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What is kombucha and where is it found?

Kombucha is a white or black sweetened tea fermented by a colony of bacteria and yeast commonly called SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). The SCOBY complex of bacteria resembles a mushroom in appearance, which has led to the nickname “mushroom tea.” Kombucha is high in acid and can contain caffeine, some alcohol, and vinegar. It contains sugar, B vitamins, antioxidants and other chemical compounds.

What are the benefits?

Kombucha has a reputation for having probiotic benefits, but only in the raw or unpasteurized state. Many claim kombucha helps with digestion and detoxification while some state it helps with sleep. People take kombucha to decrease symptoms of PMS, for memory loss, to increase metabolism, to strengthen the immune system, for weight loss, and to treat cancer, constipation, hypertension, and arthritis. Kombucha has not been highly researched and there is not much scientific evidence to support the purported benefits. Most of the benefits have been shown in animal studies and based on personal reports.

Are there interactions with food or medications?

People taking medications for diabetes should not take kombucha since it has been shown to lower blood glucose. Since it has alcohol and may not be pasteurized, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems should avoid the beverage.

Are there side effects?

Kombucha can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach problems, jaundice, head and neck pain, and yeast infections. Death has been reported from ingesting kombucha that was contaminated during home preparation.

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