Will drinking store-bought kombucha heal my gut?

will kombucha heal my gut?

The really short answer: I really don’t think so. I’ll explain.

I do like the trend in health food stores of offering raw, fermented food products. I don’t love the price tag. A small package of raw sauerkraut costs, literally, 30 times what I spend making mine. I have 8-year old RAW sauerkraut in my food storage. No canning. No freezing, not even any refrigeration. It’s still good! I served it at TWO 12 Steps to Whole Foods classes recently of 50–80 people each. (And everyone lived.)

Frankly, homemade, raw, cultured (also called “fermented”) food products are your best insurance against immune system deficiencies and your best promoter of gut health, which are, by the way, the same thing. Eighty percent of your immune system is in your gut—or it’s supposed to be. You’re supposed to have 10 times more healthy bacteria in your gut than you have bad bacteria. Most people have the opposite! This imbalance leaves us wide open to bacterial and viral infections.

“Bad” microbes can be staph, strep, candida, and many other organisms that our current medical model sees as bad guys we need to kill. The problem, of course, is the collateral damage. When we use an antibiotic, we nuke the good guys, too. Those good guys keep the bad guys in check! We all have “bad” microbes in our bodies, every day, permanently. The problem is when they get out of balance and begin to take over.

I don’t know that I trust commercially prepared cultured-food products. Not only are they exorbitantly expensive—whereas homemade cultured foods are incredibly cheap to make and easy, too—but the very environment and process of manufacturing food products seems counterproductive to really having a wide variety of probiotic organisms make it through the supply chain.

Back to kombucha. I know Synergy kombucha was not only very controversial (due to a too-high alcohol content) and removed from stores for a while, but also popular. (Well, yeah. Alcohol. And a heck of a lot of sugar. What’s not to like?) I read that Synergy kombucha was the #1 selling item at Whole Foods Market!

Very frankly, I think store-bought kombucha is a lot of hype. Are there living organisms in it? The manufacturer claims so on the label. However, they also claim that the sugars are “consumed” by the living organisms in the kombucha “scoby.” (That’s the “mother”—a teeming mass of healthy probiotic organisms that “ferment” the sugary water.) So if it eats all the sugars, then I have just this question:

Why is it so sweet?

Commercial kombucha tastes like soda. Period. It’s a carbonated sugary drink….that may (or may not) possibly have one health benefit. It makes me nervous. I don’t drink it. But I do teach you to make your own in 12 Steps to Whole Foods—the chapter on how to make cultured foods of all types from all over the world.

I like cultured veggies better. In honor of the gardening you may be doing, harvest your cabbages, or buy them in season, and spend an afternoon “putting up” raw, probiotic rich foods. This is totally worth your time and effort.

Don’t eat it until late Fall or early Winter, and see if it helps you weather the season without getting sick! That’s the effect that eating cultured foods had for my family. Enjoy this Rejuvelac video I made a few years ago—the EASIEST and CHEAPEST healthy habit of all.

And here’s my raw Sauerkraut recipe, adapted from Sally Fallon’s (with her permission).

Raw Sauerkraut

8 cups shredded cabbage, or 6 cups shredded cabbage and 2 cups shredded carrots

2 cups distilled water

¼ cup whey (white/yellow clear liquid from making your own yogurt) OR 1 pkg. vegetable culture starter

4 tsp. Original Crystal Himalayan Salt

Optionally, add a bit of dill weed, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, oregano, or red pepper flakes.

In a large plastic bowl, pound the cabbage with a wooden pounder for several minutes to release its juices. Mix the salt, whey, and any seasonings into the water, and pour it over the cabbage. Mix well. Pack the cabbage tightly into two wide-mouth quart canning jars and add enough liquid to cover, leaving 1 inch of space at the top of the jar. Cover the jars tightly, keep at room temperature for a few days, and then place in cold storage.

Lids do not need to be new and bottles will not “seal” like in traditional canning. You can eat sauerkraut at that point, but it’s best after six months when the fermentation has softened the shredded cabbage. Do not open the jars until you are ready to eat the contents, as lacto-fermentation is anaerobic and is interrupted by the introduction of oxygen. You can refrigerate for a few months, however, after opened.

29 thoughts on “Will drinking store-bought kombucha heal my gut?

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  1. Loved your take on the store-bought Kombucha. Makes sense. One thing I will say in its favor, I’ve had food cravings before, in the middle of the day, and a couple swallows of the synergy kombucha seems to nullify it. Must have some benefit for the gut.

    Anyway, thanks for the sauerkraut recipe. Have you ever tried making it, omitting all additional salt? I tried some after letting it culture about 14 days. It was delicious and tasted like it had added salt! The fermentation process had brought out the natural sodium. But I did make another batch, forgot all about it and discovered it in my storage unit after sitting there for about a year. Opened it up and the smell about knocked me over. It had turned into a pungent liquid. Probably an incredible fertilizer but not consumable.
    So adding salt probably preserves it, but tastes too salty for me. Thoughts?

    Dave

    1. Dave, some people do make it without salt. And I want to play with that. It stops bacteria in the short term while the lactic acid builds and takes over for the long term. So without salt, you have a HIGH likelihood of the whole batch going bad before it cultures, but I’d like to learn how, too.

    1. Julie, just keep doing your anti-candida diet (no sugar! very low fruit etc) and take our brand-new probiotic / prebiotic / enzyme blend that we announce TOMORROW)…..and use the raw, cultured habits I teach in Step 8 of 12 Steps to Whole Foods.

    2. Julie and Robyn, I’ve struggled with Candida overgrowth for the last 20 to 25 years, for many years undiagnosed. Robyn, I read somewhere that you said candida is one of the hardest things to fight or one of the most awful diseases you’ve seen, and I agree with you. I’ve studied candida off and on again over the last 20 years, and I just couldn’t find an answer that would stop it for good. I always came up with the same answer–stay on the anti-candida diet….forever. Since back then it hadn’t stopped my life, I wasn’t willing to go no-sugar, low-fruit….forever! Now that I’ve been sick for 8 years and homebound most of those 8 years, with the only diagnosed illness (last year) being severe systemic fungal candida overgrowth, I’ve paid a bit more attention. OK, my life revolves around it.

      I finally found what I think is a great answer from a chiropractor/natural doctor who has a scientific/research bent. (Sound like someone you know, Robyn?!) I learned more about candida in a few hours, than I’ve learned in the last 20 years. His answer is similar to yours Robyn, but he adds a botanical anti-fungal–undecenoic acid. I’d never heard of it, but it showed up on my Genova Diagnostics cultured lab test as an anti-fungal that my body wasn’t resistant to. I went looking for it, and that’s how I found Dr. McCombs out of California. What sold me on it was watching his videos, primarily “The Science Behind Candida” (11 ten-minute segments). You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Kk7eKWTdVQ&list=PL779025261D62DE43. It gets really interesting around #4 and #5 when he shows how candida in the blood converts from yeast to the fungal form. A picture is worth a thousand words. Once it is in it’s fungal form, the body’s immune system doesn’t have the ability to fight it. Even if you don’t eat another drop of sugar or eat pro-biotics the rest of your life, the candida won’t go away until you get rid of the fungal overgrowth first. It’s fascinating really.

      He developed this system 23 years ago, and oh how I wish the internet had been around back then! Robyn, you’ll find this interesting–he points to antibiotics as the singular cause of candida overgrowth. Within 36 hours of taking an anti-biotic, the good bacteria starts to die, and the fungus starts to form. I’ve only had 4 rounds of antibiotics in my 44 years of life. But he said that one is enough. Birth control pills and steroids also contribute to the problem, but antibiotics are the primary cause. Even one round will start fungus growing.

      I wish the information he’s discovered would get out there. Who better to do that than you, Miss GSG?! He does have distributors of his product, so it could be added to your line of products. In any case, if you’d like to read more about the plan or see more videos, his web site is candidaplan.com

      And NO, I am not a salesperson or a distributor! I know it might sound like it, but I’ve just been a very sick person, who started learning about whole foods from Robyn about 3 or 4 years ago. I drink the hot pink smoothie every day (minus the fruit when I’m on that part of the plan) with coconut water kefir. And sauerkraut is part of my daily intake now too. Anyway, I hope this helps you Julie, and I hope you can help tons of people with this Robyn. I’m doing multiple rounds of his 16 week program (and he has brilliant ways of avoiding die-off, including a daily sauna or hot-bath), but most people could probably benefit plenty with one round.

      Here’s to our health! Without it, we can’t do much. That is for certain! Cindy

      1. This will be very helpful to others, Cindy, thanks for sharing—I am SO happy you’re feeling better! And I want to study more about this!

  2. Hi, I bought a book recently titled Skin, and the author has a very simple recipe for sour kraut. Adina Grigore is the author its worth checking out. Lori

  3. What does “cold storage” mean? In your neck of the woods it might mean putting in the cellar, but in South Florida would that mean “into the refrigerator?”

    1. Kerry, not everyone has cold storage, and in your case, “somewhere in air conditioning!” might be the right thing. The fridge is colder than necessary.

  4. Wow, the sauerkraut recipe looks simple enough I can make it. And 2 jars is managable. I thought I was going to have to buy a special sauerkraut crock and weight system but i like this idea! Thanks for sharing it with us. I can’t wait to try it.

  5. Hi Robyn
    I love you and your Green Smoothies! I have been following you since last winter, then got the privilege to meet you in Idaho Falls, ID just over one year ago.
    Anyway, my family has been making sauerkraut for generations. We used to all get together to make crocks full. We made it only with cabbage and salt and cold storage fermentation. But we always canned it months later, which I suppose would kill the properties we are wanting it for now for our guts. Do we have to use a culturing agent or will it create it on its own as it ferments? I want to try the cold storage method without canning to see how it goes.
    Thank you for always striving for better health and a better world. I admire you so much!

  6. Hi Robyn, I make home-made kombucha–for my family and for my brother’s. It would be easier to get the kombucha to her if I could freeze it and make fewer trips! I have no idea if kombucha can be frozen and whether that would compromise the good bacteria that grows during the fermenting process. Any thoughts? Thanks! Cindy

  7. Great recipe, so inviting and simple that I want to try it! This looks like an easy next piece of my health puzzle (overcoming candidiasis and hayfever) along with your new pro/pre-biotics!

  8. I guess this is making me a bit nervous. I just started making my own fermented vegetables and I thought they had to be stored in the refrigerator if they weren’t heat processed. How can they last that long without being spoiled?

  9. Hi Robyn, I have been following your Green Smoothie movement for a few years now, (shortly after I was told I needed to have a complete surical hysterectomy, as they thought I had ovarian cancer and I knew I needed to take charge of my health). I love how you are promoting and teaching how to heal one’s self with your educational information and your own life’s experience. I have been making my own “cultered vegies” and kombucha for my family. My teenagers especially love the komucha when I do a secondary fermentation, as it is more carbonated and they never drink soda anymore. If more people would address their “gut health” thru fermented foods, they would see such a dramatic difference, and I am very determined to do what I can for my family, as I am a caregiver for my parents, one with advanced dementia and the other with stage 3 bone cancer, and that is NOT a journey I want for myself or my children.

  10. So is there no commercially available kombucha or sauerkraut that have health benefits for me? I travel a lot and the convenience of being able to buy and eat those at remote locations is the biggest selling point.

  11. This is great! I also read about the post you make about the store-bought Kombucha. I LOVE GT’s Kombucha. I’ve tried others, but GT’s Synergy is the best. And I’ve been drinking them for years. But I do notice that I go to it when I am stressed and it helps to calm/relax. So, I’ve been cutting back buying it and drinking water with lemon whenever I get that stressed feeling to really center myself towards healing out of the stress. I am trying not to allow my stress/tiredness/anxiety have something to feed into. I’m allowing myself to face what’s causing the stress/anxiety, giving myself more grace and peace, and even taking moments throughout the day to meditate, usually through prayer and Bible reading, but also through mindfulness and just meditating and doing literally nothing but focusing on my breathe. it’s been amazing and I’ve been feeling oh so healthy and happy!! But I got off track on the fermentation…I’m really excited to learn about the fermentation of the cabbage recipe because we have at least 10-12 heads of cabbage in the garden right now that we needed some ideas for! yay! thanks so much! *****I’ve followed the blog via email signup, Liked your Facebook Page, and Shared this Post **** to my Inspirational healthy lifestyle Facebook Blog page (https://www.facebook.com/thehappylifeorg). Thanks so much! Excited to see your journey over the next 30 days! wahoo! have fun!

  12. I have MTHFR mutations and am working with Dr. Amy Yasko to address them. She does not recommend fermented/cultured foods because they increase glutamate levels. A big part of her protocol is balancing GABA and glutamate levels so she doesn’t want anything to tip the balance away from GABA. What is your opinion? Do cultured food really increase glutamate? If so, do the benefits to the guy outweigh this effect? Thanks so much! I have loved and trusted your info for about 5 years now!

    1. I used to live in Japan, and dran all kinds of tea without thinking necessarily about their health benefits. It’s time for me to pay closer attention to Kombucha.

  13. I have a question about your sauerkraut. How can you keep it for 8 years without refrigeration? I would have a pantry full, but I thought you had to keep it in the fridge.

    In your blog…”I have 8-year old RAW sauerkraut in my food storage. No canning. No freezing, not even any refrigeration. It’s still good!”

    1. Suzn, I keep it in my cold storage in the basement, but it’s often not very cold down there, and it’s done great. Some people keep in their fridge, but I have too much for that to work.

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