Ditch the Kombucha

Ditch the Kombucha
Ditch the Kombucha

I get dizzy these days when I step into Wholefoods or my local health food store when I see the Kombucha selection.

It’s overwhelming. So many colors. Some sparkle out of the corner of my eye. The ones made out of coconut jump out at me, cause hey- give me coconut anything, all day long. So tantalizing.

And let’s not forget how magical the effervescence can be on a hot summer day. What could be more tempting? A bubbly, rainbow bright drink, claiming right there on the label that’s its great for my belly….. Probiotics. Minerals. B Vitamins, Amino Acids.

My soul mate in a bottle? But then I stop. I bite me own hand.

You see, Kombucha makes me SICK. And not just a little sick, but sick, sick. Like fangs and claws protruding if anyone else dare occupy my lavatory sick. Been down this road several times, in the name of fermented drink exploration. Done and done.

This may sound extreme- because it is. But, I’m an extreme case. And, so are many of my followers and patients. The times we live in are not comparable to a hundred years ago. Digestive illness is an epidemic now. For so many reasons. It’s beyond complicated. Resolution of symptoms is possible….but it takes everything we’ve got to get there, and then some.

The American Cancer society themselves warn people with cancer, HIV and immune related illness patients to stay away from Kombucha. For once I actually agree with an American Health Organization.

Soooo……it comes from China and is 2,000 years old. Candida wasn’t even really a thing then. Neither were GMO’s, chem trails or vaccines. What may have worked once upon a time for digestion now has a high chance of causing serious problems.

“Immortal Health Elixer?” Come on. If Kombucha was the secret to fixing dysbiosis I would be out of a job.

It doesn’t fix dysbiosis or even really support it. In fact, I believe it often makes things worse. And sometimes….way, way worse; particularly for those with chronic, stubborn dysbiosis. When a gut is inflamed, it is hypersensitive and is extremely vulnerable to microbes.

Drinking fermented anything while experiencing ill digestive health is a potential invitation for an even larger variety of yeast and bacteria to come set up shop, while also providing the very food source (sugar) for the existing microbes.

Why? Ok. Here we go.

Mostly, because Kombucha is primarily YEAST. And bacteria. But largely- yeast. With a heavy dose of sugar also included in the beverage- which of course feeds Candida, and any other pathogenic microbes. It might even actually contain Candida Albicans, the very same opportunistic yeast that so many reach out to me about every week, practically on their knees trying to rid it from their bodies.

In one study, investigators found that two samples of home brewed kombucha (from a pool of 32) were contaminated with Candida albicans — the same opportunistic yeast that can take over your gut and invade your body. While this is one small study concerning two samples (that came from the same home), it drives home the fact that kombucha is a wild ferment.

You never really know what’s in your tea fungus or SCOBY. And microbes work together — the presence of one can easily trigger the growth of another.

Scientists can tell us about general trends. For example, there are specific strains of yeast and bacteria that show up in tea fungus again and again. That said, the SCOBY in your home brewed kombucha changes according to its environment. It can become contaminated, housing molds and fungi that cause illness.

Kombucha contains a lot more more yeast than bacteria. A particular yeast known as Zygosaccharomyces bailii or Z. bailii — is common in Kombucha. Like Candida, Z. bailii also produces acetaldehyde. And, you guessed it, feeds on sugar. Acetaldehyde is a carcinogen, found in disinfectants, drugs, perfumes, cigarette smoke and car exhaust; not to mention power plants factories and burning trash.

At high enough levels in the body, it can lead to a rapid pulse, sweating, skin flushing, nausea, and vomiting. (Yes, a hangover qualifies as too much acetaldehyde). This toxic molecule can eventually damage the gut, and even find its way into other tissues in the body.

Lastly, Kombucha can be tragic for those with histamine issues (or full blown mast cell activation syndrome). It is more common that not now in my practice for patients to have some degree of histamine sensitivity. It has increasingly become a foundational issue that must be prioritized in order for resolution of digestive symptoms.

The degree of histamine intolerance lies on a spectrum and can fluctuate from week to week, month to month. Often, a person can have a “flare” that’s triggered by something.

Kombucha could most certainly be a trigger to initiate such an event. Fermented food and drink are high in histamine (which is why I usually recommended those suffering from chronic digestive issues to avoid). High yeast content can start activating mast cells. When mast cells go hay-wire the result is inflammation causing a cascade of symptoms.

For a more in depth look into histamine sensitivity and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, check out my blog here.

Of course there are potential benefits of Kombucha. There are some supposed strains found in legit brews such as Lactobacillus and Sacchromyces. Also, some studies show it might have some antimicrobial effects because of specific acids like acetate and butyrate that it produces. It does contain lots of B vitamins, minerals and polyphenols.

However, for those suffering from severe digestive issues (or health problems in general), I do wonder if the costs outweigh the benefits. In fact, I believe they do.

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