What is Kombucha and can it help with gluten intolerance?



No doubt you have heard about Kombucha.  It seems it is all over the media lately, touted as a cure-all for everything.  But can it help with IBS and gluten intolerance?  I DO NOT recommend it for Celiac disease.

What is Kombucha, exactly?  This article explores that, as well as some myths vs facts.  Here are some excerpts:

Kombucha has been around for thousands of years, believed to have originated in China, traveled throughout Asia and Russia and eventually became a health craze in the US over the past two decades. Legend has it that it was named after a Korean physician Kombu who healed the Japanese Emperor Inyko with the tea, and the tea was then named after him: “Kombu” + “cha” (which means tea.)

The science of fermentation is one practiced in homes, rather than laboratories, and for that reason it has an air of mystery. These living foods change from batch to batch, and since they can’t be patented or highly controlled,  there’s no real incentive for the science community to spend resources in research. Therefore, health claims tend to be anecdotal, and certain assumptions about the “science” behind the process get spread with no real evidence to support those assumptions. We know fermented foods are powerful in their ability to support a healthy body, and restore balance to an unhealthy one. We don’t really know the fine details of how this occurs.

Kombucha can be store bought, or made at home.  It contains:

a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast), a term coined by kombucha enthusiast Len Porzio in the mid-1990’s. It may not look appetizing, but it creates a very popular fermented beverage that goes for $4 a bottle in the health food stores.  The final product contains a blend of beneficial bacteria and yeast (probiotics) as well as certain acids and enzymes that aid digestion, detoxify the body, and promote health.

My oldest son has had a lot of success by slowly incorporating Kombucha into his diet.  He is able to eat limited amounts of gluten and dairy.  But he did warn me that it can make you feel worse at first.  He said to start with a small amount, such as an ounce, and slowly increase by one ounce at a time, as tolerated.  He also said not to get discouraged if my symptoms worsen at first.  They might also worsen as I increase the amount.

Kombucha can make you feel worse. TRUE. While most people feel benefits from drinking kombucha, some people’s symptoms worsen. There are a few potential reasons for this: (1) Healing Crisis: Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, author of the GAPS Diet, says: “Apart from good bacteria a healthy body is populated by beneficial yeasts which normally protect the person from pathogenic (bad) yeasts, such as candida albicans. Kefir (and kombucha) contain these beneficial yeasts (as well as the beneficial bacteria) which help to take pathogenic yeasts under control.”  This is a good thing, but sometimes the body goes through a reaction to the mass die-off of bad bacteria and yeast, and temporarily symptoms worsen. This can last from a few days to a few weeks, but when the symptoms pass, people’s health improves dramatically. (2): Update: Gluten Cross-Reaction has proven to be a myth. Thanks to reader Sarah for this new information. (3) Histamine or Yeast Intolerance: Fermented foods contain beneficial bacteria which improve the health of most people, with the exception of those who are yeast or histamine intolerant. In those cases, negative symptoms from drinking kombucha don’t improve with time, like they do with a healing crisis. So what do you do if you feel like kombucha is making you feel worse? First, lower the amount of kombucha you are drinking, and only increase as your body is able to handle it without discomfort. If you are experiencing a healing crisis, lower doses should slow down the die-off reaction and alleviate your symptoms. If you continue to have discomfort at small doses, stop drinking it altogether and try again in 6 months. (Food intolerances often disappear as we heal.)

So how would someone with gluten and dairy intolerance find out if this would enable them to eat limited amounts of gluten and dairy?  I am about to find out.  I will be trying out this theory and will be posting my results.  I do not expect miracles.  I will still be writing this blog with the focus on gluten and dairy free living.

Here are my goals in this experiment:

  1. To lessen my IBS symptoms.  Eliminating gluten and dairy have helped quite a bit, but I am hoping to improve my symptoms even more.
  2. To get through the possible side effects and be able to tell the difference between them and my IBS
  3. To try to stick with it and not give up
  4. To go out to dinner and order what I want
  5. To eat real bread
  6. To not be sick for days after being glutened
  7. To drink real milk and eat real cream and butter
  8. To eat pizza
  9. To have dinner at a friend’s house
  10. To feel better overall

I will be making posts on my progress, so stay tuned!


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Melissa says:

    I am curious how this is going to work out. I just found your blog and now I’ve bookmarked it.


    1. glutenfreelady says:

      Hi Melissa. I’m curious too, and hopeful. Thank you for your interest.


    2. glutenfreelady says:

      You can also follow my blog by email if you’d like!


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