Living the WELL Life

Are Health Drinks Healthy? by Joe Wheeler

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I recently tried Kombucha, a fermented tea touting health properties, for the first time and decided that after 30 days of use and research I’d write about my experience. Kombucha goes back thousands of years in Eastern countries such as China and Japan, but I’m one of those Westerners to whom it was brand new.  So, my question in trying something new and healthy in the way of food or drink was how to make an informed decision. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype about something trendy, whether good or bad.

My first step was to find reliable sources of information. I’m grateful to Alex Pitkin, one of our Nutrition Coaches at iBeamforLife who knew some of the best places to find scientifically based studies. Your doctor could be of help in this as well. Good starting places include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Library of Medicine.

Less is more. From the studies that Alex provided, I found less is more, especially with something new. The idea behind Kombucha, which is made from fermenting a mushroom of the same name in black tea, is that you drink lots of water when ingesting the ferment to remove toxins from your body. This is a cleansing drink, and you don’t want to take in more than 4 ounces per day, although most bottles of Kombucha are 8 ounces. Moderation and a max of 4 ounces per day are key.  Think of it like you’re having a small cup of tea – but with plenty of water before and after throughout the day. 

Listen to your body.  Be ready to stop anything new if a small amount doesn’t agree with you. Trying new foods and drinks can be like a big chemistry experiment, eliciting all sorts of physical responses. So be more aware than usual about how you feel. Also, if you are embarking on a new big health treatment, remember to check in with someone.  You may need to consult with your doctor or tell trusted people in your life. Support from a team is good thing.

Don’t rely on one thing. No one drink or food or medicine or exercise will do it all. My 30 days of Kombucha was a learning experience, with no evident positive or negative side effects. I might drink one now and then from a trusted, store-bought source but I’ll continue to drink lots of water, eat well and strive to keep balance with good habits for when life throws its occasional curve balls.

My bottom line on Kombucha. If you’re looking for a non-dairy boost of probiotics (like the good bacteria found in yogurt that support digestion) in a tasty, soda-like form, then this can deliver. My original intent was to find non-dairy, non-pill sources of probiotics and my occasional use of kombucha fits the bill here.  After 30 days I felt about the same overall but can note feeling really great the first week of use.  That being said, some studies show there are risks of contamination and some cases of illness reported.   So be careful!  Store-bought Kombucha is your best bet.  Look for the expiration dates on the bottles. Variety is still my best choice for getting all the nutrients my body needs.  To keep things interesting matcha (ground imperial green tea) and tempeh (fermented soy) with pickled vegetables are my go-to sources to add variety and fun to my food choices. Variety is the watchword for me and knowing which food and drink choices have the most nutritional bang for the buck is essential. That’s what really keeps me moving.


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