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The Weird Effects of Drinking Kombucha

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The Weird Effects of Drinking Kombucha

I’ve been side-eyeing kombucha for a while. The devotees I know guzzle it like holy water, bragging about better bowel movements and superman-like immune systems. Still, I was skeptical of spending $4 a pop on any drink, let alone a trendy beverage without a lot of research to back up the raves. Could a fermented tea really be a miracle in a glass bottle, or is it just an overhyped sip parading as a health drink?

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Like any good reporter, I decided to give the elixir a weeklong taste test, downing one kombucha a day to see what would happen. The results surprised even a cynic like me. Here’s what I discovered.

It actually tastes pretty great.

I love all things acidic (vinegar on fries, yes please!) and while many consider kombucha’s sweet-tart taste a turnoff, for me it was love at first sip. You can thank fermentation for the slightly vinegary taste, but different flavors can tame the tang.

First-timers can ease in with a sweeter brew — think strawberry, mango, honey, or blood orange. Diehard drinkers will be more apt to try new brands and bold flavors like beet, rose, and lemon cayenne.

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It nixed my soda cravings.

Don’t judge me, but I love Diet Coke. In fact, if I hit up a pizza joint with free refills, I can’t stop myself from going back for more. But a strange thing happened after I started sipping kombucha: My Diet Coke urges vanished.

That’s good news if you’re a soda addict. Made by adding a culture of bacteria and yeast to tea, sugar, added juices, and flavors, kombucha has a short ingredient list and a surprisingly low sugar count (only 2 to 8 grams per 8-ounce serving) compared to the 39 grams of sugar in a can of regular Coke. There are even cola- and root beer-flavored kombucha brews that mimic the fizz and flavor of sodas.

I got a B-vitamin buzz.

Homemade fermented raw kombucha tea with different flavorings. Healthy natural probiotic flavored drink.

Getty Imagessveta_zarzamora

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Full disclosure: I’m a cheap drunk. Half a beer on an empty stomach and I’m giddy. Interestingly enough, kombucha gave me the same slightly smiley temperament — but in a different way. The brew not only contains B vitamins and antioxidants, but it also has trace amounts of alcohol due to the fermentation process.

Let me contextualize that: The store-bought stuff rings in below .05% alcohol (home-brewed kombucha can go higher), which is why it’s not sold as an alcoholic beverage and perfectly safe to drink and drive. The bevvy of B vitamins in kombucha could also explain my happy state, as they’ve been shown to fight depression and stabilize moods.

My bathroom routine improved.

I’m not one to poop and tell, but you can’t talk about kombucha and not talk number two. So here it goes: I’m a drink-my-morning-coffee-and-hit-the-loo kind of gal, but three mornings into my kombucha kick and I didn’t need caffeine to kick start things; they happened all on their own.

Kombucha, when raw and unpasteurized, is rich in probiotics — the healthy gut bacteria associated with heart health, lower rates of anxiety and depression, fewer yeast infections, weight management, boosted immunity, and, you guessed it, improved digestive health.

My teeth felt fantastic.

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After my first kombucha of the week, my mouth had that fresh-from-the-dentist feeling. It was as if all those effervescent bubbles cleaned away the plaque and gave my gums a healthy hug. And with each bottle thereafter, I got that same fresh-mouth feeling.

I was convinced kombucha was doubling as Listerine, but when I did some digging online, I found little proof. But we do know that you need the right balance of oral microbes to keep bad breath and gum disease at bay — something kombucha could be providing.

In the end, I felt forever converted. And even though the jury is still out on kombucha’s hard-and-fast health benefits, the drink’s gut-friendly bacteria and antioxidants makes it a good alternative to other, more sugary drinks. You should still watch the labels, though.

“Make sure you’re looking for options that offer 2 grams of sugar or less per 1 cup serving,” says Jaclyn London, MS, RD, Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. “Since kombucha is made through a fermentation process, it’s necessary to have a little sweetener in there, but some varieties are lower in the sweet stuff than others.”

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