Kombucha Tea, Cure All Or Flatulence Factory?

English: Mature Kombucha

Image via Wikipedia

Whenever we talk about probiotics these days, no one has anything to say but positives.  Medical doctors may not think there’s anything to fermented products, but as long as they are prepared in sterile conditions, they don’t really care.

Let’s be clear.  Probiotics are good for many people.  They are also an explosive and painful addition to other people’s diets.

For context, let’s look at what happens if you and I suddenly go to Mexico.  Better yet, let’s have some misguided Mexicans come to Maine for snowmobiling.  They go to a local place and have the lobstah bisque.  Now, this is a homey hole-in-the-wall, practically a smelt shack, so they don’t have sterile conditions.  Instead, they get a good dosing of Mainah bacteria.

Nothing wrong with Mainah bacteria for Mainers.  But our Mexican friends find it doesn’t agree with them.  They spend the next day visiting the port-a-potty rather than snowmobiling.  When they get home, they tell their friends they had a bad bout of Mainah’s Revenge, which is just like Montezuma’s Revenge, only worse.  Meanwhile two Mainers coming back from Mexico might complain about how that food just “didn’t agree with them.”

If you suddenly change over the bacteria in your gut, you’re in trouble.  We like to think of ourselves as one person, but we’re really a giant hotel.  The bacteria in your gut outnumber your very cells by something like ten to one.  It’s the bacteria, not you, who determine what you feel like in your belly on a given day.

So if you go dumping in a whole truckload of new immigrant bacteria, they need to find a place to stay.  Sometimes they settle in quietly, but sometimes they find trouble and you get diarrhea.  Other times they find a whole bunch of undigested food that nobody was using, and go nuts.  When they do that, they ferment.  When they ferment enough, you get lift off!

Now, Kombucha tea contains one of my favorite probiotics, Sacchromyces boulardii.  This happy little bug is a relative of the beer yeast and was created for the AIDS population to oppose candida infections.  Overwhelmingly, it does good things for people and beats the pants off all the Lacto and Bifida probiotic clones out there.  BUT…Kombucha also has a variety of other species and those ferment some people like crazy.  I start people on the straight S. boulardii BEFORE they start on Kombucha.  Otherwise I get angry phone calls as people hover near the ceiling all night.

So, before you indulge, take a moment to think about what you’re trying to do.  I remember feeling fine and feeling like I “should” try probiotics.  In the health food nut community we don’t take silly little capsules.  We take sachets of probiotics.  That’s right, basically whole bottles at a go.  My sachet didn’t agree with me.  So I asked one of my professors who unwisely said:  “you just didn’t take enough.”  That was the weekend of the six sachets.  I was NOT a happy camper.  So don’t mess with it if it isn’t broken.

If, on the other hand, you have current bleeding and ulcerations in your gut, it’s worth looking at something like S. boulardii with your doctor.  Right now, you’ve got secondary strep and staph overgrowth from all that free blood (which is a free lunch for them) so pretty much anything is an improvement.  But talk it over, don’t just start in with the six bottle of Kombucha weekend bender.  Unless you like hovering near the ceiling.  Wasn’t that a scene in Mary Poppins?



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  1. #1 by wartica on February 26, 2012 - 10:39 am

    I have yet to try kombucha, but I’ve heard it has a lot of beneficial qualities. I will get around to it someday soon:) Great post and I look forward to sharing more with you:)

  2. #3 by theforagingsquirrel on February 26, 2012 - 3:37 pm

    Lol, such a funny post. Great info too!:) I never knew that people could have such an extreme reaction to Kombucha. Thanks for linking to my blog!

    • #4 by Christopher Maloney, Naturopathic Doctor on February 27, 2012 - 7:39 am

      Absolutely, we’re going to see more and more blogs like yours as gas prices continue to rise. Yesterday’s paper talked about the need to go vegetarian strictly for financial reasons.

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