Lining the cold drink aisle at your local grocery store, you'll find the newest and most popular way to consume probiotics called kombucha. This fermented tea drink is low in calories and designed to be high in probiotics that are "good" bacteria beneficial for your health.
A study from the National Institutes of Health suggests that incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet can help aid in your gut's ability to communicate with the brain. There are also positive results in neurological, developmental and behavioral treatments, as well as benefits to overall digestive and immune health.
So is kombucha the best way to consume your probiotics? There is some debate on how effective commercially made probiotic drinks actually are. While there are few long-term studies on the benefits of drinking probiotic-rich fermented drinks like kombucha, probiotics have shown to be effective with diarrhea, immune health, gastroenteritis, induced C. diff. and relapse of inflammatory bowel disease. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, check with your doctor before drinking kombucha.
If you are looking for a higher dose of probiotics, try fresh probiotic drinks, such as homemade smoothies, sweetened with natural sweeteners, such as raw honey, berries and other fruit. Other naturally fermented products include kimchee, sauerkraut, pickles, kefir, miso, yogurt, tempeh and apple cider vinegar.
When consuming and making your own probiotics,
- Consume probiotics with a meal containing fat for maximum efficiency.
- Listen to your body and cut back if you have uncomfortable symptoms.
- Keep your probiotics under 120 degrees, because they become ineffective if cooked.
- Make small batches so they can be consumed quickly. The longer in storage, the less effective.
The next time you are looking to add probiotics to your diet, remember that making kombucha at home is less than half the price of the store variety and only takes a clean glass jar, tea bags, a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), a coffee filter and a rubber band. You can purchase a fresh SCOBY, make your own or ask a friend who brews kombucha to share. Remember, though, that fermentation takes time, so patience is key.
Yields 1 gallon
1 cup sugar
3 1/2 quarts water
8 bags black tea or green tea (or 2 tablespoons loose tea)
2 cups starter from the last batch or store-bought kombucha
1 SCOBY per fermentation jar
Optional: 2 cups fresh chopped fruit or juice
Boil water, stir in the sugar and dissolve. Add the tea and steep to room temperature. Place in cooler until cold. Strain or remove the tea bags. Add the starter tea.
Transfer into jars and add the SCOBY. Cover the top of the jar with a coffee filter. Allow to ferment for 7 to 10 days at room temperature out of the sunlight. Begin to taste it after 7 days.
Once it is at the desired sweetness, remove the SCOBY. Bottle and refrigerate.