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My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Kombucha. A recent Facebook status line of mine was "I am trying Kombucha," to which a (very well-educated) friend of mine responded, "What is that? A food? A drink? A dance?"

Indeed, what the heck is it and why am I trying it?

Kombucha is the latest in my recent line of foods-I-must-try-as-I-improve-the-diet. It's a fermented tea, reported to have been consumed in China for at least 2000 years. It has about 5% alcohol content and its fermented, slightly acidic quality is not unlike beer. If you like beer, you might not mind drinking kombucha. For someone like me, who doesn't like beer at all, drinking kombucha is simply about health, not taste. I will admit, however, that it seems to be growing on me.

Reportedly, the drink is catching on in the US among the health food nuts (like me), and is said to be popular among celebrities (oh, but of course). Indeed, the best-known brand in the US, GT Dave's, is made in Beverly Hills. It's expensive, at just under $4 per bottle. According to the label, each bottle contains two servings, though the "recommended" usage is one bottle per day. It's low in calories (about 60-80 calories per bottle), caffeine-free, all natural, and full of bacteria that are supposed to be good for the gut and "detoxify" the body. According to the bottle, it has "active enzymes, viable probiotics, amino acids, antioxidants, and polyphenols."

I'm not a scientist. I'm not a medical doctor. But the reputed health benefits of the drink prompted me to start drinking it, as well as start reading up on it. According to what I've read, some people claim that kombucha improves their energy levels, digestion, skin and metabolism; others have claimed that it has helped them beat cancer, curbs cravings for sweets and appetite in general; and has an overall "anti-aging" effect. The bottle itself says these things, as well as that its contents boost the immune system, help control weight, improve liver function, contribute to cell integrity, and improve body "alkalinity". As far as I know, I don't have cancer, and I do not even *know* what is meant by "liver function," "cell integrity," or "body alkalinity," but as long as the beverage isn't dangerous, it seems OK for me to drink it to see if any reputed health advantages occur. Of course, if I *do* have cancer or impaired liver function or lousy cells, and the kombucha wants to fix those things, by all means, kombucha, do your job!

I went online (of course) to look at various articles and websites either advocating kombucha or avidly warning against its ingestion. There have been some reported deaths in the US related to kombucha consumption; many of those appear to be due to home brews, where the equipment might not have been sterilized properly. A few were related to reactions of medications with kombucha. (Were I on any medication, I'd ask a doctor first.) An article in the LA Times concluded that although the commercialization of kombucha probably significantly cuts down on the risk of death from drinking it, it may also lessen the health properties of the drink. Ironic -- the home brews probably contain more of the stuff that I want, but they have a higher risk of killing me (plus I'd have the added job of making it). So, for all I know, I am drinking a bitter, expensive tea that doesn't have nearly the health benefits I hope for. But at least I'll live to tell about it.

I have only been drinking it for five days. So far, I've noticed only one health change that I don't think anybody wants to hear about. Perhaps as my body gets used to it, said change will go away. A girl can dream. However, I suspect kombucha's fermentation will continue to promote a certain digestive result. That's one of the reasons I don't drink beer.

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