Taking Kombucha for Gastritis: Yay or Nay?

I learned about the health benefits of Kombucha from a friend who claimed the algae were recommended for a wide range of conditions, including digestive tract disorders, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, gout, and hair growth, etc.

My husband suffered from indigestion at the time, and his issues were not resolved after he received modern treatment. So, I thought, “Why not try Kombucha?”

Bowl of Kombucha with Starter Liquid

After brewing the first batch, I decided to give it a try. I must admit it was delicious, but I had to be careful because the drink was kind of sour. I was worried it could trigger my gastritis symptoms if I drank more than a glass but wanted to give it a try provided there was clinical evidence that the tea could help with gastritis.

If you’re reading this, you must have found that there is little information about Kombucha for gastritis. I found only one blog post on a well-respected website that addressed this issue, and they recommended Kombucha for gastritis.

Kombucha for Gastritis: Why I Say It’s a Bad Idea

Kombucha with Ginger and LimeSo, this high authority website recommended Kombucha for gastritis. In fact, they said probiotics such as Kombucha could help manage gastritis and lessen the symptoms. Really?!

Probiotics are good for gastritis and there is evidence that they may help with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) [1]. H. pylori has been reported to cause an infection in the digestive tract, which can lead to gastritis or gastric ulcers [2].

Although Kombucha is rich in probiotics, there are other alternatives that you can consume, such as probiotic yogurts. Personally, I find that when I consume probiotic yogurt, I don’t experience gastritis symptoms even on days that I skip a meal. I can’t say the same thing about Kombucha.

Even when I followed a healthy diet, avoided foods that are not recommended for gastritis patients, and consumed as little as half a glass of Kombucha per day, my symptoms became unbearable by the third day.

1. Kombucha is Acidic

Kombucha tests on the acid side, much like lemon or lime juice. Well brewed Kombucha has a pH of 2 to 4. If you leave it to ferment for more than a week, it will smell and taste more like apple cider vinegar.

Acidic foods are a no-no in gastritis because they can irritate the stomach lining and worsen your gastritis symptoms. Thus, it may be a very bad idea to consume Kombucha if you have gastritis.

2. Kombucha Contains Alcohol

Although commercial kombucha tea is labeled non-alcoholic because it contains less than 0.5% alcohol, this may not be the case for homebrewed versions. In fact, homebrewed Kombucha may contain significantly higher amounts of alcohol (up to 3%), which may make your gastritis symptoms worse.

3. Lack of Scientific Evidence

Kombucha may have been used by the Chinese since 220 BC, and it may have been used for a wide range of conditions. However, there is no scientific evidence showing its effectiveness in treating many medical conditions that it is claimed to treat.

I searched major databases for studies that confirm the effectiveness of Kombucha tea. Unfortunately, I didn’t find a single study that confirmed its health benefits.

In fact, one study, a systematic review,[3] reported that the largely undetermined health benefits of Kombucha do not outweigh the documented risks. The authors concluded that Kombucha may not be recommended for therapeutic use.

4. Risk of Contamination and Infection

Most Kombucha teas are fine, while others carry the risk of infection and contamination. If you plan to brew Kombucha at home, you need to sterilize your utensils and container before using them.[4] However, it might be hard to observe sterility when you’re brewing at home.

5. Other Health Risks

Very few adverse events have been reported among consumers of Kombucha tea. Thus, you may think problems rarely occur due to the consumption of Kombucha. In reality, though, adverse events may be underreported because consumers are less likely to report adverse from nonstandard treatments from conventional over-the-counter treatments.[5]

Below are a few cases that have been documented with the use of Kombucha tea:

  • A case of lactic acidosis in a 54-year-old asthmatic woman who presented to the hospital with a 10-day history of difficulties in breathing. She recovered fully after treatment and cessation of Kombucha tea.[6]
  • A case of lactic acidosis and kidney failure in a 22-year-old HIV positive patient. The patient consumed one liter of unpasteurized Kombucha tea and developed a fever and had difficulties breathing less than 12 hours after drinking the tea. He recovered fully after receiving supportive care at the emergency room.[7]
  • The cases of 12 females and eight males who contracted cutaneous anthrax infections after applying Kombucha tea as a pain killer.[8]
  • Four cases of probable gastrointestinal toxicity following the ingestion of Kombucha tea. In all four cases, the symptoms abated after symptomatic treatment and cessation of the tea.[9]
  • Two patients who consumed Kombucha tea for about two months and developed serious adverse events. Both cases were linked to the consumption of Kombucha. In one case, the patient lost consciousness and subsequently developed a cardiac arrest during hospitalization. She was resuscitated but died two days later. A post-mortem examination revealed that heart disease was not associated with her death. The second patient also had a cardiac arrest, but she was resuscitated and recovered fully.[10]
  • A 53-year-old man developed toxic hepatitis associated with the consumption of Kombucha tea; other causes of liver damage were excluded in this case. The patient recovered fully after the tea was discontinued.[11]

Precautions to Take When Brewing Kombucha

If you still think Kombucha is for you, there are some precautions that you should take when preparing the drink.

What You Should Do

  • Sterilize your utensils and brewing container before starting. You can do this with boiling water or white spirit vinegar.
  • Use a glass container for brewing. Fermentation grade stainless steel also works well.
  • Place the container in a space with good air flow and cover it with a cloth. The cloth will keep out bugs and other particles from falling into the brew but it will give the booch room to “breathe”. Without ventilation, the Kombucha won’t ferment.
  • Keep your brew at an ideal temperature ranging between 21 and 27°C. At lower temperatures, fermentation will be slower and your Kombucha will be less sour. At higher temperatures, fermentation will be faster and your Kombucha will be more acidic.
  • Use granulated white sugar. If you’re worried about consuming refined sugar and are tempted to use honey or maple syrup, you shouldn’t be. The SCOBY will eat up most of the sugar by the time your Kombucha is ready. Honey and maple syrup are not the best choices when brewing Kombucha because these are not easily digested by the yeast like plain sugar.
  • Ideally, you should taste your Kombucha daily to monitor the batch’s progress closely. I had the habit of tasting it after about seven days.

What You Shouldn’t Do

  • While you should always use boiled water to prepare your Kombucha, make sure the tea cools down before adding the starter liquid. Note that high temperatures (> 30°C) can destroy bacteria.
  • Also, note that high temperatures (> 30°C) are not good for fermentation. If you ferment at a temperature > 30°C, you will get a very funky, vinegar-tasting drink.
  • Do not place the brew in an area where sunlight will fall directly on it. Sunlight can destroy the bacteria in the brew and cause fermentation to stop.
  • Keep your brew away from smoke (for example cigarettes, stove).
  • Do not let your Kombucha ferment for too long. If you do, you run the risk of having your yeast die off as it runs out of sugar.

How to Make Kombucha

Now that you’ve learned about the precautions to take when brewing Kombucha, here’s how you can brew it at home.


Ingredients

  • A Kombucha culture or SCOBY. (You can find this on Amazon).
  • A starter liquid (which will most likely be delivered with the SCOBY online if you buy online).
  • Two liters of boiled drinking water
  • Red or black tea (four to six bags or two tablespoons of loose tea)
  • 150g granulated white sugar

Procedure

  • Boil drinking water and add your tea bags or loose tea into the pot.Making Kombucha
  • After about 10 to 15 minutes, pour the tea into your glass container. If you’re using loose tea, use a clean strain to remove the loose tea leaves.
  • Add sugar to the tea and stir until it dissolves.
  • Allow the tea to cool. This might take a few hours.
  • Add your SCOBY and starter liquid to the brewing container.
  • Cover the mouth of the container with cheesecloth and place in a well ventilated, warm area (ideal temperature, 23–27°C)
  • Taste the brew after seven days. Depending on your preferences, if you do not get the perfect taste, leave it for a few more days. In general, brewing can take anywhere from seven days to four weeks.

How to Flavor Your Kombucha

The video below shows you how you can create your own unique flavor.

Commercial Versus Home-Brewed Kombucha

Home brewing is not as safe as many people think, especially if not done properly. You can develop serious health problems necessitating hospitalization if your Kombucha becomes contaminated or over-fermented kombucha.

The safer option is to consume commercial Kombucha, which can be purchased at a store or online. Commercial products come in a range of flavors and contain < 0.5% alcohol.[12]

However, commercial Kombucha has its downsides.

  • Some brands contain a high quantity of added sugar. You should check the ingredients and avoid those that are high in added sugars.
  • Many commercial products are pasteurized. So, if you’re after the probiotic content in the tea, you won’t get it from commercial because the heat during pasteurization destroys the probiotics in the Kombucha.
  • Kombucha tea bags do not also contain a good amount of probiotics.
  • Commercial Kombucha can become expensive in the long-run. If you consume Kombucha tea regularly, you can save >90% if you make your own Kombucha?

Do you like Kombucha? Do you prefer brewing Kombucha at home or buying it from a store? Has it helped you manage your gastritis symptoms? I’d be curious to know whether it worked for you.

Does Kombucha Work for Gastritis?

Princila

Princila earned a Doctor of Medicine degree in 2006 and worked as a general practitioner for nearly two years before moving to Saudi Arabia. Her passion for writing took its toll, and she ended up switching careers to work in the medical publishing industry. She also has a passion for healthy food, which prompted her to take several online courses in nutrition and health offered by Wageningen University. Are you into research? You can connect with Princila on ResearchGate or LinkedIn. Visit our About page for details.

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