Why I Stopped Drinking Kombucha

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Kombucha Tea-2

Everyone who comes to see me learns about the importance of fermented foods.  I show people how to make sauerkraut, kimchi and beet kvass.  In my office I stock books about making fermented vegetables.  I also stock starter cultures for things yogurt, kefir and the one that’s all the rage these days… kombucha.

I tell all my clients about kombucha and in my weight loss class we even have a kombucha sampling at the end of our week 4 discussion about fermented foods.

If you haven’t yet been swept up by the kombucha crazy train, you may be wondering what kombucha is.  Kombucha is a traditional fermented beverage and it has numerous health benefits.   I use it with clients to help them control sugar cravings as it has a faint hint of sweetness. It’s also great for digestion as it contains a wonderful array of beneficial bacteria that keep our intestinal environment healthy.

And for several years I’ve been drinking it regularly.

So then why did I stop drinking it?

Plain and simple.  I got sick of it.

Like really sick of it.

But like many phases in my life my kombucha phase had a great run.  I made it at home, gave away cultures (aka kombucha mushrooms) to friends and strangers, had seemingly endless conversations about it on various message boards and even made a how to make kombucha video!

Initially, it was fun brewing it at home and watching the cultures grow and multiply.  But last fall I started noticing that after two weeks of brewing the next batch, I’d barely touched the previous batch in my fridge.

So eventually I had to listen to my taste buds and admit that it was time to move on.  I threw away the mushrooms and dumped my last overly fermented batch down the drain about three weeks ago.

But I think there’s a deeper dynamic to why this happened.

Recent scientific research has shown a strong connection between our food cravings and the composition of our gut bacteria.

One of the theories of why people with yeast/candida overgrowth crave sugar so much is that it’s the yeast that are creating the cravings.

Yeast feed on sugar and if too much sugar becomes available, they can start to overgrow and squeeze out the other bacteria that keep our intestinal environment thriving and healthy.  This is akin to an overgrowth of algae in a pond.  When too much of a particular nutrient becomes available, algae can overgrow which in turns makes oxygen less available which can kill much of the marine life in the pond.

I believe the opposite dynamic can happen when we eat too much of one type of cultured food (or any food for that matter).   Our gut bacteria will literally make us get sick of it.  So we (or they) crave variety to keep our (or their) internal ecosystem healthy.

Remember, Science has identified at least 400 different strains of bacteria that live in our guts and they play dozens of roles in keeping us healthy. Different fermented foods present different strains of beneficial bacteria and those strains will vary depending on many factors.  For example, the bacteria from a fermented vegetable will vary depending on the type of vegetable and the soil and climate it was grown in.

We have about ten times more bacteria that live in our gut than we have cells in our body!

Eating a variety of fermented foods is a good way to ensure their health and yours.

There are tons of great resources for learning how to ferment foods on your own.  Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz is my personal favorite.  And of course, Nourishing Traditions has a great section on cultured foods.

If you’re not quite ready to tackle home fermenting projects just yet, visit your local health food store for some good quality products.

You can also find some great online sources of kombucha on the VGN Marketplace.

Note: the above links are affiliate links.  I do make a small commission if you purchase a product but the price is the same for you.  These commission help pay for the cost of this site.  It ain’t free!  So I appreciate your support.  Click here to learn more about affiliate links.

Of course I’ll be passing on the kombucha for the time being but who knows, maybe I’ll be craving it again in the future.

To learn more about the health benefits of cultured foods check out the following blog post I wrote last year:

http://www.pvnutritionaltherapy.com/why-you-should-eat-more-bacteria-seriously/

And if you’re new to fermented foods, keep in mind they’re a bit of an acquired taste.  Don’t give up on them if you find their taste overly sour at first.  Stick with it, and I bet that in a relatively short time, you’ll not only be eating them regularly, you’ll want to eat them regularly.

Or perhaps I should say they will want you to eat them regularly.

Photo credit: Kombucha Tea-2 by zeeweez, on Flickr


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Comments

  1. Thanks for this!
    I feel truly that I can eat anything as long as I have no FEAR of it. AND knowing people who live on prana alone, I am less tied to food fadism, and more awake to listening to my body. This is helpful info, though, from a professional….eater? And nutritionist.
    I am a yoga teacher – like your approach to this also.
    Blessings, Elizabeth Bunker

    • Thanks, Elizabeth. When you say you know people who live on prana alone, you mean just the breath, correct? Could you say more about this? Seems hard to believe but at the same time I’ve learned enough about life to know that so much is possible beyond what we think and know as “normal.” If I get around to it my next post will be about my own experiences with meditation and how food affects me when I’m in a place of awareness and when I’m not.

  2. Susan Roth says:

    Good post Craig!
    I always find myself craving different foods with the change of seasons, especially, mostly with what is seasonal. But my question is this-most of the societies that Weston A. Price studied who were healthy, not only didn’t eat a variety of foods,their diets were pretty limited to healthy, but a very small section of food. Do you think because we have so many choices, that our bodies have adapted to “needing” change in good microbes sources, or maybe that Kombucha is not a natural part of our diet and that we can’t tolerate on a regular basis? I find I like to have it a couple of times a week, to have with meals ( or in place of coffee, which has snuck back into my life, although in limited amounts). Have you found that some of your clients can’t tolerate it all?
    I stopped making the continous brew, make a batch that I get four bottles out of for the week, which seems to be just about right, plus I ususally share at least one bottle with a friend. On a final note, you posted this just as I was thinking about the place of Kombucha in the probiotic food plan. Thanks for a good perspective! Happy Spring.
    Susan

    • Hi Susan,

      Actually I think traditional diets were incredibly varied, probably more so than we think and certainly more than what most people eat today. I read somewhere once that the average American eats only about 20-25 different things whereas the average native diet consisted of hundreds of different foods including variations on specific foods. For example, in Korea there are hundreds of varieties of kimchi with different vegetables and spices depending on the season. So even though you might say that a specific culture only used one or two different fermented foods (or any food for that matter) in their diet, upon closer inspection you’ll see great variations depending on many factors. So yes, I think we all need variety and I think eating foods in season is the key.

      Regarding kombucha, I have found that many clients don’t like the taste of it initially but none that say it gives them any sort of reaction to where they can’t tolerate it. And most eventually start to like it and even crave it.

  3. maybe you can help? when i was fermenting veges in australia i was using a probiotic drink as a starter. I was wondering if using the fermented kombucha tea would work the same way? on of our brews is very vinegary! or what else i could use as a starter? Thanks mr Fear!

    • Hi Noah, I’m not aware of kombucha being used as a starter culture for fermenting veggies. Maybe you could be the first to try it! But I know whey is a very reliable starter culture. Water or milk kefir grains can be used too. And juice from the previous batch of veggies can also be used.

      Craig

  4. Vicki Cash says:

    Craig,

    I notice that on commercial kombucha products, the sugar content is listed as 12 gms/serving. Are you saying that this doesn’t act like regular sugar in someone who is diabetic? i am diabetic and have tried kombucha once – it was delicious, but I’m afraid it might stimulate insulin production for me.

    I even have trouble with things like stevia – it makes me terribly hungry. I know I am very sensitive. Any insights you have would be greatly appreciated.

    Vicki

    • Hi Vicki,

      If it says 12gms of sugar/serving, that’s definitely regular sugar. They either added it or they didn’t let it ferment long enough (I’m guessing the former). True kombucha shouldn’t have any added sugar.

      Craig

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