Kombucha (a fermented tea drink) is trendy right now and is my drink of choice for energy and health.
But while everyone is talking about what it can do for health and disease, only now is science able to offer an explanation as to the why for Kombucha health benefits.
A new study from Professor Charles Mackay in Australia has found molecules inside kombucha and other fermented foods – and also produced by our body when we eat fibre – that has science very excited.
Large scale human trials will begin this year and Professor Mackay thinks “it will be the dawn of the  era of medicinal foods.”
This miracle molecule for kombucha health benefits is a short-chain fatty acid or SCFA which is already known to play an important role in inflammatory disease by reducing the risk of asthma, food allergies, hypertension, cancers of the gut, liver diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and inflammatory bowel disease. And many more diseases linked to inflammation.

How SCFAs affect our health

We all have a living microbiome within our bodies. When these gut bacteria consume fibre, they produce a short chain fatty acid by product known as butyrate. The fatty acid butyrate keeps the gut wall healthy and sealed to suppress leaky gut.
Butyrate benefits the body by controlling inflammation and stopping disease like cancer. The gut is also less likely to suffer from inflammatory disorders like Crohn’s disease and colitis. It has been linked to improved brain health and is being looked at as a possible simple and relatively low risk method to improve the outcomes of people with brain disorders like Parkinsons or Alzheimers.

Food Sources of Short-Chain Fatty Acids

The typical high-fat, high-sugar, low-fibre Western diet reduces the diversity of bacteria living in our colon. This kind of eating can cause chronic, systemic inflammation and also open the tight junctions between the gut membrane cells, making it easier for pathogens to enter our body, leaving us feeling ill, stressed and miserable.

western diet

high fat, low fibre diet increases health risks

What can we do?

The simplest strategy is to include more food sources of SCFA by
1. Eating fibre-rich foods that feed good gut bacteria. Best are dark leafy greens, vegetables, fruits and grain-like seeds like buckwheat, quinoa, millet, and amaranth.
2. Eating foods rich in beneficial bacteria and yeast. Kombucha, fermented vegetables and kefir strengthen the digestive system, restore metabolism, and curb inflammation.

Two studies that confirm this are:
– One study of 153 individuals found positive associations between a higher intake of plant foods and increased levels of short-chain fatty acids in stools (1)
– A study involving 22 patients with ulcerative colitis found that consuming 60 grams of oat bran every day for 3 months improved symptoms (2)

What is the best diet to follow?

Regarded as the world’s healthiest diet, the Mediterranean diet is abundant in SCFAs from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and olive oil. It features fish and poultry—lean sources of protein —over red meat. Red wine is consumed regularly but in moderate amounts.

And so back to kombucha health benefits

The prebiotics in kombucha from the cellulose in the SCOBY yield short chain fatty acids such as butyrate that is involved in stimulating the gut microbiota. The probiotic effect of kombucha and fermented foods adds to the variety and diversity of gut bacteria which in turn produce more SCFAs.(3)

And so rather than a sugar rich processed over the counter drink, it is much better for your gut, your overall health and your wallet to drink kombucha. And you can make a variety of different flavours.

Take home message:

  •  The more fibre you eat, the more SCFAs your gut bacteria produce.
  •  In the colon, SCFAs nourish the protective mucous layer and strengthen the gut bacteria.
  •  SCFAs are important for digestive health providing energy for cells in the colon
  •  SCFAs support the immune system and help increase helpful bacteria
  •  Some probiotics in foods such as kombucha and kefir increase gut SCFAs when fibre is present

1. High-level adherence to a Mediterranean diet beneficially impacts the gut microbiota and associated metabolome.
Francesca De Filippis, Nicoletta Pellegrini, Lucia Vannini, Ian B Jeffery, Antonietta La Storia, Luca Laghi, Diana I Serrazanetti, Raffaella Di Cagno, Ilario Ferrocino, Camilla Lazzi, Silvia Turroni, Luca Cocolin, Patrizia Brigidi, Erasmo Neviani, Marco Gobbetti, Paul W O’Toole, Danilo Ercolini. Gut, 2015; gutjnl-2015-309957
2. Colonic health: fermentation and short chain fatty acids.
Wong JM, de Souza R, Kendall CW, Emam A, Jenkins DJ. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2006 Mar; 40(3):235-43.
3. Kombucha microbiome as a probiotic: a view from the perspective of post-genomics and synthetic ecology
N. O. Kozyrovska, O. M. Reva, V. B. Goginyan, J.-P. de Vera Biopolymers and Cell. 2012. Vol. 28. N 2.  P. 103–113