mail journalist Victoria Wellman wrote:
Cell-based studies and those conducted on animals have shown that kombucha helps protect the liver, combats yeast infections and fights the free-radicals that are associated with the aging process. A mixture of acetic acid, malic acid, butyric acid, oxalic acid, lactic acid, and a minimal amount of alcohol, kombucha’s provenance is something of a mystery. What is known is that it partly takes its name from the Chinese word, “cha” meaning tea and has been consumed as a remedial drink for centuries in both Asia and Eastern Europe.
Joette Calabrese adds that kombucha, known in China as the Tea of Immortality, has been consumed for at least 2,000 years. She quotes nutrition writer Sally Fallon:
We offer the theory that the craving for both alcohol and soft drinks stems from an ancient collective memory of the kind of lacto-fermented beverages still found in traditional societies.
Like other fermented beverages, “fizzy tea” supplies the gut microbiome with lactobacilli and lactic acid and “a nice array of enzymes and nourishing minerals.” We previously mentioned cider vinegar, which may contain several live probiotic strains, and is said to cleanse the body and support the digestion and the immune system. As always, obesity is a factor. Lab results have hinted that kombucha might influence both the production of insulin and the storage of body fat.
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Source: “Kombucha, other probiotic drinks making inroads in Wine Country,” PressDemocrat.com, 05/28/17
Source: “The A-list love it — but is ‘anti-ageing drink’ kombucha actually doing more harm than good?,” Dailymail.co, 02/28/12
Source: “Who Needs Soda Pop with these Bodacious Beverages,” WestonaPrice.org, 04/01/09
Source: “Taste isn’t why consumers are flocking to this trendy beverage,” CNBC.com, 03/27/17
Photo credit: Nina Nelson (shalommama) via Visualhunt/CC BY