Kombucha: Power Drink for Blood Sugar and Diabetesby Mary Shomon Patient Advocate
Have you noticed that supermarkets and health food stores these days are overrun with a wide choice of a bottled drink called kombucha? Kombucha is called a “functional food” — a food that has specific health benefits. If you’re new to kombucha, learn more about this fermented tea, what it tastes like, and its health benefits, especially for people with diabetes.
What is kombucha?
Kombucha is a drink that is made by fermenting sugared black or green tea. A special culture of yeast, fungus, and bacteria, known as a “scoby” – a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast — is added to the tea. The scoby is usually round and jelly-like, and looks like a mushroom cap.
The scoby starts the tea’s fermentation. Over time, the bacteria grow, and remove much of the sugar in the drink.
What does kombucha look like?
When the kombucha is ready, the scoby is removed. Even after bottling, however, the active cultures can continue to grow. You may notice thin strands of active culture in store-bought kombucha or your own home brew.
What does kombucha taste like?
Kombucha has a tangy and tart taste, with some degree of fizziness. Some people say that kombucha tastes like a tart sparkling apple cider. Others have described kombucha as tasting like a dry, non-alcoholic champagne. Assorted flavors – including fruits and spices like ginger or cinnamon — are often added during production.
The health benefits of kombucha
- Researchers have found a number of health benefits of kombucha.
- Kombucha is rich in probiotic bacteria, the “good” bacteria that can help restore balance to your intestines and have many health benefits.
- Studies have shown that kombucha can help reduce oxidative stress on cells, a known cause of cancer.
- Kombucha can help improve the immune system.
- Kombucha helps reduce candida yeast
The benefits of acetic acid in kombucha
When it’s fermenting, kombucha also produces acetic acid, which is also found in vinegar. The acetic acid in kombucha has the ability to kill many harmful and infectious bacteria, including staphylococcus, E. coli, salmonella, and H. pylori (the bacteria that causes ulcers.)
Kombucha for blood sugar and diabetes
A 2018 study found that kombucha could significantly reduce blood sugar and hemoglobin A1C levels, and increase insulin production. It also delayed absorption of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides, and significantly raised HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels. The kombucha also seemed to protect both liver and kidney function.
An earlier 2012 study compared regular black tea and black tea kombucha. It turned out that the kombucha was better than plain tea at lowering blood sugar.
Components of kombucha known as polyphenols may help prevent the damage or death of beta cells in the pancreas. There is even evidence that the polyphenols may help beta cells regenerate. As a result, experts will be conducting more studies on the use of kombucha to prevent and treat diabetes.
The benefits of green tea kombucha
Drinking green tea kombucha has even more benefits for people with diabetes.
One study compared the effects of green and black tea kombuchas on blood sugar and total cholesterol levels in people with in diabetes. Compared with black tea kombucha, green tea kombucha resulted in significantly lower blood glucose, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. The green tea kombucha also increased HDL cholesterol.
Studies have also shown that green tea on its own reduces blood sugar and improves insulin sensitivity.
If you want to try kombucha, you’ll find many brands of kombucha available at your supermarket and favorite health food store. One of the best-known brands is GT's Living Foods. I'm a fan of GT’s "Original" kombucha. It’s delicious! I also love GT's “Synergy” line of kombucha drinks, especially Cosmic Cranberry. They have many other flavors, including watermelon, lemonade, mango, guava, ginger, strawberry, and cherry. Another popular brand of kombucha that is widely available is Kevita.
Brewing your own kombucha
If you become a kombucha fan, you may want to learn how to brew your own at home. Amazon sells a popular kombucha brewing kit with everything you need – even the scoby — to make your own kombucha at home. If you’re going to brew your own kombucha, make sure you carefully follow preparation guidelines and avoid contamination. Also, be careful to avoid these common kombucha brewing mistakes.
- Some people are allergic to kombucha ingredients.
- To avoid contaminated kombucha, buy bottled kombucha — or your scoby cultures — from reputable companies or brewers.
- Home brewers should avoid contamination by carefully following safety guidelines when handling your scoby and preparing kombucha.
- Experts recommend that home brewing of kombucha be done in glass bottles. Ceramic and other materials sometimes react with the kombucha and releases toxins.