Mamas, are any of you leery of health trends? Me too.
That’s why I’ve been slow to jump on the kambucha health bandwagon. But, this fermented beverage crazy has been bubbling up so much, I decided it was time to do a deep dive and learn more about the health benefits of kombucha, plus share tips on how to find the right kombucha for you and your family.
For my Mom’s Guide to Kombucha 101, I partnered with experts at Wonder Drink, a kombucha brand that is non-alcoholic and features prebiotics in their drinks. (More on prebiotics below).
I also spoke with world-renowned dermatologist, thought leader and fellow momprenuer Dr. Whitney Bowe, for her insights. This mama knows gut health, and can talk about bacteria for days! Check out her book The Beauty of Dirty Skin, which draws interesting links between gut health and glowing skin.
What is kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented tea drink packed with probiotics, the healthy bacteria which has been shown to support at healthy digestive system, as well as boost skin vitality. This functional beverage tastes like apple cider vinegar or a bubbly ginger ail with added kick.
What are the key health benefits of kombucha?
The probiotics in kombucha have the following health benefits:
- Fight bad bacteria in your gut and on your skin
- Help regulate your immune system by working to control inflammation
- Support the healthy barrier function in both your gut, preventing “leaky gut”
But, Dr. Bowe wants to make sure you get that “all probiotics are not created equal. Different strains of probiotics serve different purposes and, certain probiotics are much more effective than others. For example, the most studied families of oral probiotics” (ie those found in beverages like Wonder Drink) “are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Several strains of Lactobacillus have anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce the risk of skin disorders from the inside out. They have also been shown to improve the strength of our skin barrier, keeping our skin nourished and hydrated. This family of probiotics has also been studied and linked to reduced UV-induced sun damage in the skin. The Bifidobacerium strains also have demonstrated the ability to protect against sun damage.” Because who needs brown spots?!!
What should we look for when shopping for a kombucha drink?
The Kombuchas that are not pasteurized, filtered or processed in some way, can have alcohol above legal limits. If you are concerned about alcohol, look for a seal or some sort of assertive statement on the label. Most brands talk about how they manage alcohol on their websites.
Dr. Whitney Bowe adds, “I tend toward Kombucha which also includes ginger and turmeric, which are wonderful for digestion and your skin. Additionally, artificial sweeteners in diet soda are destructive to the healthy bacteria which live in your gut which in turn leads to inflammation in your skin, so try to limit those whenever possible.” If you crave a soda, swap in a kombucha. And, defineitly, seek out a brand that doesn’t have added sugar, or very limited sugar. “I am not a fan of high sugar content given the glycation process.” (Learn more about why sugar isn’t sweet for your skin, here.)
Also, you want to read your labels. Sadly, the only way to really guarantee quality, safety and health benefits is to standardize the process and starter cultures. This isn’t happening yet. At Wonder Drink, they use well defined starter cultures that guarantees production of the same amount of organic acids, residual sugar and alcohol. They inactivate these cultures to guarantee label compliance.
Most Kombucha brands claim presence of probiotics, but not all starter cultures meet the widely accepted definition of a probiotic microorganism. Even if well-defined probiotic cultures are added to Kombucha, their survival and efficacy is not very consistent between batches and flavors.
Bottom line, spend some time getting to know the kombucha drink you want to purchase, especially if you plan to make it a daily drink. We’re talking about yeast and live cultures. As always, talk to your doctor, if you have any concerns.
Is there someone who should avoid kombucha?
“Immuno-compromised individuals, and anyone who is trying to avoid alcohol or is sensitive to organic acids or caffeine, should do their research before consumption,” according to the experts at Wonder Drink. They also suggest that you call up manufactures of the kombucha brand you prefer and ask:
- Are the starter cultures standardized, safe and well defined or are they unknown “wild cultures”?
- How is alcohol and consistent sugar content managed?
What makes Wonder Drink unique?
Wonder Drink made the first and only Prebiotic Kombucha, using prebiotics from an organic plant fiber called xylo-oligosaccharides. “Xylo” selectively nourishes good bacteria (more specifically Bifidobacterium species). Other prebiotics and dietary fibers break down in kombucha, may have side effects, require consumption in large doses, and can promote the growth of unwanted bacteria.
Think of prebiotics as food or fertilizer that promotes the growth of helpful bacteria, aka probiotics, in your gut.