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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim, Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

A bottle of bacteria

Alex Bewley ’21 drinks kombucha in Campion Food Court. PHOTO: CHARLEY REKSTIS ’20/THE HAWK

Kombucha trend hits St. Joe’s

Flynn Martin ’21 co-wrote this article. 

For some people, there’s nothing more refreshing than a cool glass of bacteria, and kombucha fits the bill.

Kombucha is a fermented tea that has its roots in ancient China for over 2000 years. Many people who drink kombucha say they do so because of reported health benefits. 

The drink allows healthy bacteria to kill off the harmful bacteria in our systems, creating a “happy and peaceful place,” according to Jeremy Sayer, owner and head brewer of Renewal Kombucha based out of Lititz and West Chester, Pennsylvania. 

“As a functional beverage product, kombucha is getting a lot of press for its health benefits that can range from weight loss to lowering blood pressure to cancer prevention to immune system boosting to increase in energy, just to name a few,” wrote Theresa Crossan, M.A., a registered dietician and adjunct professor of chemistry who teaches Food Chemistry. “So far though, there is not much evidence that proves these claims in humans.”

Kombucha has four main ingredients: water, SCOBY culture (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), sugar and some form of tea or herb that contains tannins, according to Sayer.

“Basically, kombucha starts as fresh-brewed tea that has sugar dissolved into it,” Sayer said. “The SCOBY is then added to the brew and it’s allowed to mature in a fermenting vessel for typically seven to 20 days until it’s reached its desired level of maturity. Once it’s mature, kombucha is usually bottled or kegged and allowed to build up some fizziness in the container before being served, usually served cold.” 

Although there is said to have a lot of health benefits, Crossan said that there is not much evidence supporting it.

“The fermentation process that makes kombucha what it is involves the use of good bacteria, probiotics, that can promote positive gut health and less digestive issues,” Crossan said in an email to The Hawk. “The liquid after fermentation also contains B vitamins, which our body does need but can get through many food products.”

Despite its popularity, there are some drawbacks to the drink. Some have reported that it can cause upset stomachs, along with other risks, according to Crossan. 

“Mostly in cases of home brewed kombucha, sickness from mold has resulted from the bacteria,yeast and sugar combination being improperly grown,” Crossan said.

Alex Bewley ’21 said she drinks kombucha about four to five times a week. Not phased by the criticism of the drink, she likes the taste but also claims it helps her upset stomach.

“I have a very sensitive stomach, but when I’m drinking kombucha I feel like it makes everything work,” Bewley said. “It’s good for the bacteria in your stomach, so if the bacteria in your stomach is slightly off, you may have a stomach ache or you may be feeling a little bit nauseous. Putting the probiotics back into your gut is good for your gut health.” 

Bewley encourages people to try the drink and find a brand and flavor that suits them.

 “If you try it out and you don’t like it, I would say make sure you try another flavor or a different brand, because I think anyone could find one that they like,” Bewley said.

There are many other ways to get the same health benefits that kombucha provides, according to Crossan.

“There are many fermented products that can be consumed to promote good gut health,” Crossan said. “They include yogurt, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut. Kombucha can be included in this list of probiotic foods or beverages. However, as with everything else in nutrition, kombucha is not the end all-be all. It takes many foods and beverages to make a healthy eating lifestyle.”

Alex Hargrave ’20 contributed to this article. 

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