Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Kombucha: A Health Food Store in Liquid Form

This article will also be available on the Nutrition in Motion blogsite.

Kombucha: A Health Food Store in Liquid Form
Sarah Reid, RHNC
Have you heard about the latest “super-drink” in the health-food world? Kombucha is a mixture of green or black tea, sugar and a live culture that ferments into a slightly fizzy, tart beverage with a host of health benefits to it’s name. A child of ancient Chinese medical technology (noted as an”elixir of life” and a source of renewing chi energy), the finished brew contains probiotics, “friendly” yeasts, live enzymes, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and other health promoting compounds.
Like all nutrients stemming from “animal” sources (including bacterially fermented items like yogurt and sauerkraut), kombucha tea is rich in living digestive enzymes and B vitamins, particularly B1, B2, B3, B6, B12 and B15. The B vitamin complex in kombucha is of particular interest to vegans, who generally lack a reliable, concentrated source of the nutrients. B vitamins are essential in the maintenance of immunity and energy production, as well as protecting the body from constricted blood vessels and the buildup of oxidized cholesterol (key causes of cardiovascular disease). The living, “good” yeast cultures and probiotic bacteria in the culture used to ferment the drink reinforce a healthy gut ecology, which not only increases the body’s resistance to infection, but reduces allergic responses to common problem foods such as wheat and eggs, prevents undigested protein “leaking” into the bloodstream (a major cause of anaphylactic reactions and the development of “new” allergies), reduces bloating and flatulence and even fights candida. Unlike other fermented beverages such as beer and wine, kombucha does not form alcohol – instead, the sugar becomes these organic probiotic acids, enzymes, minerals and vitamins.
Those with joint problems such as sprains and arthritis will also find benefits in drinking this old-yet-new beverage. One of the organic acids in kombucha (as well as other fermented vegetables) actually converts to a popular cartilage support compound known as glucosamine in the liver. Unlike supplemental forms of glucosamine, the naturally synthesized compound does not have to be re-processed by the digestive and hepatic systems in order to become helpful in forming cartilage and ligaments.
Like any item in either the conventional or natural pharmacy, there are some cases where kombucha can actually do more harm than good. Any hyper-immune responsive conditions (like HIV and AIDS) will actually be made stronger by the immune-boosting properties in the drink. Those allergic to yeast or hypersensitive to acids will also react badly to the beverage, and it has been declared by the FDA that those who are pregnant, nursing, elderly or children should not take the tea due to their compromised immune systems. Kombucha is not a standardised "medicine" with strictly controlled conditions, so officially no scientific claims can be made as to it’s benefits on the human body. However, the overwhelming amount of personal accounts regarding it’s impact on the wellbeing of the individual are beginning to bring kombucha’s prowess into the mainstream media and medical worlds.
So, what do you think about kombucha? Have you tried it, and if yes, what was it like?

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I started my "working life" as a holistic and allopathic nutritional consultant with a love of cooking. Teaching the value of wholesome meal choices to families became close to my heart after I battled a long history of struggles with weight and health, and the passion for teaching led me into where I am now. My blog, which focuses on "bringing good taste to healthier food" through creative use of whole grains, fresh produce and acknowledging the importance of the occasional treat, also features a wealth of "specialty diet" friendly recipes for gluten-, egg-, dairy- and sugar- tree nut-free items that everyone can enjoy without alienating those who need them.

Overall, I want to bring back the desire for good quality, homemade, (mostly) healthy food into the hearts and kitchens of families so that the next generation will be less box-reliant than mine. I firmly believe that any “homemade” food, even when labelled as "naughty", is a more wholesome treat than pre-packaged, cookie-cutter junk. With the knowledge of good food (and how to cook good food) as a base, a healthy lifestyle can follow, and then anything is possible!