Kombucha craze: The importance of gut health

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Over the past few years, kombucha has exploded across the health food market. You can’t walk through a grocery store without being force-fed GT Dave’s Gingerade brew.

But do any of us really know what the benefits of drinking kombucha are? Do we even know if there are benefits? Sure, it says organic on the label and it kind of tastes like vinegar, but how much do we really know about kombucha?

Well, kombucha is fermented. Just like sauerkraut and kimchi, kombucha is full of good bacteria that benefits our gut. Fermented foods “give our bodies some good bacteria,”  family nurse practitioner Bianca Braxton said during a 2020 interview with Normal Regional Health System.

“Processed foods and medications can take away good bacteria. Fermented foods put it back,” she explained. But really, how important is gut health anyway? For the majority, a healthy gut is simply described as not having constant diarrhea, but professionals may think otherwise. 

“It’s the number one  thing we think of,”  Dr. Jennifer Charron, Naturopathic Doctor at The Natural Way Clinic in Waterloo said. 

“There’s a lot of trickle-down benefits [of addressing gut health],” she explained, from “hormones, mental wellness, [the] immune system. [The gut is] the key area to provide productive benefits.”

So, what happens when the microbial bacteria in the gut — the thing kombucha is said to feed — is subject to degradation? If the health of our gut is so key, there must be some negative effects when the gut fails to perform optimally — or we fail to help it.

“There is a direct connection with neurotransmitter production [and] brain hormone production,” said Charron. “Without levels of good hormones, individuals are more likely to be affected by depression, anxiety, low energy,” amongst other side effects.

The health of our gut is important. If not for the sake of dry, solid bowel movements, for the sake of our mental well-being. Although it may not be true that we have all the control over the state of our gut, it is true that we at least have some influence.

There are always ways of improving one’s gut health. Charron mentioned “addressing an imbalance of the microbiome,” which can be done by, well, visiting a naturopath.

Other ways to improve your gut health are by taking a probiotic, eating nutrient-dense diets with fiber rich foods—such as root vegetables—avoiding anti-inflammatory and processed foods, getting good sleep and managing your stress, suggested Charron.

But what about kombucha? How does that fit into the mix? Well, provided someone’s microbiome is healthy “eating fermented food can support the maintenance of a good microbiome. It can be a daily good thing.”

“But if there is an existing imbalance, kombucha can cause flare ups,” Charron said. 

So, to improve gut health, it is first important to address an imbalance. Talking to a professional such as a naturopath or a gastroenterologist are two quick ways of seeking assistance in gut- related struggles.

Kombucha is an interesting product that can  be beneficial. But there are stronger, more fortifying ways of improving the health of your digestive organs — especially if you feel there may be an issue. Addressing your diet, sleep schedule and stress management skills are all great ways of attempting to improve the health of your gut.

If you believe there may be an issue with your gut, reach out for help. Kombucha can support the maintenance of a healthy microbiome, but don’t expect it to cure cancer. Talk to your family practitioner or reach out to a naturopath if you are experiencing concerning symptoms with your gut. Trust me, they know a lot more than GT Dave.

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