Kombucha 101: Guest Post

This article has been written by Anand Makhija, Founder of The Culture Ko. You can connect with him here to discuss all about healthy living, entrepreneurship, and life in between🥂

It’s now been a few years since the Kombucha craze made its presence felt in India, and here is my formal attempt to introduce all of you to the exciting world of this magic, healthy elixir!

Origin of Kombucha

Let’s go back to where it all began. Mind you, like every other ancient finding, this one has it’s fair share of origin stories too!

Japan

Legend has it that in 414 AD, Japan, Dr. Kombu advocated a tea concoction for an ailing Emperor Inyoko. Referred to as ‘Kocha Kinoko’, the Emperor was treated with the ancient beverage and thus received its name ‘Kombu’ and ‘Cha’ , meaning tea!

China

It is believed Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi was in despair about his death and was on the lookout for a magical potion as a remedy for mortality. That’s when the Emperor discovered Kombucha, which then came to be known as the Tea of Immortality. In case you’re wondering, yes, the emperor remained mortal.

I guess it’s safe to say that kombucha is an ancient Asian elixir.

Tea? Vinegar? What is Kombucha made of?

Essentially, Kombucha is made by fermenting tea. The secret lies within what happens during fermentation. What starts as sweet tea turns into this delicious tangy and subtly sweet health tonic, Kombucha.
The fermentation process involves the Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY) being introduced to the ferment and feeding on the sugar and tea for 10 to 14 days.

Still sounds simple, right? Well, what happens during fermentation is actually the complex biological part of the process.

The SCOBY feeding on the sugar and tea, in turn, reproduces good bacteria and yeast in the form of probiotics. These probiotics are absolutely crucial for maintaining our gut health. Other beneficial byproducts of the fermentation include the production of B vitamins, organic acids, digestive enzymes, trace alcohol, and finally carbon dioxide that gives it its natural effervescence.

All these benefits come together to give us a true superfood, Kombucha Tea!

Kombucha Flavoring 101

Right now, if you’re thinking to yourself, how will some plain ol’ fermented tea tickle my tastebuds, then, wait for it! Flavoring kombucha has no limitations. From using herbs to spices to fruits and even vegetables, the possibilities are endless.

The process of flavoring kombucha is what is commonly referred to as the Secondary Fermentation. While it is not essential to do this, there are two main reasons why Kombucha brewers absolutely love a good secondary fermentation. First, the new flavor, and second, it’s the natural fizz that gets every kombucha brewer bubbling with life.

This process generally takes 24 to 48 hours, where the bacteria feed on the sugars to produce carbon dioxide. Since the fermentation is done in airtight bottles, the carbon dioxide is trapped within the kombucha and that my friends, is how we get our fizzy booch!

What makes Kombucha so special?

Simply put, the rich cultures of gut friendly bacteria, the little bugs for our gut, the probiotics, and of course, the B-vitamins, the organic acids,the antioxidants and the live digestive enzymes, all packed together in one drink, is what makes Kombucha very hard to beat.


I. Probiotics

Our gut is lined with trillions of microbiome. In fact, we have more bacterial cells than human cells in our body! So…how do probiotics support our health?

Gut Health– The trillions of bacteria in our gut, collectively referred to as the gut microbiota, are essential for a multitude of bodily functions and are absolutely essential for good health. With all these bacterial cells, we definitely need to ensure that it’s the right kind of microbiome that does us more good than harm. And that’s exactly when probiotics come into play.

Probiotics simply repopulate our gut with good bacteria that multiply and keep the bad bacteria in check. This has benefits beyond measure, from immunity to mental health. Our gut bacteria is accredited with having an indispensable effect on every part of our being.

Immunity– Did you know!? 70% of our immune system keeps guard in our gut! The probiotics in our gut serve as the first line of defense for any pathogens (harmful bacteria) that enter our body. The probiotics literally bar these pathogens from colonizing in our guts in turn protecting our immune systems.

So, next time we consume kombucha, let’s picture little probiotic soldiers bordering our guts and defending us from the colonization of pathogens in our bodies. (We definitely know that no form of uninvited colonization can be good for us, if you know what I mean #BeenThereDoneThat

Mental Health – If you’ve gotten this far then you should already be convinced that kombucha is great for you, but hold on, there’s more! 90% of our serotonin, the happy-making neurotransmitter lies in our gut too. Health experts from all over the world have extensively researched to understand how gut health affects mental health.

Ever heard of The Gut-Brain Connect?

Our gut and brain are connected to each other in two ways. First, physically, through the vagus nerve, and second, chemically, through neurotransmitters.This connection is what is commonly referred to as the gut brain axis. A fascinating term that not only explains why our mental health can affect our gut microbiome, but also, why a disrupted gut microbiome can be the reason for some of our mental health issues.

Nutrient Absorption & Digestion – Picture this: You’re eating healthy every day, you’re exercising regularly, your training & nutrition is at the best it can be. But, you’re still not achieving your desired results. You’re working so hard to improve yourself and always wondering what the missing link is. The answer lies, you guessed it right, deep within your gut, and the trillions of bacteria that live in it.

Basis our lifestyle and habits, studies show that our body is able to absorb only 10% to 90% of all nutrients that we consume. But the good news is, we can optimize our nutrient absorption from the foods we consume by consuming probiotics.

II. Antioxidants

The term antioxidants is so commonly used in the health industry, but have you ever stopped to think they actually do for our body? And please God no, ‘Detox’ is not the answer.

To better understand antioxidants, it’s imperative we understand what free radicals are. It’s going to get a tad bit technical, so stay with me.

Our body is constantly under attack from compounds called free radicals. In simple terms, free radicals are the waste products of chemical processes within our body, for example, the metabolism of our food. The food we eat, the medicines we take, the air pollution we breathe, basically our complete lifestyle, is what causes free radicals to build up.

Now, free radicals once built up cause oxidative stress on our bodies and damage our cells, and this is linked to a bunch of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Cancer, Arthritis and aging. Excessive free radicals make us age faster and more susceptible to major diseases.

So we definitely need to prevent these free radicals, right? Here’s exactly where antioxidants come into play!

Sometimes literally referred to as ‘free radical scavengers’, antioxidants prevent free radicals from attacking our bodies, and this is the essential role of antioxidants. You’re probably wondering how antioxidants do that? Well that’s a whole other science class for another day.

III. Acetic acid

The main benefit of acetic acid is its aid in digestion. More specifically, it improves our body’s insulin sensitivity and prevents spikes in the blood sugar levels. A spoonful of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) every morning has been a more popular source of acetic acid, but, you could be enjoying some chilled bubbly booch and still getting that dose of acetic acid!

So, who are we kidding, nobody really enjoys drinking ACV, do we?

IV. Glucosamines

Those of us who lift heavy weights or do any intense form of exercise, more often than not, tend to face some form of joint aches. The crucial role of glucosamine is to maintain bone and joint health. Studies indicate that glucosamine is essential in forming cartilage and tissues between joints and ensuing optimal joint health. Often forgotten, but another amino sugar that is abundant in Kombucha, is glucosamines.

V. B Vitamins

Kombucha is a great source of B Vitamins and adds to the very limited vegetarian/vegan list of sources for B Vitamins. If you’re vegetarian/vegan, there’s a high chance you have a B Vitamin deficiency, especially B12. The major sources of B Vitamins are meat, fish and other smaller sources include milk and eggs.

B Vitamins carry out multiple essential functions, one of the main functions of B Vitamins is to convert the food we eat into glucose, and hence provide us with energy. So, if you’re vegan/vegetarian, you know now why even though you’re eating enough, you’re still feeling sluggish and low on energy.

How can we incorporate Kombucha into our lifestyle!?

Let me address this through some of the few commonly asked questions people always ask me.

‘How much Kombucha should I consume in a day?’

For booch virgins, like most of you, 250ml a day should do the job. Once you’re an avid kombucha drinker and your gut loves it as much as you do, feel free to go bottoms up!

‘When should I consume it?’

Well, since the idea is to consume it everyday, I’d say drink it at a time that fits into your lifestyle. According to me it makes for one hell of a pick-me-up in the mornings and with a dash of gin, it helps me wind up my day!

Can I mix Kombucha with alcohol!?

Absolutely! Please stop having sugar-laden mixers like coke & sprite if you still do. Your fizzy friend is here!

Can I consume ‘too much’ Kombucha?

Although Kombucha, just like other fermented beverages, has an acquired taste, I warn you, you could get obsessed. No teenager, at 16 who tried beer for the first time ever liked it, right? But once you acquire the taste, yup, we all know how that goes! The only difference here is that kombucha is actually really great for you. But of course, excessive consumption of anything is not advisable. So, I’d say stick to 500ml a day and you’re good to go!

We at The Culture Ko. strongly believe that probiotics like Kombucha deserve a place in every individual’s diet.

It’s gut to be good!

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