Side effects of kombucha

How Much Kombucha Is Too Much?

While kombucha is a perfectly healthy drink to sip regularly, there is a point at which you should stop.

Kombucha is a drink made from fermented black or green tea, often hailed for rumored health benefits such as clearer skin, better digestion, stronger immunity, and even cancer prevention. The drink has skyrocketed in popularity lately; at certain grocery stores, there are entire aisles dedicated to the stuff. Some brands even sell kombucha in gallon-sized jugs! But is it possible to drink too much of this sparkling probiotic drink?

To understand the consequences of overloading on kombucha, it’s important to understand what’s in it. Its main ingredients are tea, sugar, and yeast. The bacteria ferment in a process similar to the production of yogurt, kimchi, or other fermented foods, and create an acidic beverage containing a small amount of alcohol.

The beverage contains caffeine from the tea, sugar to sweeten, and probiotics from the fermentation process. So the risks of drinking too much are intricately linked to the risks of taking in too much sugar, too much caffeine, and too many probiotics.

Risks of Too Much Sugar
“According to the World Health Organization (WHO), adults and children should ‘reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10 percent of their total energy intake. A further reduction to below 5 percent or roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits,’” Julieanna Heaver told The Daily Meal. “Yet, we are consuming almost twice as much as that in the United States.”

Your typical store-bought kombucha contains anywhere from 4 to 20 grams of added sugar per bottle, depending on the brand. Some brands rely more potently on added sugar than others — so depending on how many kombucha bottles you’re drinking every day, you may want to check the sugars on the label.

Risks of Too Much Caffeine
Kombucha also contains caffeine — though not nearly as much as coffee or an energy drink. And while scientists suggest that there might not be a limit to how many cups of coffee you should drink every day, some people experience negative reactions to drinking too much caffeine. You may become jittery, for instance, or experience the effects of higher blood pressure.

You’d have to drink a ton of kombucha to overdo it with the caffeine, though — a cup of kombucha has about a fourth the caffeine content of a cup of coffee.

Risks of Probiotics
For most people, the sky is really the limit when it comes to probiotics and fermented foods. Every person’s digestion reacts differently to bacteria, so your best bet is to pay attention to your own body and decide how much is too much for you. But in terms of safety, you’re probably in the clear.

The only exception is for people with weakened immune systems. It’s very rare, but in certain cases of weakened immune systems, too many probiotics can cause a serious infection.

It’s also worth noting that a few organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center have expressed concern that too much kombucha could cause acidosis — a condition wherein the body’s pH becomes overly acidic and dangerous. A couple of unexplained deaths due to acidosis were linked to kombucha, but it’s unclear whether kombucha was the real cause.

People everywhere drink kombucha every single day — without complication. Your best bet? Don’t overconsume any food or beverage to the point of discomfort. Even vegetables!

Because kombucha is a relatively new drink to western society we are still wrestling with some basic questions. For instance, is it possible to drink too much kombucha? How much kombucha should I drink?

The fact remains, kombucha is healthy for you. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be harmful. With everything in life, it’s possible to overdo it.

So, is it possible to drink too much kombucha?

The answer is yes and no. While there are no major downsides to kombucha, a good thing can easily turn harmful if you drink too much. There are three major concerns with drinking too much kombucha:

  1. Risk of bloating
  2. Risk for lactic acidosis
  3. Sugar, caffeine, and alcohol content

While the risk of lactic acidosis is very rare, and the cases of bloating aren’t very common, the sugar, alcohol, and caffeine levels need special attention. People who consider kombucha a harmless health drink may be surprised at the levels of sugar, alcohol and caffeine they are consuming in their kombucha. For some perspective, drinking 1-gallon of kombucha a day is equivalent to 1.5 cans of soda, 2 coffees, and 5 cans of beer! You can see how drinking too much kombucha can be bad for your health.

3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Drink Too Much Kombucha

I’m sure you’ve heard 100 reason why you should drink kombucha, but that doesn’t always translate to “the more kombucha the better.” Here are 3 reasons why kombucha should be consumed in moderation:

The Bacteria Can Cause Bloating

This is particularly true if you are just starting out with kombucha. Everyone’s gut biome is unique. For some, the influx of healthy bacteria can cause some temporary discomfort during the re-balancing phase. This is why I always recommend beginners start with a daily shot (1.5-2 oz.) of kombucha for at least a week.

After your body has had time to re-balance you can start increasing this amount to the daily recommended dose (see below.)

Risk For Lactic Acidosis

As I mentioned in the intro, there is a small risk of lactic acidosis. If lactic acid builds up in the body more quickly than it can be removed, acidity levels in the blood increase.

Some of you may have experienced this after completing a strenuous workout. A temporary buildup of lactic acid can be caused by vigorous exercise if your body doesn’t have enough available oxygen to break down glucose in the blood. The main symptom is nausea and weakness.

The good news is, the chances of this happening from kombucha are very rare. As long as you’re not drinking 2-gallons of kombucha a day you shouldn’t be worried.

Kombucha Contains Caffeine, Alcohol, and Sugar

The combination of fermentation and healthy acids makes everything in kombucha much more bio-available. In other words, the sugars in kombucha are easier to digest. This means, the sugars in kombucha may cause the insulin levels in your blood stream to spike if you consume too much.

While most of the sugar in kombucha is used during fermentation, there is still some left over in the final product. The quantity of sugar can vary (especially if you’re drinking home-brewed kombucha) so you need to be careful of your sugar intake if you’re consuming more than 1 bottle per day. Drinking 1-gallon of kombucha is equivalent to 1.5 cans of soda.
READ MORE: How Much Sugar Is In Kombucha?

The alcohol levels of commercial kombucha are less than 0.5% ABV. Home-brewed kombucha usually hovers around the 2% ABV level. So, drinking 24 oz. of kombucha is equivalent to a single can of beer. If you’re on the extreme end of kombucha consumption (1-gallon per day) you would be drinking an equivalent of 5 beers a day!

READ MORE: Does Kombucha Contain Alcohol?

While the caffeine levels in kombucha are perfectly fine in moderation, drinking too much can have negative side effects on your sleep and anxiety levels. A regular bottle of kombucha will contain approximately 25 mg of caffeine. Which is about 1/4 the amount in a regular coffee. So, if you’re an extreme kombucha drinker you may be having the equivalent of 2 coffees.

How Much Kombucha Should You Drink?

The good news is, you can get all the health benefits of kombucha without any of the risks as long as you drink it in moderation. When people first start drinking kombucha, their first question is usually:

How much do I drink?

Just because the kombucha comes in 16 oz bottles doesn’t mean you have to drink the whole thing!

The right amount for everyone is going to differ slightly, but as a rule of thumb, I recommend people start off with 6-8 oz. per day.

If you find your stomach becomes upset, or you become bloated, decrease this amount to 2 oz. until your body has enough time to re-balance. Everyone has a different toxin load and gut bacteria population. It may take longer for some people to adapt to the healthy probiotics and acids.

After a few weeks, you can start to play around with the dose until you find something that suits your needs.

I like to have my kombucha first thing in the morning so I can notice its effects. I’ll also have 6 oz. before a big meal to aid in digestion and help prevent bloating and acid reflux. But that’s just me! Everyone has their own unique relationship with kombucha. My best advice is to experiment for yourself.

How Much Is Too Much Kombucha?

Worried you may be drinking too much kombucha? Well, as I’ve mentioned above, the likelihood that you’ll have serious adverse health effects from kombucha are very rare. The only problem with drinking too much kombucha is the long term health effect of sugar and alcohol.

From the kombucha drinkers I know, the most extreme drinkers usually only drink a maximum of 32 oz. a day. However, I’ve heard of some cases where someone was drinking up to a gallon of kombucha a day!

My opinion is, if you can get all of the health benefits of kombucha through 8 oz. a day, why drink more? After 8 oz. you’re only adding extra sugar, alcohol, and caffeine to your daily diet.

If you are someone who likes to drink lots of kombucha, or are trying to supply your family with a daily dose, you’ll want to consider continuous home-brewing. Buying store-bought kombucha will be far too expensive in the long-run. You can easily supply a family of 5 with 8 oz. of kombucha using the continuous brewing method.

READ MORE: How To Use The Continuous Brewing Method

Symptoms of Drinking Too Much Kombucha

Another question that gets asked a lot is “how do I know if I’ve drank too much kombucha?”

There are a few ways your body is going to let you know you’ve had too much.

Feeling Worse Before Feeling Better

One of the positive side-effects of kombucha is its ability to pull unwanted toxins from your body. The downside to this side-effect is it can sometimes make you feel much worse before it makes you feel better. Depending on your toxin load, drinking kombucha can have the following side-effects:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue

This usually occurs when beginners drink too much kombucha too often. Your body will need time to pull out the toxins. If you flush them out too quickly your liver won’t have time to react. I find this is particularly true for those who’ve consumed a lot of alcohol in their past.

If this sounds familiar, drink 2 oz. a day until you start feeling the negative side-effects decreasing. Gradually increase your dose until you’re up to the 6-8 oz. a day!

Increase In Bloating or Indigestion

Depending on your gut pH and bacteria balance, drinking kombucha can be a shock to the system. Because kombucha is loaded with healthy bacteria, your digestive system may time to adjust before it finds its new balance.

As with any probiotic, the initial stages can go either way. You may find your heartburn decreases, or you may find your bloating increases. It’s all going to depend on your previous diet and previous gut population.

Conclusion

I haven’t met anyone who has had last negative effects from drinking kombucha. The only negative effects come during the initial stages when your body is releasing all of the toxins that have built up over the years.

That being said, the other components of kombucha can have adverse effects that aren’t noticeable during the short term. Just take anything that applies to too much sugar and alcohol consumption and apply it to kombucha if you are drinking more than a gallon per day. If you stay within the recommended 6-8 oz. per day you won’t have to worry about any negative health effects.

Simple as that!

What Are the Side Effects of Drinking Too Much Kombucha?

Kombucha isn’t some magical elixir that will cure what ails you. Drink too much, and you may also leave yourself more prone to headaches, gastrointestinal discomfort, and other side effects.

Healthcare providers advise pregnant women, children, and anyone with a compromised immune system to avoid kombucha due to its alcohol content. Jill Chen/Stocksy

Kombucha is a fermented drink made from green or black tea, sugar, bacteria, and yeast. That description of kombucha, which comes from a review published in December 2015 in the Journal of Chemistry, may sound strange, but the beverage is gaining popularity throughout the United States — and for good reason. (1)

The fermented process of brewing kombucha makes it a potential source of probiotics, which are live organisms that help balance good and bad bacteria in the gut. Proposed benefits of kombucha include its potential to reduce inflammation, boost immunity, and increase metabolism, according to the aforementioned review. (1)

It’s important to note that there is not a wealth of human research on the potential health benefits of kombucha, as the Cleveland Clinic points out. (2) Nonetheless, it’s possible to speculate on its benefits given what the drink is made of, says Alissia Zenhausern, MD, a licensed naturopathic medical doctor practicing in Scottsdale, Arizona.

7 Potential Health Dangers of Too Much Kombucha

There’s no short list of potential health benefits of kombucha. Some people also believe that it can help detoxify the body, reduce blood sugar, and inhibit the growth of cancer cells, according to the Cleveland Clinic. (2)

But despite possible therapeutic benefits, kombucha isn’t right for everyone, and there’s the risk of adverse effects from drinking too much and improper preparation, notes the Mayo Clinic. (3)

Here’s a look at seven reported side effects of too much kombucha:

1. Drinking Too Much Kombucha May Upset Your Stomach

Even though kombucha might promote gut health and improve conditions like constipation and hemorrhoids, too much of any good thing can be bad, per the aforementioned Journal of Chemistry review. (1)

For that matter, drinking a large amount of kombucha may cause nausea and diarrhea. (1,2)

Kombucha is acidic, so it’s possible for the drink to trigger nausea in those who are sensitive to acidic drinks. (1)

Also keep in mind that kombucha contains sugar. According to a small past study, eating too much sugar and too many sweeteners can lead to diarrhea or watery stools. If your body isn’t used to probiotics, consuming too many too quickly can lead to similar symptoms. (4)

2. Overdoing It With Your Kombucha Habit May Lead to Headaches

Headaches are another possible adverse side effect of drinking too much kombucha. (1) The exact cause of a headache is unknown, but kombucha does contain caffeine and alcohol, which alone or together might induce headaches in those who are sensitive.

Caffeine is sometimes used as a headache reliever. But while an effective treatment, repeated exposure to caffeine can have the opposite effect, triggering chronic daily headaches, past research has noted. (5)

3. Excess Kombucha May Contribute to Lactic Acidosis

The philosophy that too much of a good thing can be bad applies to kombucha.

Though the occasional kombucha drinker needn’t worry about this side effect, those drinking multiple bottles of kombucha every day may be at risk for a condition called lactic acidosis.

Lactic acid is an organic acid produced in the muscles, the National Cancer Institute notes. (6) Swigging kombucha can cause an accumulation of this acid in the bloodstream, causing the body’s pH to become too acidic. This can lead to problems with liver and kidney function, and become life-threatening, past research has suggested. (7)

The amount of kombucha linked to lactic acidosis hasn’t been established. Yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported two illnesses associated with kombucha and elevated levels of lactic acid. In these cases, both women consumed 4 to 12 ounces (oz) of home-brewed kombucha daily for two months. Still, there is no proof the kombucha itself caused the lactic acidosis; the CDC simply observed a link between the two. More research is needed to determine the amount of kombucha that can cause this condition. (8)

Symptoms of lactic acidosis include muscle aches, disorientation, nausea, headaches, fatigue, rapid heart rate, and jaundice (yellowing of the eyes or skin), according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (9) Among the known causes of this condition are human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) drugs, which can cause lactic acidosis buildup.

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As you probably already know, kombucha is all the rage right now and cracking a crisp, cold kombucha after Pilates, is basically the wellness equivalent of what coffee is to men in Lyrca. Gone are the days of having to track down a random on Gumtree to exchange a scoby (that’s a blob of symbiotic bacteria and yeast FYI) so you could brew your own at home. Kombucha is everywhere, it’s expensive and it’s bloody delicious. And we are kind of addicted.

Initially, we thought it was a great move to replace our craving for a sweet treat in the evening with a glass of fizzy tea. After all, it’s not just a drink, it’s a drink WITH health benefits (which makes justifying the price per litre easier). But then we found ourselves going a little too hard on the probiotic stuff. Had our good kombucha habit gone bad? Should we really be spending the equivalent of a new pair of shoes on kombucha a month? Is this habit even healthy?

In order to put our minds to rest, we consulted Dr. Sam Hay to get the low down on what gut health actually means, if too much kombucha is bad for you (or just your finances) and learn about the affordable healthy gut substitute most of us already have in our pantries.

Keep reading to keep your insides happy!

POPSUGAR AUSTRALIA: What does gut health mean?

Dr. Sam Hay: The meaning of gut health could be a number of different things — being regular, helping with nutrient absorption as well as a healthy microbiome. Good gut bacteria also helps in building our immunity and protecting us from illness and there is some emerging research that is suggests it may even help with the production of serotonin, which is a key player when it comes to influencing your mood.

PS: What are your general thoughts on kombucha as it relates to gut health?

Dr. Sam: Kombucha may have become mainstream, however not many Aussies know that it’s been around for thousands of years! For those unfamiliar, kombucha is a sweetened tea that’s been fermented with a scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), making it full of great probiotics and good additional resource for maintaining good gut health.

PS: Is it possible to drink too much Kombucha?

Dr. Sam: Like with many things in life, it is possible to have too much of a good thing and it’s important to maintain a good balance when it comes to your diet. While there haven’t been any official reports against kombucha, it is important to remember that the ingredients used to make kombucha delicious can have other health concerns. For instance, depending on the type of kombucha you drink (some are flavoured), it does contain sugar as part of the fermentation process and can contain high levels of caffeine from the tea. Kombucha also contains lactic acid which, when consumed in excess, can impact your blood stream.

PS: What alternative supplements would you recommend instead of kombucha for gut health?

Dr. Sam: What many people tend to forget is that we can take great care of our gut health without all the supplements and superfoods, it doesn’t need to be complicated. While probiotic foods such as yoghurt, kombucha and kimchi are great for adding in new good bacteria to help maintain a healthy gut — many people could be missing out on some every day goods that actually help to feed the good guys in our gut — foods with fibre. This means we don’t need to break the bank buying expensive supplements to start improving out gut health, as there are plenty of affordable fibre rich foods available in the local supermarket. For instance, breakfast cereals with fibre are a great place to start and are a really affordable option for the whole family,

PS: You’ve mentioned gut bacteria requires fibre to survive, could you explain more about this process and why eating adequate fibre is important for gut health?

Dr. Sam: Fibre, especially grain fibre, is an important food source for the good bacteria living in our gut, however, less than half of us (47 percent) are aware of this fact, according to new research from Kellogg’s. You might be drinking as much kombucha as you can every day and spending loads on probiotic supplements but at the end of the day, you need to be feeding your gut bacteria with fibre.

Fibre feeds the good guys in our gut and helps them to multiply.

When the good bacteria outnumber the bad ones, they tend to be put in their place and don’t act up. This is because fibre makes it all the way to the colon still intact. This is where the good guys get to work and break it down, acting as a food source for good bacteria like Bifidobacterial and Lactobacillus (to name a few), helping them to survive and thrive.

PS: How much fibre should the average person be looking to eat a day for gut health?

Dr. Sam: While grains and a more balanced approach to eating it starting to make a comeback, according to the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council, there’s still a large percentage of Aussies (as many as 47 percent) who are limiting or avoiding grains due to concerns around preservatives, health issues, weight management and gluten avoidance. We know that around two out of three Australian adults, and one in two children, are not meeting their daily adequate intake for dietary fibre — which is 25 g for women and 30 g for men.

PS: Do we need to be spending our money on special drinks (kombucha) and supplements for optimal gut health?

Dr. Sam: To be honest, you don’t. There are so many products in the market today that promise weight loss and healthy living, that is comes to no surprise to me that half of all Aussies (51 percent) feel more confused than ever when it comes to what foods are ‘healthy’. With that in mind, to avoid confusion it’s always best to keep it simple and stick to the basics. Having a balanced diet including vegetables, fruit and high fibre grains — like breakfast cereal or grainy bread — will help you maintain a healthier gut. What’s the best about these foods is that you don’t need to spend a fortune as they can be found at your local grocer, or even in your pantry.

Image Source: Instagram user greenhousejuice

How much is too much kombucha?

“I can only quote from an article in The “Science Based Medicine” website, which is substantiated by just about every other similarly-inclined website:

“Despite the hundreds of thousands of posts on kombucha praising its medicinal and health effects, I was unable to identify a single clinical trial for any specific use. There’s a systematic review by Edzard Ernstdating to 2003 that also failed to find any clinical trials or even case series that suggest kombucha has medically beneficial uses. So there is no evidence to demonstrate or even hint at efficacy. Based on what’s known about the active ingredients, there’s no reason to expect it would offer any medicinal effects other than the consequence of low levels of alcohol or caffeine.”

The toxicity

“Given this is usually a home-brew concoction, there is the significant risk of contamination. In contrast to the lack of benefit, there is good documentation of the potential for harms associated with kombucha:

  • an alcoholic developed jaundice after two weeks, which resolved after discontinuation
  • dizziness, nausea and vomiting that resolved with discontinuation and restarted with rechallenge
  • toxic hepatitis that resolved with discontinuation
  • metabolic acidosis and disseminated intravascular coagulopathy, resulting in subsequent cardiac arrest and death
  • metabolic acidosis, cardiac arrest (with recovery)
  • anthrax infections of the skin through topical application of kombucha
  • lactic acidosis and acute renal failure
  • lead poisoning secondary to making it in a ceramic pot”

“Given the potential for kombucha to grow potentially dangerous pathogens, it’s particularly important for those with compromised immune systems to avoid the product. Given the risks, pregnant or lactating women should avoid kombucha as well.”

Kombucha sells out

“Kombucha isn’t limited to the home brewer anymore, there are several commercial suppliers such as Synergy (touted by Dr. Oz, of course) and the requisite story of the breast cancer survivor who credits kombucha for her health (but not the chemo and radiation she also accepted). The claims come fast and furious: the fermented liquid heals all and cures all – digestion, immune system ‘boosting’ amino acids that ‘detoxify.’ You can now find it combined with different juices and flavors, for those that don’t like the taste of the original. The recipes are the same, and the final products are not pasteurized, a situation that caused products to be pulled in the United States until producers found ways to stop the alcohol from exceeding 0.5%.”

Have you heard of kombucha before? I can barely write about this without feeling sick, you see… I drank too much kombucha and it wasn’t pretty!

I hadn’t heard of kombucha until about 6 months ago when Emma introduced me to this weird and wonderful drink. It’s been around for over 2000 years and the Ancient Chinese called it the ‘Immortal Health Elixir.’ Intrigued? You betcha!

I tried it and loved it and kind of became obsessed with it. Not only for the taste but also the health and wellbeing benefits. It was getting a little ridiculous as we were spending $5.95 each a day on a bottle so with a little google searching and asking around we found out we could actually make our own! Woohoo! We were going to save money AND it was going to be our very own science experiment!

First things first what the heck is kombucha? It’s just water, tea, sugar (yes, sugar) and a fermenting culture called a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast)

(we nick-named ours George)

And you simply make it by brewing some tea, allowing it to cool, adding your SCOBY to the tea and allowing the mix to ferment for 1-2 weeks.

Hey, hang on… you girls don’t eat sugar though and you just said kombucha contains sugar #confused

So was I! Why sugar? Well, the sugar is like food for the culture in order to allow it to ferment (imagine the SCOBY sucking up all the sugar). Once the drink has fermented, almost all of the sugar is converted by the SCOBY and when fermenting is finished, there will only be about 2 grams of sugar per 250mL glass.

I drink it because it’s darn good for me! I could write a whole blog post on it but to put it frank it detoxifies the body, provides joint care, helps digestion and the two I love most is that it boosts your immunity and improves gut health (super important as we head in to the colder months!) and seeing as happiness and health begin in the gut, a drink that assists this is always good in my eyes. Basically what it does is it puts the body back in balance so it can work as it should!

Ok, let’s re-cap, it’s a fermented tea that’s made out of a weird pancak-ey looking thing, it DOES contain a small amount of sugar (but this is ok) and it has amazing health and wellbeing benefits. No wonder I wanted to drink it everyday!

We had our SCOBY and there we left it, fermenting and growing like a little baby. Weeks went by and the SCOBY grew bigger and bigger. Pretty soon I thought it might grow some legs and walk itself out the door. I was hesitant to try it as I was so used to the store bought kind, was there any way that I had done this whole fermenting thing wrong? Did I miss a step? Anyway, I took two sips and BLER, gross, yuck, it tasted like straight vinegar. Hmm.

Two days later.

The die-off. Ok, turns out you CAN get this fermenting thing wrong, well not wrong but a little bad. A simple google search and we’d maybe, probably, no MOST DEFINITELY over-fermented the sh1t out of our kombucha. The two sips I took meant that I got sick… really sick! Enter the stages of die-off and I’m going to explain this really simply (mainly because it’s the only way I myself can understand it): because the kombucha had so much good bacteria, it killed lots of bad bacteria in my gut. It killed too much too fast and my body couldn’t get rid of it. So instead, it just released all this dead stuff into the rest of body. Get it? Die… off? For 4 whole days I suffered nausea, headaches, fatigue (I napped… I never nap!), dizziness, diarrhea (oh, the SHAME!) joint pain, racey heart, fever, never ending chills and sweats… nasty, right? Right!

Turns out that this can also happen if you drink or eat too much fermented food. Note, this isn’t a warning to STOP eating/drinking fermented stuff it’s just a word of advice… stick to the daily recommended amount because die-off sucks big time and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone!

Don’t let me turn you off trying kombucha (I have to admit I’ve slowed down on my intake and I’m only drinking the store bought kind, I like mojo, the perfect blogging beverage), Sarah Wilson, I Quit Sugar guru drinks the stuff every day and claims that it’s helped with her auto-immune disease symptoms, Paleo world leader, Robb Wolf also drinks it!

Over to you. Have you tried it? Made it yourself? Let us know your thoughts! Your journey will of course assist others on their way to a healthier, happier them.

Always merrymaking,

Carla

Do a quick search of kombucha online and you’ll find that the fizzy drink (produced by fermented tea, sugar, fungi, and bacteria) supposedly supplies sky-high energy, quells pain, fends off certain cancers, detoxes your body, helps you shed weight, and turns your immune system into a fortress. Guzzlers of the health beverage preach these promises, too.

But is our beloved kombucha really a health elixir in a bottle?

“I would be wary of calling kombucha a remedy or a magic food,” says Maggie Neola, R.D., a dietitian at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. After all, glorifying one food over another (kale is king!) isn’t the way nutrition works. A healthy diet is all about variety.

Here are the four potential benefits to keep in mind before you take a swig.

The probiotics in kombucha can help your gut.

“Because it’s fermented, you see more of that probiotic push in kombucha,” Neola says. And that’s where most of the drink’s health benefits lie: probiotics, a.k.a. good gut bacteria.

“The gut microbiome is often called the forgotten organ — it’s really important to foster that health,” Neola says. After all, a healthy gut microbiome can help fend off issues like diarrhea and IBS and help your whole body function at its best.

Raw & Organic Kombucha (Pack of 6) B-tea amazon.com $24.99

Fermented foods like kombucha may also improve the health of your intestinal cells, boost your immune function, and cut your risk of allergy and chronic disease, says Neola. There’s a catch, though: These benefits aren’t unique to kombucha itself, but rather probiotic-rich or fermented foods, she says.

Kombucha’s probiotics can also come with a downside. That’s because some brands of the drink are unpasteurized — and thus, you run the risk of a seriously upset stomach, says Keri Gans, R.D., author of The Small Change Diet. Or worse: “Without pasteurization, you run the risk of harmful microorganisms taking over and causing serious problems, including food poisoning,” says Ryan Andrews, R.D,. a fitness and nutrition coach with Precision Nutrition.

But in order to reap kombucha’s probiotics benefits, the drink likely needs to be unpasteurized. “Pasteurization kills off both harmful and helpful bacteria, so any potential beneficial probiotics would be gone as well,” Andrews explains.

The bottom line: Probiotics are a key part of a healthy diet, says Neola. And if you want to get them from kombucha, that’s fine. But if you’re going to drink the raw (unpasteurized) version, make sure to buy your kombucha from a reputable company, says Gans.

Kombucha is made by fermenting tea and sugar with bacteria and yeast. SOPHIE-CARONGetty Images

The antioxidants in kombucha can help you stay healthy.

Past packing a probiotic punch, just how much (and how) kombucha can keep you well is a bit murky. As with other teas, you can sip a slew of antioxidants and polyphenols.

These compounds support healthy cell function and help you stay healthy overall, but commercial brews may not supply as much, says Jaclyn London, M.S., R.D., Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. Check labels to make sure you’re choosing kombucha versus a kombucha-like product and look for actual tea in the ingredients list.

Kombucha can help you cut back on super-sugary drinks.

Beverages are the number one source of added sugar in the American diet, but replacing sports drinks, juice, and sweetened tea and coffee with kombucha may help you dial back. One 16-ounce bottle of GT’s Kombucha Gingerade contains 4 grams of sugar compared to 28 grams you’d find in the same-sized Starbucks Iced Matcha Green Tea Latte, for example.

“Since it’s lower in sugar compared to other options, it’s often a better choice and a step to cutting back on sugar from drinks overall,” London says.

Kombucha can contain a lot of sugar, but sometimes it’s a better choice than other sweetened drinks. Premyuda YospimGetty Images

Kombucha can help you stay hydrated.

Overall, you should sip a minimum of 8 cups of water and other unsweetened beverages (like seltzer or black tea) a day, but drinking kombucha can help you meet your hydration needs, London says.

But how much kombucha can you drink in a day? Not much research has been done on the subject, but consuming about 4 ounces daily may not cause any adverse effects in healthy people, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“However, the potential health risks are unknown for those with preexisting health problems or those who drink excessive quantities of the tea,” the CDC stated in a 1998 report.

Pregnant woman and kids should steer clear from sipping the beverage altogether, Gans says. Thanks to the fermentation process, kombucha can contain trace amounts of alcohol, usually ranging from 0.5% to 3% alcohol by volume. (A light beer has about 4-5% ABV.)

The Best Kombucha Brands

Kombucha’s sweet-tart taste can turn some people off — the fermentation gives it a slightly vinegary taste — but different flavors can tame the tang. First-timers can ease in with a flavored brew like strawberry, mango, honey, or blood orange. Diehard drinkers can go for bold flavors like beet, rose, and lemon cayenne.

Remember, though: “Not all kombuchas are created equal,” says Neola. “Some are loaded with added sugars.” So make sure to read your label — and the serving size amount!

“Make sure you’re looking for options that offer 2 grams of sugar or less per 1 cup serving,” London says. “Since kombucha is made through a fermentation process, it’s necessary to have a little sweetener in there, but some varieties are lower in the sweet stuff than others.”

Ready to try it? Here are some brands we love:

  • GT’s Organic Raw Kombucha
  • Brew Dr. Kombucha
  • B-Tea Raw Kombucha
  • Kevita Master Brew Kombucha

The bottom line: If you’re not into the taste of kombucha, many other foods and drinks are loaded with probiotics and antioxidants. Try sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and yogurt for probiotics or drink green tea for tea-related health benefits. Don’t forget about prebiotics, either. “Filling up on veggies, fruit, 100% whole grains, nuts, seeds, and pulses can help you boost immunity and provide some important prebiotic fiber that helps your body’s own probiotics to thrive,” London adds. “Your best bet is to add more of those foods wherever you can since one food or drink in isolation isn’t a cure-all. Choose kombucha for flavor, not just its health benefits.”

Cassie Shortsleeve Freelance Writer Cassie Shortsleeve is a skilled freelance writer and editor with almost a decade of experience reporting on all things health, fitness, and travel. Caroline Picard Health Editor Caroline is the Health Editor at GoodHousekeeping.com covering nutrition, fitness, wellness, and other lifestyle news.

4/4 Photo: Thinkstock/Shane Cotee

Every microbiome is different

What makes IBS so difficult to treat is that it has been historically tricky to pinpoint its triggers. Global medical company Biomerica, however, has developed a diagnostic tool for IBS patients that uses a simple blood test to identify the problem foods so that people know exactly what they need to avoid. “The test detects what causes antibodies in that individual’s body, which then cause an inflammatory response,” Biomerica CEO Zack Irani-Cohen explains. And on a macro level, the tool, called InFoods, has given the company great insight into what many with IBS are and aren’t sensitive to.

If you’re a gut-health superfan, you might not find Irani-Cohen’s main takeaway all that shocking: No two people are alike. “The microbiome is like a fingerprint,” he says. “It’s very rare two people have exactly the same foods that come up causing inflammation.”

“The microbiome is like a fingerprint. It’s very rare two people have exactly the same foods that come up causing inflammation.” — Zack Irani-Cohen, Biomerica CEO

According to Irani-Cohen, to blanketly recommend an eating plan to someone to “treat IBS” is akin to saying that someone should avoid certain activities because they have “allergies.” “That’s not helpful; allergic to what?” he says. You wouldn’t treat a peanut allergy the same way you would hay fever—and it’s no different for gut issues. “Kombucha might be okay for some people with IBS, but not for others,” Irani-Cohen says. “Some people may benefit from the good bacteria in the kombucha, but others might have too much of that specific bacteria in their gut already and it could cause an overgrowth and backfire.”

He also points out that not everyone makes kombucha the same way. “A lot are flavored, so someone could be having a reaction to a specific ingredient,” he says. While all of this may sound super frustrating—Just tell me if I can have it or not!—Irani-Cohen offers up a helpful tip: Just try it and see how you feel. Your body will communicate to you if something is helpful or hurtful.

Living the low-FODMAP life doesn’t mean giving up Mexican. And here are bloat-busting meals you can make in 15 minutes or less.

Kombucha is the wellness drink of the moment, and for good reason. The fermented tea is rich in probiotics and prebiotics, which help increase the good bacteria in the gut, improving digestion and overall health. But if you really love kombucha, sad news: it may not be as great for your teeth.

© Getty / filadendron We Asked Dentists If Kombucha Is Damaging to Your Teeth, and You Might Want to Sit Down

“The dominant type of bacteria in kombucha creates acetic acid,” Jeffery Sulitzer, DMD, chief clinical officer at SmileDirectClub, told POPSUGAR. “On the pH scale, white distilled vinegar tests around 2.4 pH. A properly brewed batch of kombucha may fall anywhere from 2.5 to 3.5.”

Acid is known to wear down tooth enamel, but “the acidic pH found in kombucha also allows the ‘bad’ bacteria already found in your mouth to potentially create an unhealthier environment for your gums,” Dr. Sulitzer said. “Drinking kombucha can be just as harmful for your teeth as drinking a sugary soda since the net result is lowered pH and the potential of having an increase in tooth decay and gum disease.”

Like other dark beverages, including wine and coffee, kombucha can also cause the surface of your teeth to become discolored. “Because kombucha contains tannins, drinking it over time will stain your pearly whites,” Dr. Sulitzer said.

Sipping tea through a straw can help. “Place a straw behind your front teeth, so that the acidic beverage has less of a chance of coming in contact with your teeth,” said Tricia Quartey, DMD, FAGD, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association. “After consuming any acidic beverage, it’s good to drink fluoridated water, which will rinse your mouth and help keep acids under control.”

This helps protect that precious enamel, which not only makes your teeth appear whiter, but also serves as a barrier against bacteria that can cause cavities and infection, Dr. Quartey explained. So, have your kombucha – but not without taking some precautions.

Video: Study: Oral-B floss may bring toxic chemicals into body (Provided by USA Today)

The Dark Side to Kombucha

Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

Kombucha—fermented tea created from Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeasts (SCOBY)—is commonly hyped up as being a magic elixir. Just like magic, there is a dark side to kombucha.

Regular consumers claim this “potion” aids weight loss and digestion, serves as an anti-aging regimen, helps prevent cancer, improves liver function and supports overall immunity.

Although this incredible tonic is now popularly marketed on a large scale for its countless health benefits, kombucha has the potential for negative side effects.

Why kombucha is amazing

Bacteria and yeasts in kombucha work to eradicate most sugars from the tea, transforming the liquid into a fizzy, semi-tart, delicious drink.

Kombucha is high in Vitamin B—protecting the pancreas and liver.

It’s also rich in enzymes that help detoxify the body, high in glucosamine that lubricates joints and prevents arthritis, and is packed with probiotics—helping to aid digestion and ensure gut health.

Hannah Krum of Kombucha Kamp shares in her new book, The Big Book of Kombucha:

“Kombucha is often referred to as a gateway food, because this one health-promoting choice can lead to a whole host of others, bringing balance to body, diet and lifestyle. With regular consumption, kombucha can be part of deep, positive changes in all aspects of life….We are living in a bacterial world, and I am a bacterial girl!”

The dark side to kombucha resides in your choices

The main issues are the frequency and quantity that people consume kombucha. A lot of health experts will advise drinking kombucha every day, but I strongly disagree.

While I love kombucha and appreciate its benefits, I believe everything should be done in moderation!

If you are taking medications, are an alcoholic, diabetic, alcohol sensitive, caffeine sensitive, sugar sensitive, or have Candida…kombucha may not be the drink for you. Symptoms of SIBO can be revealed or exacerbated through drinking kombucha. In some cases, it can trigger acid reflux or heartburn and possibly irritate ulcers.

Reap all the kombucha benefits with none of the buzzkills

While kombucha is not a magical drink with wizardly powers, if drank in moderation this yummy concoction can provide health benefits like increasing your bacterial diversity, which helps prevent chronic disease.

(One of my Fermentationists®, Gayle, calls kombucha the “designated driver’s drink” while out at the bar.)

The key to reaping the benefits of kombucha without the negative repercussions is to be aware of how often you’re drinking it and how it makes you feel.

In general, I recommend drinking kombucha no more than twice a week.

My clients weigh in with their kombucha experiences

Kevin Gianni of Annmarie Skin Care, “The only dark side of kombucha is when you run out…. lol… We have it on tap at the office here.” 🙂

Elissa, “I used to drink lots of kombucha and loved the different flavors at the store. I also liked the idea that it was healthy, until I got a “baby” from a neighbor (that was super fun, like sharing sourdough starter) and realized how much sugar and caffeine it got fed! Yikes!”

Morray, “I have done kombucha on/off for a couple of years. I could definitely tell when it was not agreeing with my system (bloating and digestion just off), removed it for a time and have been drinking it again for a few months with no issues. I think the amount is key and I do better WITHOUT the second ferment. I have never really liked carbonation…”

Catherine, “I started making kombucha five years ago and loved it, drank it almost daily in amounts of 4 to 12 oz with no ill effects, I rarely used a second ferment.

Then over time I developed SIBO and noticed increasingly that I didn’t feel as well after drinking it. This actually helped clue me in that I had SIBO. I was drinking it less and less so I stopped producing it at home.

After a year or so without it I took a sip from my husband’s Celestial Seasoning kombucha as we were shopping in Sprouts Market one day and holy cow, one sip was enough to blow my gut up to basketball proportions. I think that brand has inulin added to it.

I didn’t touch kombucha again until I got an all-clear signal from my retest for SIBO. Now I respect the power of the ferment more and I limit my kombucha use to keeping a bottle of GT in the fridge on occasion and sipping from it as I’m passing through the kitchen.”

Myra, “The first time I ever tried it was in this program . I thought it tasted like “hard” iced tea. I like that sort of thing!” 😉

Shawn, “Like Myra, the first time I tasted it was in this program. I only had one drink of it since I do not tolerate caffeine or sugar well. My daughter loves it, however, so I am continuing to make it for her. She says it is so much better than any of the many different kombuchas she has purchased from stores, and that she never wants to buy any again!

This summer she wants me to teach her how to make it so she can make it herself and experiment with different flavors.”

Marlies, “I drank a lot of it for about 2 years. I did not realize then that drinking it in large amounts was not a good idea. My teeth started to ache and I suspected it was causing my Candida problem to flare up. Now I have it on occasion.

Jennifer Delaney, “I can drink it on occasion, but if I drink it too often I start getting headaches. I am prone to food-related migraines and know certain things must be done in moderation for me.”

Jane, “We as a family like kombucha. We go through a lot of it. I have a hard time keeping up with making it. I don’t find the alcohol in it affects us in any way. I don’t know what the alcohol content is but I’m sure it’s low. We’ve been drinking it for about two years now.

I was diagnosed borderline diabetic but was able to reverse that diagnosis. I think that the kombucha may have a part in that. I’m not sure. I know lifestyle changes affect that also-eliminating processed foods, sugar etc. My daughter had a histamine reaction to it. She does drink it but a lot less often than she used to.”

Laura, “My son, by drinking kombucha regularly, has gone from borderline constipated to 3 poops a day! He spends so much less time in the bathroom, it’s awesome.”

Is the dark side to kombucha shadowing you?

Have you been using kombucha more than you should? Maybe you experience bloat, headaches or feeling “off” after drinking it even if you barely touch the stuff. If that’s the case, it may be time for you to dive deeper into what’s going on in that glorious gut of yours.

SIBO and Candida may be making your symptoms worse. Check into the gut health labs I recommend to get a clear idea of where you’re starting.

If you’ve had gut labs completed recently and you’re ready to improve your results, my Gut Rebuilding® Program can help. Take action to reduce or eliminate your bloating, gas, indigestion, IBS, constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, anxiety, and other gut-related symptoms.

Learn more about my 8-week program that includes live coaching and the support of other students actively healing at their own pace in the Gut Rebuilding® Facebook community when you attend my free webinar.

If kombucha and your gut get along great…

And you troll the refrigerated aisles of your natural food store looking for new kombucha flavors to try,

But you would rather be hyper diligent about what goes into the food you consume (no hidden inulin or non-organic ingredients),

Plus, you love the idea of turning your kitchen into your very own DIY probiotic factory,

Then it might just be time for you to check out how to make your own kombucha (plus 13 other delicious ferments) inside my Fermented Foods 101 course.

What has your personal experience with kombucha been? Comment below and let me know.

Kombucha is an incredibly healthy product. It is commonly associated with healing a variety of ailments. This includes digestive, mental, and chronic illnesses. The combination of probiotics, digestive enzymes, antioxidants, and vitamins are a very powerful cleansing power. Your body has a delicate ecosystem. While your body adjusts, it can lead to mild discomfort. Kombucha detox symptoms are usually minor, and shortlived. The minor symptoms are usually worth it because they do not typically last long, and will make you feel better in the long run. But the more information you have when starting a kombucha detox, the better. This article is intended to let you know potential discomforts that are associated with a kombucha detox. The intention is not to scare you away from embarking on a kombucha detox.

How much kombucha daily for a detox

The amount of kombucha that you drink daily varies from person to person. What we recommend for people who are new to kombucha, and trying to do a kombucha detox, is 16oz bottle per day. If you have a caffeine intolerance or are extremely sensitive to alcohol, then start off with half of a bottle (8oz per day). A Full bottle contains about 50mg caffeine, and the alcohol percentage is usually less than 5%. After a few weeks of daily consumption, you can reduce the consumption some without reducing the effectiveness very much. With either of these quantities, your kombucha detox symptoms should not be very severe.

Kombucha and intestinal gas

Introducing healthy probiotics into your system can cause some digestive discomfort. The introduction of new probiotics into your system cause a drastic shift in your digestive biome and can cause gas and bloating. Symptoms generally go away between 3 to 10 days. Once the healthy probiotics are introduced into your system for a prolonged period of time, your body adjusts, and the food you consume is easier to digest than before drinking kombucha. If you are unusual gas that you are concerned about for more than 10 days, you should consider reducing the amount of kombucha that you are consuming.

Kombucha detox physical symptoms

Kombucha can have a profound effect on the body. The most notable thing that it does, brings your digestive system back into balance. That means the more out of balance your system was, the more of the detox symptoms you will feel as it rebalances. There are many things that can happen when you detox, but the most common symptoms have to do with digestion.

One thing you will notice when you start drinking kombucha is a huge increase in energy levels. The antioxidants help detox your body, allowing it to run more efficiently. The small amount of caffeine and Vitamin B3, B6, and B12 will give you a sustainable energy level without crashing. If you are not accustomed to any sort of energy boost, this might be overwhelming to people with sensitivities. Avoid drinking kombucha before bed until you understand how it effects you.

Kombucha and bowel movements

The abundance of probiotics, digestive enzymes, and the ability to balance the pH of your digestive system do a particularly good job of making optimal bowel movements. The first few days might be slightly irregular because your body is adjusting to a healthy balance. After your body has had a chance to adapt, your bowel movements should be easy, regular, and healthy. It is one of the most common and sought after benefits of drinking kombucha regularly.

Kombucha side effect diarrhea

Kombucha can cause diarrhea, especially if you are new to kombucha or probiotic products. The influx of new bacteria can upset your stomach for a few days, but then balance itself out pretty quickly. The more out of balance your digestive system is, the more a probiotic might affect you at first. Pay attention to your body’s reaction, and compensate accordingly. That might mean reducing the amount of kombucha that you are drinking, just powering through the discomfort, or potentially talking to a doctor if it is bad enough.

Kombucha side effects on the liver

There was a study done in 2012 by Aloulou A et that showed that kombucha has a “curative effect” on liver and kidney function. The study was done on rats, but the implication is that a similar result would happen in humans. No follow-up research on humans has been done to date, so there is still some debate on how effective it is on humans, and how much humans should be drinking for optimal effects. You can read more about this study here.

More Kombucha Detox Questions

Whenever your body goes through any type of detox, some side effects are inevitable. The kombucha detox symptoms are not different. Usually, these symptoms are they are minor, but each person has a different experience. If you have more questions about detoxing with kombucha, please refer to our FAQ page. If you do not find the answers you are looking for, please reach out to us on our contact page. We will do our best to help you find the answers you are looking for.

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