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October 31, 2013
It wasn’t long ago that finding where to buy this so-called miracle elixir required you be “in the know.” Maybe you had a friend brewing it in their basement? Wherever your source for kombucha, it has come out from behind closed doors.

Kombucha, say kom-booch-a, is fermented black tea that originated in China thousands of years ago. Today it has become so popular that you can find it on the shelves of your local grocery store in a variety of flavors.

This “wonder drink” is touted by health enthusiasts and is the subject of fitness magazine articles and food blogger posts because of its claimed benefits that include aiding digestion to even curing disease.

Chances are that if you’ve heard of kombucha, you think it’s healthy. But is it?

There is no empirical evidence to substantiate kombucha’s ability to cure the ailments for which it is credited — from cancer to HIV, hypertension to arthritis, and diabetes to hair loss.

Believe it or not, these claims are being made; to seek a wonder elixir to remedy any of these conditions is not recommended.

Another broad, and more popular, claim suggests kombucha helps facilitate digestion and it boosts your immune system.

Perhaps this notion comes largely due to how it is made: Kombucha starts with a culture of living bacteria and yeast — often called “the mother” — which is set atop a covered batch of (usually black) tea and left for several weeks to ferment.

During this process the mother bacteria spawns smaller masses of bacteria until the entire container sports a large floating mass of bacteria.

I know, sounds appetizing doesn’t it? Once the tea is properly fermented what remains is a lightly carbonated vinegar-like drink of probiotic and “symbiotic” organisms.

All this means: Ingesting kombucha will provide your gastrointestinal tract with more living bacteria to those which already dwell there, which in theory, aids in better digestion. Again, this claim has yet to be confirmed by science.

Still, while the jury is out on whether or not kombucha lives up to its claims, there are companies like GT’s Synergy, BÚCHA and Reed’s which sell bottled versions at $3 to $5 per bottle.

At that price, it’s no surprise many kombucha drinkers turned to home-brewing.

And while executing the fermentation process of your own tea is relatively simple, getting it right is another.

Botching and drinking a brew made of bacteria poses certain health risks. Having heard stories of batches that do not turn out “right” makes me believe that when it comes to harvesting a brew made from fungus, I’d prefer to leave it to a professional.

That said, while my tone may sound skeptic, I drink kombucha.

Even though the science behind this “wonder drink” has yet to be proven, I’ve found many kombuchas are a refreshing alternative to sugary soda or juice drinks.

To be clear, even some kombuchas are loaded with sugar to mask the natural bitter taste, so be sure to read the labels before you try one. Add to that some kombuchas have a trace amount of alcohol in it from the fermentation process, so if you’re underage or choose to avoid alcohol, then kombucha may not be for you.

But the bigger point is this: Do not accept the social buzz on anything as fact — be it about kombucha or anything else — that comes from Twitter feeds, health blogs or from gym banter.

When it comes to your health, research beyond the social networks. Dig deeper than wellness blogs.

Then, when you decide to make a change to your diet or exercise, you will do so with better knowledge than just hearsay. Live well.

Mike Hackett holds a Bachelor of Science degree in exercise science and is an American Council on Exercise’s certified personal trainer. He is also the proprietor of Mike Hackett and Syphus Training LLC in St. Clair Shores.

He can be reached at (313) 407-6656 or e-mail at Hack1913@hotmail.com. E-mail Hackett with health questions or topics.

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