Why Kombucha Is All The Rage

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Kombucha — the fizzy, fermented, and slightly alcoholic tea — has enjoyed an explosion in popularity and mainstream awareness over the last several years, as evidenced by its transition from the kitchens of your most crunchy, eco-conscious friends to valuable shelf space in nearly every neighborhood supermarket.

So what is kombucha and does it actually do anything?

To start, kombucha is a tea brewed from tea leaves, bacteria, sugar, and yeast. Together, the bacteria and yeast form a symbiotic colony or “scoby” that allows the drink to ferment. This fermentation process makes kombucha rich in probiotics, or helpful gut bacteria, and this is the main reason that kombucha is on your radar.

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Probiotics, also found in yogurt, pickles, kefir, and kimchi, to name a few, are microorganisms that are particularly beneficial to your digestive system and gut. Though more research is needed, other studies have also linked probiotics to improving bowel health, immune system function, eczema, and allergies.

One passionate proponent of kombucha is Dr. Vincent Pedre, an internist and clinical instructor in medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, as well as the author of the book Happy Gut.” Whether it’s through a yogurt or kefir or fermented vegetables like kimchi, or a fermented probiotic drink like kombucha, fermented foods are going to help promote a healthy, balanced gut flora,” Dr. Pedre told The New York Times. “We know that the gut flora can shift very quickly depending on your diet. And I think it needs this continued support from cultured foods.”

One important thing to note about kombucha, though, is that home-brewing can get dangerous. If done incorrectly, the process can lead to molds like penicillium and aspergillus, which can then produce toxins. For safety, your best bet is to stick with store-bought kombucha. Thankfully, you’ve got dozens of brands to choose from, and there’s even kombucha beer.