Can You Get Addicted To Kombucha

Can You Get Addicted to Kombucha?

Kombucha is a fizzy tea with a characteristic sweet-and-sour taste. First brewed in China 2,000 years ago, it has become one of the most popular health drinks in the US – and the entire world. As more and more people get hooked to this drink, it has raised some ‘addiction’ concerns – especially in alcoholics.

What’s in Kombucha?

Kombucha is made by mixing yeast, sugar, and black tea (or green tea if you want). This combination is set aside for a week or more to ferment. During this time, acids and bacteria form – as well as a small amount of alcohol.

The acids and bacteria form a film on top of the drink called symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. Also known as SCOBY, this can be used to make another batch of Kombucha.

What are the Benefits of Drinking Kombucha?

Because of the fermentation process, Kombucha is rich in lactic acid bacteria known as probiotics. Usually termed ‘good bacteria’, these organisms help keep your gut healthy.

Kombucha also contains B vitamins and antioxidants, the latter of which are substances that defend the cells from free radical damage.

With these nutrients, Kombucha may help:

  • Improve digestion (and reduce symptoms/frequency of diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome)
  • Boost energy
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Enhance immunity
  • Reduce cancer risk
  • Promote weight loss
  • Flush out toxins

Is Kombucha Addictive?

For some people, yes. With its unique taste and numerous health benefits, some people have been drinking more Kombucha than they ought to. Unfortunately, too much of this can lead to a variety of side effects.

What Happens When You Drink Too Much Kombucha?

Although Kombucha is said to have a positive effect on health, being ‘addicted’ to this can lead to these unpleasant conditions:

1. Digestive Problems

Although Kombucha can help with conditions such as diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome, too much of it can trigger further digestive problems.

Digestive Problems

Due to the carbonated nature of Kombucha, it may lead to bloating. It also contains FODMAPs, which are carbohydrates that can cause digestive distress in certain individuals.

Kombucha is also high in sugar. This attracts more water into your intestines, which can then lead to diarrhea.

2. Increased Sugar Intake

Kombucha is sweetened with either cane sugar or fruit juice. Some products even contain 28 grams of sugar – which is equivalent to 7 teaspoons. While this makes the drink more palatable, the increased sugar content may heighten your risk for diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver, and/or obesity.

3. Weight Gain

A bottle of Kombucha contains as much as 120 calories. While drinking it occasionally is okay, increased consumption may bring about weight gain. You may not even realize that you’re drinking too much since it’s easier to consume – and less-filling compared to other beverages.

4. Anxiety and Sleep Problems

Kombucha contains about 8-14 mg of caffeine for every 240 ml serving. While this is low compared to other drinks, consuming too much Kombucha can give you more than what you need. As a result, you may end up with symptoms of caffeine overload – such as anxiety and jitteriness.

When taken close to bedtime, Kombucha’s caffeine content may lead to sleep problems as well.

5. Possible Infection (and Other Complications)

Kombucha is an unpasteurized drink that contains bacteria and yeast. Though they may be beneficial to some, they can be harmful to certain individuals. Those with compromised immune systems – as is the case with people who have AIDS, kidney disease, or cancer – may suffer from opportunistic infections due to Kombucha’s bacterial content.

kidney disease

Although rare, Kombucha consumption may also trigger allergy and liver complications in some people.

Given its unpasteurized nature and alcohol content, Kombucha should not be consumed by pregnant or breastfeeding women as well.

Why Kombucha May Not Be Good for Alcoholics

People with alcoholism issues often turn to healthier drinks. While Kombucha seems to be a good choice, it may not be ideal for those struggling with alcoholism.

As mentioned, Kombucha fermentation produces alcohol, particularly ethanol, which is then turned to acetic acid by bacteria. But since the process varies, the amount of alcohol in Kombucha can be particularly hard to determine.

Add to that, leaving it on the shelf gives it more time to ferment – which in turn, can lead to a higher amount of alcohol (although unintended).

Generally speaking, a bottle of Kombucha may contain 0.5% to 2.5% of alcohol, which may decrease or increase depending on the fermentation technique and storage time. Because of this, the FDA recommends pasteurizing Kombucha, which is sure to kill all bacteria – both bad and good (the probiotics in this case). This, of course, poses an issue so the manufacturers have decided NOT to adapt it.

Add to that, certain Kombucha manufacturers may try to intentionally increase the alcohol content. As such, consumers – alcoholics or not – should read the label carefully. If your bottle contains 0.5% alcohol content, you can expect the seller to ask for your ID.

Although the alcohol in Kombucha may be low, it can, unfortunately, trigger a slippery slope. For some people, a content of 0.5% is enough to drive them to alcoholism once again. Because of this, experts advise alcoholics to steer away from Kombucha as this can possibly affect the recovery process.  

How Much Kombucha Should You Drink?

Given the many side effects that could come from your Kombucha addiction, it’s best to temper your consumption. For best results, limit your serving to 1-2 bottles of 240 ml Kombucha.

It’s also good to choose products that contain less than 50 calories. Make sure to pick a drink that is packaged in a dark-colored container as this helps defend the probiotics from light damage.

Tips for Brewing Kombucha at Home

Should you decide to make Kombucha at home, then be sure to keep these brewing tips in mind:

Brewing Kombucha at Home
  • Use sterile equipment and carefully follow the kit directions.
  • Only use glass containers. Avoid ceramic or lead-lined bottles as they can contaminate your drink.
  • Taste your batch every day to ‘determine’ progress. Keep it clean whenever you do so.

Conclusion

Yes, Kombucha can be addictive. Unfortunately, drinking more than 2 bottles a day can lead to digestive problems, weight gain, even anxiety. It also has some alcohol content, and as such is not a good option for those with alcoholism issues.


Latest posts by Raychel Ria Agramon, BSN, RN, MPM (see all)

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