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KOMBUCHA, ACID REFLUX & GERD: IS KOMBUCHA GOOD FOR ACID REFLUX?

Kombucha, Acid Reflux & GERD: Is Kombucha Good For Acid Reflux?



Kombucha is a fermented tea that has been around for centuries. It's made by adding a culture of bacteria and yeast to sweetened tea and allowing it to ferment for a week or more. The result is a slightly fizzy, somewhat vinegary beverage that's rich in probiotics and antioxidants.

Kombucha has many potential health benefits, including gut-friendly probiotics, weight loss, and cancer prevention. But is kombucha good for acid reflux? If yes, how much is safe for consumption? Let's explore.

The Fermentation of Kombucha

Kombucha is made by adding sugar, yeast, and certain bacterial strains to green or black tea. The tea ferments for a week for more. The yeast and bacteria in the mixture create a mushroom-like film on the liquid's surface, which is why the drink has been nicknamed “mushroom tea.”

Interestingly, this blob or film on the surface is the bacterial and yeast colony, also called a kombucha SCOBY, short for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. It is then used to make new kombucha.

Certain gases, alcohol, and acetic acid are produced during fermentation. That's why the drink is carbonated and can increase bloating if consumed excessively. Since kombucha is relatively acidic and has a rather significant alcohol content, kombucha should be consumed in moderation, especially when treating acid reflux.

Is Kombucha Good for Acid Reflux?

To understand if you can use kombucha for acid reflux, it's important to understand how acid reflux happens. When you experience heartburn or acid reflux, the stomach acid is flowing back up into your esophagus.

It can happen when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relaxes too much or is weak. The LES is a ring of muscle that acts as a valve between your esophagus and stomach. When it doesn't work properly, stomach acid can come back up, leading to that burning sensation in your chest.

So, is kombucha good for acid reflux? The answer is a bit complicated.

Ways Kombucha Helps Acid Reflux

Kombucha is acidic but also rich in probiotics, which can help balance the stomach acid. Research shows that kombucha contains lactic acid bacterial species that may have probiotic properties. These bacteria can help facilitate digestion and prevent inflammation in the gut.

Kombucha also contains acetic acid, which has the ability to kill harmful microorganisms. As a result, kombucha can help improve gut health and reduce the risk of infections.

What to Watch Out For

However, the acid, caffeine, and alcohol in kombucha can trigger GERD symptoms or worsen heartburn. Likewise, acetic acid may irritate the food pipe, increasing stomach acidity.

As mentioned earlier, kombucha is carbonated. If you drink too many carbonated drinks, carbon dioxide builds up in the digestive system, leading to excess gas and bloating. Kombucha also contains FODMAPs. These are carbohydrates that may cause digestive distress in your body, especially if you have irritable bowel syndrome.

Lastly, kombucha slows digestion. As a result, food takes longer to pass the length of the digestive system, leading to an increased risk of heartburn.

Thus, while you can drink kombucha for its long-term effects and high antioxidant content, you shouldn't consider it a quick fix or cure for acid reflux.

How to Consume Kombucha for Acid Reflux?

You can buy kombucha at most health food stores. However, it's important to choose a brand that uses organic ingredients and doesn't have added sugar.

It's also crucial to start slowly when you're incorporating kombucha into your diet. Drink only a small amount at first (4-6 ounces) to see how your body reacts. Then, if you don't experience any adverse effects, you can slowly increase your intake.

Drink kombucha an hour or more before lying down. It will give your body time to digest the drink and reduce the chances of acid reflux.

You should also avoid drinking kombucha on an empty stomach. Eat a small meal or snack before drinking to help buffer the acidity.

It's also imperative to ensure that the kombucha you're drinking is of high quality and is not contaminated. One of the best ways to do this is to brew your own kombucha and make sure there’s no mold on your scoby and that the kombucha tastes right. Tasting “off” is a key indicator that you should not drink this particular batch of kombucha.

Some side effects include:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Head and neck pain
  • Jaundice

For the purposes of alleviating acid reflux, it's best to buy commercial kombucha rather than making it at home. While homemade kombucha can have up to 3% alcohol, store-bought varieties have less than 0.5% alcohol. When buying from a store, check the ingredients list to avoid brands with high concentrations of added sugars.

Alternatives to Kombucha

While there's very little evidence for the kombucha GERD and kombucha heartburn cure claims, there's no denying that the drink is rich in probiotics. However, the alcohol and caffeine in kombucha may deter some people from drinking it.

Fortunately, other probiotic-rich drinks can be easier on the stomach. These include:

  • Yogurt
  • Buttermilk
  • Culture Kefir
  • Coconut water kefir
  • Kimchi juice
  • Sauerkraut juice

Yogurt is a probiotic powerhouse containing Lactobacillus acidophilus and other bifidobacteria. These bacterial strains can help improve digestion and prevent gastrointestinal issues.

Yogurt is also rich in other nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin B, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. In fact, only a single cup of yogurt can provide you with 49% of your daily calcium needs. Get a yogurt starter pack to see if its less acidic and non-alcoholic composition suits your body better.

Kefir is a fermented drink made from milk kefir grains. It's rich in probiotics, peptides, and other organic compounds. Containing 61 yeast and bacterial strains, kefir is thought to be an even more potent source of probiotics than yogurt. Even better, it only has a small alcoholic content, unlike homemade kombucha.

Final Thoughts on Kombucha for Acid Reflux

While it’s not proven that kombucha can cure acid reflux or GERD, the drink may help improve digestion and prevent gastrointestinal issues due to the presence of probiotics.

Start slowly when incorporating kombucha into your diet and either make your own kombucha or choose a brand with organic ingredients and no added sugar. If you notice any side effects, stop drinking it and consult a doctor.

There are many probiotic-rich alternatives to kombucha, such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut juice. These drinks may be less acidic and easier on the stomach for people with GERD or acid reflux.

While kombucha isn’t a proven treatment for acid reflux or GERD, its probiotic-rich nature is known to improve overall gut health, so it’s likely to relieve some of the uncomfortable symptoms of both these ailments. Between kombucha, yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut, there are several potential natural remedies for people who suffer from digestive issues. Give them all a try, and find out what works for you.