Kombucha dates back to China at least 2,200 years ago, where it was consumed for its energizing and detoxifying health effects. However, only recently has this tasty fermented drink been empirically studied for its health benefits.
Among the variety of known health benefits, one popular question remains to be understood further: Can kombucha tea can help with weight loss? The kombucha health benefits are wide-ranging and increasingly backed by scientific studies.
This article will outline the various ways that Kombucha can contribute to a thinner waistline and an overall healthier body.
A Healthy Gut is a Healthy Body
When our microbiome is happy, we are happy. The gut microbiome, or the microbial community inhabiting our stomach and intestines, is something like a war zone. Hundreds of bacterial species numbering in the trillions, some good for us and some not so good, are all competing with each other for precious gastrointestinal real estate. With each glass of Kombucha, you introduce billions of probiotics (or, “good bacteria”) that help to regulate and rebalance the digestive system. There is increasingly strong evidence that healthy gut flora is associated with improved digestive, nervous, and systemic health through its interaction with hormones and the gut-brain axis, to name a few of the understood mechanisms.
When the microbial ecosystem in the gut is disrupted, one suffers from dysbiosis, which can lead to a host of health effects ranging from food sensitivities to sugar cravings, skin issues, and more. Recent research has found a significant correlation between gut microbiota and obesity and weight loss. In one exciting study, researchers found that microbiota transplants confer physical characteristics such as body weight from donor to recipient. That is to say, transplanting an “obese” microbiota into a lean mouse makes the mouse gain weight, and similarly, a “lean” mouse microbiota transplant protects mice from gaining weight.
Kombucha’s Fat Burning Properties
The body is more efficient at burning fat and metabolizing when gut health is optimal. When gut microbial health is unbalanced, sugar cravings and unhealthy binge-eating can result, since sugar is a beloved source of fuel that bad bacteria enjoy, as opposed to fiber.
Since Kombucha is commonly made from green tea, many of green tea’s health benefits translate over to Kombucha. For one, drinking green tea can increase the number of calories you burn, reduce belly fat, control blood sugar levels, and improve cholesterol levels. The caffeine present aids in burning fat and increasing exercise performance. EGCG, an antioxidant present in green tea (and therefore some types of Kombucha), is an inhibitor of an enzyme that breaks down norepinephrine. When this enzyme is inhibited, epinephrine levels increase and promote the breakdown of fat into usable energy.
These metabolism-stimulating properties are particularly powerful when consumed consistently and combined with a whole food diet consisting mostly of plants.
Kombucha As a Post Workout Recovery Drink
Kombucha is a much healthier alternative to the often sugary, blood sugar-spiking post workout drinks. Up to 90% of the sugars added to Kombucha are used as fuel by the yeast in the fermentation process, leading to a fizzy, tasty tea with only 30 calories and just three to seven grams of sugar (fructose, specifically) per eight-ounce serving. Although alcohol is also produced by the fermentation process, the final product is rarely more than .5% alcohol for commercial products. In general, many find that using Kombucha as a replacement to sodas and other sugary drinks plays a substantial role in weight reduction and an overall healthier body.
As a result of the by-products of the live cultures, the drink also contains many essential B-vitamins, minerals, and enzymes which may increase energy levels and promote muscle recovery, facilitating lean muscle mass. As an added benefit, the glucuronic acid produced by the yeast and glucosamine present promote joint health and protect them from wear and tear.
In addition to replenishing your body with many essential vitamins and minerals, Kombucha also contains many antioxidants such as EGCG that helps reduce inflammation and clean up the oxidative stress-inducing free radicals that are created during exercise. The antioxidants, polyphenols, and phytonutrients present will also speed up your metabolism, leading to reduced fatigue and improving workout recovery times.
The drink’s acidity will promote an alkaline state and balance the pH in the body, making it an ideal environment for nutrient absorption and body detoxification. The detoxifying effects of the organic acids will support liver function whose cells are crucial for breaking down fat.
Poor digestion is one common cause of weight gain. As a consequence of the beneficial microbes present, Kombucha will facilitate the absorption of nutrients from post-workout meals as well as supporting general immune system health.
More Benefits of Drinking Kombucha
Many Kombucha-drinker success stories mention the appetite-suppressing effects of the tea. While human studies haven’t confirmed this, the caffeine and other compounds present in the tea may be responsible for reducing appetite and promoting weight loss.
Various health-promoting organic acids are produced as a byproduct of the fermentation process, some of which include lactic acid, acetic acid, gluconic acid, and citric acid. These acids have been shown to suppress the proliferation of undesired microorganisms in the gut, letting probiotics thrive that metabolize bile acids that breakdown fats and regulate hormones associated with blood sugar and feelings of satiety (fullness).
Further, there has been evidence in rat studies to support kombucha’s beneficial role in the treatment and prevention of diabetes. In addition to liver-kidney function protecting properties, Kombucha was found to have suppressing effects on blood glucose levels and the alpha-amylase enzyme, an enzyme secreted in the intestinal epithelium that is crucial for carbohydrate digestion.
Acetic acid found in kombucha can help with blood sugar regulation, since this acid positively impacts insulin sensitivity and helps reduce fasting blood sugars. Having balanced blood sugar is absolutely critical to burning fats and having consistent energy levels throughout the day.
How Much and When to Drink?
Based on the recommendation of doctors and many anecdotal reports, It is best to consume kombucha before meals. That way, the body may process it more efficiently and the microbes may have a freer passage to the large intestine before the stomach is inundated with food. The microbes also won’t be bathed in as harsh of an acidic environment that is created when ingesting food, thereby increasing their chance of survival.
Also, while Kombucha does flaunt energizing effects, it is best to keep it to after workouts when being used alongside an exercise regimen. The natural carbonation and acidity may lead to an unsettled stomach in some individuals that might not mix very well with more intense workouts.
Due to the caffeine content from the tea, drinking Kombucha before bedtime may cause some sleep problems. I personally enjoy 6-8 ounces first thing in the morning as a substitute for coffee, it provides a nice energy boost to get the day started.
As another rule of thumb, rather than having a lot at once, consider having it throughout the day in smaller portions. Instead of one sixteen once bottle in one sitting, try having four ounces five to ten minutes before every meal. More than one bottle a day may bring on uncomfortable side effects, so it is best to treat it like how any other supplement is used, never in excess! In general, I would recommend experimenting, listening to your body and doing what works for you.
As with any probiotic-containing food, it’s essential to find the one that works for you. If the particular Kombucha you try causes uncomfortable bloating, excessive gas, or headaches, it’s not a good match.
In many ways, Kombucha science is very much terra incognita. Since this avenue of exploration is very recent, future controlled studies in humans will have to be conducted to explore all of the ways Kombucha may lead to weight loss or obesity prevention. Questions such as which microbial species play the biggest role in weight loss are still active areas of inquiry, and much of the current evidence in humans is limited to small sample sizes and anecdotal data.
While commercially bought Kombucha usually doesn’t have this risk, if you are consuming Kombucha that is homebrewed, be sure that it is brewed under hygienic conditions to avoid the proliferation of any potentially toxic bacteria. Homebrewed Kombucha usually has a higher alcohol concentration, nearly 3% or more depending on fermentation times, which may be a potential caveat to consider when drinking Kombucha for weight loss, since alcohol has a detrimental effect on muscle growth and athletic performance.
Since body weight is regulated by a complex interaction of many factors, including environmental, genetic, neural, endocrine, and more, Kombucha is definitely not a panacea for weight loss. However, it does contain many health-promoting compounds and introduces loads of good bacteria that have a whole host of positive benefits to help with weight reduction.
If you like the sweet, tangy taste and your gut tolerates it well, regular Kombucha drinking is a great habit to pick up on your journey towards weight loss. Introducing a daily kombucha regime, especially Kombucha made from green tea, will generate positive momentum for an overall healthier lifestyle and lead to that desired summer body!