Can Kombucha Make You Sick? The Complete Guide

Kombucha is considered safe to drink, but it can also contain substances that may cause harm. This can be due to careless brewing practices, or the presence of alcohol, probiotics, and caffeine in the brew. In this article we are going to look at some of the potential benefits and risks that are related to drinking kombucha.

 

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Why Would Kombucha Make You Sick?

1.  High pH When Brewing
When brewing, the yeast culture in the SCOBY breaks down sugar into alcohol, which is then broken down into acetic acid by the bacteria culture. The acid lowers the brew's pH to below 3; however, when the brew's pH goes beyond 4.5, it's an indication of contamination. 
The critical pH range of 2.5- 3.0 protects kombucha by introducing an acidic environment that kills harmful bacteria and fungi. 
2.  Contamination
Kombucha can get contaminated with harmful bacteria culture during the brewing process; these bacteria could cause a bacterial infection or other life-threatening conditions such as organ failure.
Cross-contamination from other brewing projects may introduce a toxic culture, which can make you sick.
Another source of contamination is corroded metal, from the kombucha reacting with the brewing vessel. leading to increased metallic contaminants in the brew. These can cause long-term health-related problems such as cancer.
Using food glade glass jars to ferment kombucha effectively prevents contamination from heavy metals. Remember to store fermenting kombucha away from other ongoing fermentation projects so as to avoid cross-contamination.
3.  Drinking too Much
The FDA recommends limiting the amount of kombucha consumed to 4 oz per day. Drinking too much kombucha increases the probability of potential health risks and adverse side effects due to alcohol, caffeine, or probiotic content in the brew.
Avoid drinking too much kombucha as it contains dissolved carbon dioxide gas which can lead to bloating.  
4.  Food Poisoning
Food poisoning refers to an illness that's caused by the consumption of contaminated food. Kombucha requires hygienic standards during the fermentation and bottling process. When these standards are not upheld, the drink can contain fungi and harmful bacteria, which are poisonous.
Home brewed kombucha should only be brewed under strict hygienic conditions to avoid contamination with harmful bacteria and fungi. 

Common Sicknesses Caused by Badly Brewed Kombucha

 

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1.  Nausea
The leading cause of nausea that comes with drinking kombucha is the fact that the body takes time to readjust to a new diet. Kombucha contains billions of live probiotics, which drastically change the gut bio.
When the new probiotics are introduced in large amounts without prior exposure, the gut system experiences distress, which can at times trigger nausea. The smell and taste of kombucha might also be unpleasant to some resulting in nausea.
2.  Vomiting
Vomiting after taking kombucha could be an indication of an underlying problem with the brew or simply due to drinking too much kombucha. If the kombucha brew is contaminated, and it triggers food poisoning, your body will induce vomiting to get rid of the harmful brew. Vomiting after drinking too much kombucha is as a result of the excessive consumption of dissolved carbon dioxide in the brew and its alcoholic content.
3.  Stomach Ache
Kombucha contains a lot of carbon dioxide gas, which can cause digestive upset, bloating, and excessive gas. These side effects are commonly characterized by a dull stomach ache that reduces as the gases get expelled from the digestive system.
4.  Stomach Pain
A significant adverse effect of contaminated kombucha is stomach pains. These are more painful than the stomach aches and require medical attention. The stomach pains are often sudden and accompanied by diarrhea, indicating the presence of a tummy bug. This is a result of bacterial or viral infection in the stomach and bowel due to the introduction of harmful culture from the contaminated kombucha.
5.  Headache
Kombucha contains caffeine and alcohol content, which can cause headaches after overindulging. These headaches are similar to what you experience after a night of drinking or when you miss your morning cup of coffee and do not require medical attention. However, if you experience chronic headaches after taking kombucha, its recommended to stop and seek medical care.
 

Anecdotal Evidence

As kombucha becomes more widespread, so does the number of bloggers and YouTubers covering it. These are the self-proclaimed experts on the "wonders and dangers" of kombucha. Here are some of the most common myths on kombucha, making you sick that are based purely on anecdotal evidence.
1.   Kombucha is Addictive
The main reason why this gets thrown around is due to the fact that kombucha contains residual caffeine from the tea leaves, which were used in brewing. In reality, most of the caffeine gets consumed by the kombucha culture during the fermentation period leaving about 20% of the original caffeine content in the final brew.
Other manufacturers have switched to decaffeinated tea leaves or caffeine-free alternatives such as rooibos so as to stem out the possibility of getting caffeine addiction from kombucha. 
To avoid anxiety and insomnia you should reduce the amount of caffeine consumed in terms of kombucha especially in the evening.
For more information about caffeine and kombucha we have a full and comprehensive guide: Caffeine And Kombucha.
2.  Kombucha Kills
While contaminated kombucha can lead to life-threatening conditions, death rarely occurs due to early medical intervention. Most kombucha contamination cases occur in home brewing as commercial brewing is under strict FDA regulation.
If you are experiencing any adverse reaction after drinking raw kombucha you should seek immediate medical help. 
3.  Kombucha Leads to Weight Gain
Raw kombucha is often consumed for its role in aiding weight loss; however, some bloggers do like to twist it around, especially when it comes to flavored kombucha. This is because, during the flavoring process, extra sugar gets added to make the final drink fizzy. What they don't tell you is that most of that sugar gets broken down by the culture during the second fermentation.
Avoid overly sweetened kombucha brews as they may contain more sugar than raw kombucha.
For more information checkout our Kombucha For Weight Loss Guide.
 

What to Do If You Are Feeling Sick?

To avoid the risk of developing life-threatening health conditions, it's advisable to seek medical advice from your doctor if you are feeling sick after consuming kombucha.
 

Drinking Kombucha When Sick

DISCLAIMER: While raw kombucha does contain nutrients, antioxidants, and beneficial probiotics, it's important to note that there have been no human clinical studies to ascertain the presence or absence of its curative nature. Before you take up drinking kombucha on a regular basis, its advisable to consult your doctor as kombucha can interact with certain prescription medicines.

 

5 Potential Health Benefits of Drinking Raw Kombucha

kombucha_drinking_health

 

1.   Kombucha Contains Billions of Live Probiotics
Raw kombucha contains billions of live probiotics that play a significant role in restoring balance in the gut bio. These probiotics also enable good bacteria to control the gastrointestinal environment, thus reducing inflammation and other harmful effects that are often caused by bad bacteria in the system. Ref: NCBI.com.
2.  Accrued Benefits of the Tea Leaves
The antioxidants and vitamins in the tea leaves used to brew kombucha get infused in the brew during the steeping process. While the culture does feed on some of these nutrients, a majority still remains in the final brew. The antioxidants react with harmful particles in the body cells and eliminate the potential harm that could have led to cell degradation.  Green tea leaves are often considered to be one of the richest sources of vitamins and other bioactive compounds, such as polyphenols, which go a long way in preventing cardiovascular complications.
Ref: NCBI.com.
3.  Helping in the Management of Type 2 Diabetes
Raw kombucha has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels by slowing down the digestion of carbs. This helps type 2 diabetes patients to manage their blood sugar levels better thus reducing the need for medication. Kombucha brewed with green tea increases this capability due to its high concentration of polyphenols and can reduce the risk of developing diabetes by up to 18%.
Ref: NCBI.com.
 4.   Kombucha Aids in Weight Loss
Raw kombucha contains billions of probiotics that restore balance in the gut bio, thus reducing obese tendencies. The brew also contains polyphenols, which increase the metabolic rate. This leads to increased fat breakdown, thus aiding in weight loss exercises.
Ref: NCBI.com. 
5.  Kombucha Reduces the Risk of Heart Disease
Raw kombucha consumption significantly improves good cholesterol while reducing bad cholesterol. Regularly drinking the brew for about 30 days substantially improves cholesterol levels, thus reducing the risk of developing heart disease.
Ref: NCBI.com.
 

5 Potential Side Effects of Drinking Kombucha

Here are 5 quick potential side effects of kombucha. For a more in depth guide check out our guide: Kombucha Side Effects.
1.  Bacterial Infection
Kombucha contains live yeast and bacteria culture, which might invade a weakened immune system resulting in infections. Some of the most at-risk people with compromised immune systems include HIV, AIDS patients, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and any other patients who might be on immunosuppressant drugs.
2.  Digestive Distress
First-time kombucha drinkers might experience gastrointestinal distress with symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, and nausea. Overconsumption of kombucha also leads to substantial carbon dioxide accumulation in the digestive system, which also leads to gastrointestinal distress.
3.  Hypoglycemia
Due to the increased metabolic rate after consuming kombucha, the body can quickly develop hypoglycemia. This is when the blood sugar level falls below normal. This can be life-threatening to diabetes 1 patients as their bodies cannot automatically regulate the blood sugar level.
4.  Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Kombucha can trigger IBS due to the introduction of caffeine. IBS cases in caffeine intolerant consumers are a result of the caffeine irritating the gut bio leading to gastrointestinal discomfort and diarrhea.
5.  Sleep Deprivation
Kombucha contains caffeine, which can lead to sleep deprivation and anxiety. These cases worsen in people with low caffeine tolerance.
 

Common Questions

Does Kombucha Upset Your Stomach?
When taken in large amounts, kombucha can upset your stomach. The effect is more pronounced in first-time kombucha consumers.
Is it Safe to Drink Kombucha Every Day?
Yes, you can safely drink kombucha every day as long as you keep it within FDA limits of about 4 oz per day
Is Kombucha Good When You Have A Cold?
Yes, kombucha contains live probiotics that can strengthen your immune system during a cold or flu season.
What Does Kombucha Do To Your Stomach?
Kombucha introduces probiotics that restore gut bio balance allowing the good bacteria to repopulate the digestive system. 

 

Looking For A SCOBY? - Our Recommendation
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A high quality, strong, SCOBY is an essential ingredient to brewing Kombucha.
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Kombucha Jar Covers

Are you thinking about making your own kombucha or Jun? Looking for the best cover that will protect and block all the wrong things from getting into the jar?
All aerobic ferments require oxygen, especially at the beginning of the fermentation process, and that is why a breathable cloth cover is the best.

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If you're looking to get started with brewing kombucha check out all of our reviewed and recommended products here: Kombucha Recommended Products 

 

Interested in learning more about kombucha? 
Check out these articles:
Recommended Kombucha Products
Kombucha Bottles
Does Kombucha Go Bad?
How to Pronounce Kombucha
How Much Caffeine Is In Kombucha?
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