No doubt you’ve heard that a healthy microbiome—the population of bacteria both on and in your body—is essential for radiant skin. Developing and maintaining that microbiome takes a little bit of work this day and age, given our frequent exposure to antibiotics, antibacterial products, processed foods, sugar, prescription drugs, and stress, which all have a negative impact on our good bacteria. Adding fermented foods to your diet is one way to supplement your healthy bacteria, and kombucha, a fermented tea that contains probiotics, is currently one of the trendy favorites in this food category. Kombucha is known historically as the ‘tea of life’ or ‘elixir of immortality’ by ancient Chinese and Japanese. But, kombucha certainly isn’t panacea for everyone, and every health situation. Here, we explore the pros and cons of this wildly popular drink, so you can decide for yourself if, and how much, kombucha is right for you.

Pros of kombucha for healthy skin

  • Kombucha contains beneficial strains of bacteria and yeast (kombucha is brewed with a SCOBY, which stands for ‘‘symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast’). Its strains can vary widely, and include acetobacter, gluconacetobacter, zygosaccharomyces (these are unique to kombucha), as well as brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and pediococcus.
  • Replaces soda or other sweet drinks for those who are trying to reduce their consumption of those beverages. Kombucha can even replace a cocktail or alcoholic beverage, without the alcoholic effects (though there may be a very small amount of alcohol detectable in kombucha as a result of the fermentation process).
  • Kombucha can include healthy, cleansing, alkaline ingredients like apple cider vinegar and lemon.
  • It can pave the way to other healthy fermented foods like sauerkraut, and kimchi.
  • The majority of the sugar used to brew kombucha is digested by the SCOBY, usually leaving it with less than 4% sugar. The sugar content increases with flavored kombuchas, but is still significantly less than the majority of other bottled beverages–usually not higher than 8% though this depends on the brand, length of second fermentation period, and type of flavor added (herbs, fruit puree, juices etc.).
  • Making kombucha can be a fun DIY project. It’s easy to make your own and get creative using different teas, sugars, herbs, juices, fresh fruits, etc.
  • Kombucha SCOBYs are resilient, making it easy to brew kombucha at home. A SCOBY may be refrigerated in a mason jar for a long time; it will go dormant and then is easily re-activated by bringing it to room temperature and then feeding it with more tea and sugar.
  • Can be a practice you share with others—similar to a ‘friendship bread’ that you share from homemade sourdough, you get a new ‘mother’ or culture every time you make a batch of kombucha, which is great to share to promote community health.

Cons of kombucha for healthy skin

  • Kombucha, while it does have benefits, still contains sugar, which can feed bad bacteria and yeast in the body and exacerbate some digestive issues.
  • Many commercial varieties of bottled kombucha do not contain significant amounts of probiotic bacteria until it is added after production.
  • “Every SCOBY and batch is different in terms of benefit because no two have the same strains. The resulting quantity of sugar and strains of bacteria depend on the types of tea, water, and sugar used, the length of brewing time, the environmental conditions, and the particular culture you begin with.” (see resource below)
  • Whether kombucha will benefit you depends on many factors, including the amount and variety of microflora in your microbiome. Those with leaky gut, SIBO, other types of dysbiosis may experience adverse reactions from drinking this beverage.
  • Buying bottled kombucha can be an expensive habit, but brewing your own at home requires time and precautions to ensure its safety.
  • It’s easy to overdo kombucha. It has medicinal-like benefits and in some people its beneficial effects can become negative if too much is consumed too frequently. If you are sensitive to alcohol, caffeine, or sugar, kombucha may have negative effects for you.

How to know if kombucha is right for you

You may be wondering, how can you know if kombucha is going to be beneficial for you and your skin? The first time you try it, start with a small amount—a few ounces will do.

Look for a low-sugar version (one with no added sugar—any sugar should come from the actual beverage and fruits used for flavors themselves). See how you feel.

Afterward, watch for any negative effects. Ask yourself: how do you feel? Do you feel energized? Do you notice any bloating or digestive issues? If you feel good to try more, watch for skin or other health improvements. These are signs that kombucha is a good fit for you!

If you feel tired, experience sugar or alcohol cravings, feel any digestive or GI discomfort, notice skin eruptions such as acne, eczema, or rosacea flare-ups, then the chances are that it’s not the drink for you— or you’ve had too much.

Still not sure how much you should have or if kombucha is right for you? Consult with a licensed natural health care provider for recommendations.

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Learn to Make Kombucha (Kindle Locations 82-84). Cultures for Health. Kindle Edition.

Photo credit: GoToVan