What is kombucha?

You may have that one healthy friend who drinks it in gallons, or this could be your first time hearing about itEither way, here’s what you need to know about kombucha and why you might want to consider trying it.

Pronounced kômˈbo͞oCHə, the fermented tea has been around for more than 2,000 years. It’s made from bacteria and yeast mixed with black tea and sugar.

(Yes, live bacteria!)

The bacteria makes the drink bubbly and gives it the slight scent of vinegar. Because of the fermentation process, which produces a mass that looks similar to a mushroom cap, kombucha is often referred to as “mushroom tea.”

Sometimes bacteria can still be found floating around in the drink. This is not unlike wine sediment and isn’t something that should concern you.

But what’s it taste like?

The taste is frequently called sweet and tart.

Dr. Jacqueline Ivey-Brown, an internal medicine physician at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., says kombucha has healthy ingredients and benefits. Every serving of the drink contains probiotics, B vitamins, enzymes and organic acids. These ingredients are known to improve your digestive system, reduce bloating and even strengthen your immune system.

Unlike other sugary drinks, kombucha only has roughly 30 calories for every eight ounces.

But despite the benefits of kombucha, Dr. Ivey-Brown says there are a few things you should know before drinking it.

  • Don’t consume it in gallons. Too much kombucha can cause heartburn.
  • Stay away from home-brewed kombucha. Commercially produced versions are fine, but like anything containing bacteria, there’s always a chance for contamination.
  • Kombucha contains alcohol. While most drinks only carry a minimal amount of alcohol as a result of the fermentation process, this information is especially important for women who are pregnant. Some kombucha brews are also purposely fermented for lengthy periods to give it more alcohol – sometimes as much as beer! So always check the label before drinking it.

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