Saturday, January 14, 2012

Health Facts About Kombucha

Kombucha is a culture made up of yeasts and bacteria. Natural-foods manufacturers ferment the microorganisms with black tea to make a product known as kombucha tea. Kombucha cultures are also available for sale for home fermentation. The resulting beverage is acidic and somewhat carbonated. The tea may have health benefits according to mostly anecdotal reports, but it may pose risks as well. Consult your doctor before adding it to your diet.

Potential Toxicity

In 2009, the "Journal of Intensive Care Medicine" published the case of an HIV-infected individual who developed lactic acidosis within 12 hours of drinking kombucha tea. Lactic acidosis occurs when the pH of your blood and tissues becomes abnormally acidic. Other individuals have experienced liver dysfunction shortly after drinking kombucha tea, some of whom died. The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center lists liver damage, jaundice, nausea, vomiting, allergic reactions, headaches, neck pain and death as health problems potentially associated with kombucha toxicity.

Other Health Concerns

Kombucha is susceptible to contamination from airborne spores if fermented under nonsterile conditions. When you drink tea contaminated with foreign organisms, you can become ill. Besides, kombucha's pH is low, whether prepared in a sterile industrial facility or at home. Consuming the tea may neutralize the therapeutic effects of drugs formulated for absorption in an environment with a human's normal pH.

The Claims

Promoters of Kombucha tea claim that the product can treat hypertension, raise T-cell counts and improve acne, fatigue and headaches. The tea is also marketed to individuals with atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancer and AIDS, among other conditions.

The Known Facts

As of fall 2010, no scientific publication had published results of any human clinical trials testing the health benefits of kombucha tea, according to the American Cancer Society. The organization also says that the tea's low pH allows it to absorb the components of the brewing container you use. If you ferment it in a bowl made of lead crystal, for example, the drink can be contaminated with the metal. The fermentation process also makes the tea alcoholic. On the positive side, kombucha's chemical analysis shows that the organism is rich in B-complex vitamins. Check with your doctor before self-treating with kombucha tea.

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