The Dangers of DIY Kombucha

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It might sound like a good idea but brewing your own kombucha is dangerous.

With growing consumer interest in healthy eating, we are seeing a concerning increase of non-qualified health advice on social media.

‘Extremism’ in so called healthy eating is leading to diet fads and nutritional deficiencies as we see more and more people cut out complete food groups such as dairy, wholegrains, legumes and even fruit. The replacement of these food groups can lead to an overdose of the same food such as nuts and coconuts. We are all literally going nuts for nuts with nut milks, nut butters, nut cheeses, nut flours and nut creams. This can lead to nutrient imbalances and food sensitivities.

So before you jump on the latest health craze bandwagon be sure to do your own research and be mindful of some of the latest craziest health fads out there…

What you need to know about brewing your own kombucha

Kombucha tea is beginning to pop up everywhere, whether you buy it from the health food store, local café or ferment your own at home it is hard to escape this alien looking fungi.

Kombucha lovers make grand health claims that this sour tasting brew can heal your gut, boost immune system health, alleviate inflammatory disease, help liver detoxification and even reduce the risk of cancer. There is very little evidence if any to support such claims.

Kombucha tea is made from a kombucha SCOBY, an acronym for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. Tea, sugar and often additional flavouring is added (to mask the somewhat unpleasant taste) to the SCOBY which ferments and produces an almost vinegary, carbonated beverage rich with probiotic bacteria. The health benefits of kombucha are thought to be from the probiotic containing bacteria that it produces.

Where kombucha can get dangerous is in the actual fermentation process. A toxin-producing fungus can accumulate when the acid levels are too low plus because the SCOBY naturally absorbs toxins it can absorb chemicals from water and ceramic containers which could lead to heavy metal toxicity*. Kombucha is yeast that feeds on sugar to produce alcohol and gas.

One of the by-products produced in the fermentation process is acetaldehyde, which can become an irritant for some once ingested. There has also been a reported case of anthrax bacillus in kombucha tea fermented in unhygienic conditions**.

Those with poor digestive health, IBS, the elderly, a lowered immune system, yeast and fungal infections and even pregnancy could be putting their health at risk by drinking large amounts of kombucha, especially the home-brewed variety. A better probiotic fix may be from natural live culture yoghurts or probiotic supplementation.

To find out more about the references in this article see:

* Phan TG, Estell J, DUGGIN G, BEER I, SMITH D, FERSON MJ. 1998. LEAD POISONING FROM DRINKING KOMBUCHA TEA BREWED IN A CERAMIC POT. Med J Aust 169:644–6.PubMed,CAS, Web of Science

** SADJADI J. 1998.CUTANEOUS ANTHRAX ASSOCIATED WITH THE KOMBUCHA MUSHROOM IN IRAN. J Am Med Assoc 280:1567–8.CrossRef,PubMed,CAS,Web of Science

About the author: Fiona Tuck is a Qualified Practising Nutritionist and Nutritional Medicine Expert. For more information on healthy eating, recipe ideas and nutrition info visit fionatuck.com or follow Fiona on Instagram @fionatucknutrition.


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