If you listen to the health chatter on the TV news, in magazines and on the internet you will have heard about the importance of gut bacteria to health. Gut bacteria seem to be responsible for everything from gastrointestinal health to mental health to reducing high blood pressure. Modern “western” diets which are typically low in fibre and high in processed foods are being linked to the rise of obesity and Type 2 diabetes because of the deleterious effect they have on gut bacteria.
I have been researching and thinking about the microbes in my gut for over a year. I started to read the research, then switched to a mostly plant based diet, deliberately increased the amounts of probiotic and prebiotic foods that I am eating and generally trying to be nice to my gut bugs.
This time, I have put my body (and dignity) forward in the interests of science and bought a uBiome Test kit to check out what is actually living in my gut. It took 3 weeks to get the package from the US and then another 6 weeks to get the results.
The results are very comprehensive and frankly a bit of science-jargon-babble. I am a scientist and I found the data a bit overwhelming and not easy to interpret. I think they could provide a bit more help in unraveling the numbers.
Kombucha is a refreshing, lightly effervescent drink made by fermenting sweetened black or green tea.
Right now it’s all the rage and there are many varieties of it on the shelf in the fridge section of the supermarket. It is pretty pricey at around $4 – 8 per bottle depending on size. The average price is around $12 per litre. Making your own kombucha is easy and it will cost you less than a dollar to make 2L and about $30 in start-up costs. Your start up costs will depend on whether you have to buy your own SCOBY or if you can source one from a friend and how much you spend on a wide open mouth glass jar.
Kombucha has lots of different reported health benefits particularly related to gut health and the gut microbiome. I like it because it is not alcoholic but still feels like a grown-up’s drink.
Fermentation has been around since before Adam was boy. Fermentation occurs when microorganisms turn the sugars in foods, into something else. In the case of kombucha, sugar is turned into acid (acetic and gluconic acid), carbon dioxide gas which gives it a bit of fizz and a TINY little bit of alcohol.
To make wine the microorganism is yeast. For kombucha, it is a SCOBY (which stands for a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.) You don’t really need to know what bacteria and yeast live together in a happy matrix of slime but if your into that sort of thing have a look at this article (it’s only the abstract but there is enough information).
The kombucha you buy in the shops is highly flavoured and often has extra sugar. It’s really not much better than drinking soft drinks (soda) but homemade kombucha is milder in flavour, has a low kilojoule content and as I said is CHEAP to make.
I make about 2 – 3 L of kombucha each week. Less in winter, mainly because it takes longer to ferment and more in summer when you can turn around a batch in about 5-6 days.
Your SCOBY may need replacing after a year or so and if the brew smells funny or gets contaminated by black mould don’t drink it and start again! You can get a free ebook from Cultures for Health which is full of great information and gives much more detail than I have here.
NOTE ABOUT THE VIDEO: Don’t be too worried about the continuity errors, I am no George Lucas! And don’t worry too much about the fact that I say at least three times don’t use metal utensils and then I use a metal strainer (ACKKK). In this case it was ok because it’s the SCOBY that is sensitive to metal and my SCOBY didn’t touch the metal.
In this video I was using some herbal tea as well, but I think one bad batch killed my SCOBY so I don’t use it anymore. These days I just use green tea.