I love kombucha, but when I first heard about the drink I had no idea it was a probiotic, or even what probiotics were. If you have similar questions, hopefully I can clear some things up for you.
Kombucha is a probiotic because it is full of a living culture of beneficial bacteria and yeast. These bacteria and yeast ferment the sugar and caffeine from the sweet tea that kombucha starts as, into alcohol, acetic acid, and carbon dioxide to make kombucha. Probiotics may improve digestive function, lower risk of diarrhea, and promote weight loss.
In this article I’ll cover exactly what probiotics are, their benefits, what kinds are in kombucha, and why they're there at all. Lets get started!
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a probiotic drink made from fermented tea that has become quite popular in recent years due to its great taste and many health benefits such as improved digestion and gut health, detoxification, and immune system strengthening.
What are Probiotics
Usually, when we think of bacteria, we only think of the bad ones. The truth is there are tons of bacteria in our bodies that we need to survive. In fact, right now there are over 100 trillion bacteria in your gut alone!
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria and yeast living in your body that keep your gut and digestive system healthy.
When you eat foods or drink drinks with probiotics, you're making sure your gut is supplied with enough of the good bacteria and other microorganisms to keep your body functioning properly. Some of the benefits of consuming probiotics are:
Improved digestive function
Lower risk of diarrhea
Improved mental health
Boosted energy levels
Potential weight loss
Why are Probiotics in Kombucha?
The probiotics in kombucha come from the B and Y parts of the SCOBY. SCOBY is an acronym that stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast and is a living bacteria culture used in the kombucha brewing process to turn the sweet tea that kombucha starts as into sour and tasty kombucha.
The SCOBY does this by eating the sugar and caffeine in the tea, and producing alcohol, acids, and carbon dioxide.
When most people speak of the SCOBY, they’re talking about the ¼ inch to 2 inch thick jelly-like disk or film of living bacteria that sits on top of brewing kombucha. This disk on the surface of the booch is actually called the pellicle.
The pellicle is a mat of cellulose, which is basically a bunch of sugar strung together by the bacteria. If you look at a pellicle through a microscope, you can actually watch the bacteria creating these strings of sugar. It’s pretty cool.
Technically, the pellicle is part of the SCOBY, but it’s not all of it. The probiotics that make up the SCOBY are actually floating throughout all the kombucha sort of like soup so that when you drink kombucha, you’re drinking small pieces of the SCOBY and getting probiotic benefits.
What Probiotics Are in Kombucha
Unfortunately, there has not been a ton of research on the types of bacteria that ferment kombucha. So lets talk about what we do know from the studies that have been done.
For one, we know that not all SCOBYs are the same. For example your SCOBY likely has a different amount of certain strains of bacteria and yeast than mine, different activity levels of these organisms, and may even have one or two types of bacteria that mine doesn’t even have.
The fact that every kombucha culture is its own unique colony of bacteria and yeast is probably part of what makes figuring out exactly what probiotics are in kombucha difficult, because the findings of one kombucha culture may not apply to all of them.
We do know that the two most numerous types of bacteria found in kombucha are Acetobacter and Gluconacetobacter. These are both types of bacteria that produce acetic acid and are responsible for the vinegar flavor in kombucha.
A few strains of yeast that have been found to consistently be in kombucha are saccharomyces, brettanomyces, and zygosaccharomyces. These yeast give kombucha a lot of its health benefits, and produce acetic acid, alcohol, and carbonation.
Other Healthy Probiotic Foods
If you aren't a fan of the taste of kombucha but still want to enjoy its probiotic benefits, there are plenty of other healthy probiotic rich foods for you to eat instead.
Yogurt is one of the best food sources of probiotics, reducing diarrhea and relieving the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Just make sure you check the label to see if it has a live bacteria culture.
Kefir, a fermented probiotic milk drink, is full of diverse and potent probiotics that may improve bone health, help with some digestive problems, and protect against infections
And sauerkraut, a shredded and fermented cabbage, has lots of probiotic qualities, and also healthy vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Although there has not been extensive research into all the probiotics in kombucha specifically, probiotics in general have been found to have tons of health benefits.
There are multiple ways to get probiotics into your body, but kombucha is easily my favorite because of how fun and tasty it is. If you’re curious about kombucha and want to learn more about it, be sure to check out the rest of my website! I’ve written an article about pretty much any question you could have!