Does Drinking Kombucha Help with Stress and Anxiety?

Explore the potential benefits of drinking kombucha for stress and anxiety relief. Learn about the science behind this popular health drink and how it may affect your mental wellbeing.

Considering that about 72% of adults feel the health impact of stress, managing stressors is a critical part of everyday life for most people on the planet. Although there are no easy answers, making sustainable behavioral changes can help to unwind the building pressure. By eating better, understanding stressors, and combating stress symptoms, anyone can take a step in the right direction.

In the spirit of improving stress, how can kombucha help? Can the health benefits of drinking kombucha also decrease anxiety? While the direct correlations between kombucha and stress/anxiety remain somewhat elusive, there is still plenty of reason for optimism. There is evidence showing that kombucha drinkers are giving their gut a powerful boost, which can trickle down into a swell of other potential health benefits. Read on to see how raw kombucha's natural ingredients might help with stress and anxiety.

Understanding How Stress Impacts the Average Adult

Clearly, we should be wary of anyone suggesting kombucha is some form of antidote for stress and anxiety. A multi-billion-dollar sector of the pharmaceutical industry is already devoted to alleviating psychological turmoil, and no one has yet perfected the art of eliminating it. In fact, as the Mayo Clinic points out, stress and anxiety are simply normal parts of the human experience.

So, where does kombucha come in? To understand the connection, we need to understand how personal health – including gut health – is directly connected to stress.

Personal Health is One of the Leading Stressors for Adults

Alongside factors like money issues and relationships, personal health is regularly listed as a top stressor. Often, there is even a snowball effect, where people experience health-related stress that then affects their nutritional choices. Worrying about personal health, or the health of loved ones, can ultimately have a devastating psychological impact that consistently raises stress levels.

Poor Digestion is One of the Top Symptoms of Stress

When dealing with stressful situations, the body steps up its defense system. Harvard researchers show that when stress triggers someone's "fight or flight" response, energy normally spent in digestion can be diverted elsewhere. In such situations, stress causes the body to borrow critical resources.

The result can be poor digestion directly attributable to stress. Digestive issues manifest themselves in many different ways and can consistently plague those who have elevated stress levels. The same researchers also pointed out another unfortunate side effect of gastrointestinal issues: they tend to increase stress. Those who suffer from stress and GI issues can end up in a difficult cycle where it's difficult to pinpoint the cause and effect.

How Nutrition and Good Habits Can Help Improve Stress

When it comes to improving health, examine your entire lifestyle. While exercise is a must, adopting food habits that you can stick with over the long haul is critical. For those able to regularly exercise and pick up healthy nutritional habits, stress levels can decrease while taking considerable pressure off the body.

Related: A Guide to Understanding Kombucha and Gut Health

In order to achieve healthy habits, consistency is important. Eating at regular intervals throughout the day can help regulate blood sugar levels and generally encourage good health. Those who say they are too stressed for proper meals will only end up feeding the stress.

It's also important to understand that chronic stress can fundamentally alter the metabolic process, causing the need for nutritional adjustments in those dealing with elevated and sustained stress levels.

One way to find a nutritional balance you can build upon is through the practice of mindful eating. This approach encourages slower eating and conscientiously looking at a meal's nutritional makeup. For most kombucha drinkers who are well aware of the nutritional value in every bottle, the mindful eating approach is a natural extension of habits already being explored.

The Evidence Behind Fermented, Probiotic and Antioxidant-Rich Foods Like Kombucha

Even though we've been using fermented foods in our diets for many thousands of years, it's only recently that we've started to understand the related health benefits. Recent studies have shown that these foods can play a role in improving a range of health issues, which, in turn, have an impact on stress and anxiety levels.

Here are seven food-stress connections to be aware of:

1. An Immune System Boost Can Lower Stress

There's another difficult cycle that many adults suffer from. While stress can literally make you sick, being chronically sick only adds to the stress. For those looking to break this cycle, developing positive habits that can improve the immune response is the way to go. Exercising and eating better is a highway to lower stress, although focusing on nutrients that lift the immune system can help you fight both sides of the cycle.

To that end, Stanford researchers ended up with a "stunning finding" when they looked at the relationship between immune cells and fermented foods. By reforming the gut microbiota with regular intake of fermented foods, they saw immune improvement along with other related health benefits. The research even showed a potential connection between fermented foods and lower chronic stress. Fermented foods like kombucha seem to be a helpful dietary addition for anyone looking to improve immune response and lower stress levels.

2. Decreasing Risks for Type-2 Diabetes

One of the biggest worries for a diabetic is the risk of hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia in Type-2 diabetics can result in more infections, blurred vision, low energy levels, and more. One of the ways to improve the risk of hyperglycemia is to balance the gut microbiome.

We're still early in the exploration of kombucha's role, but there is encouraging research that shows how kombucha may be able to decrease a diabetic's risk of hyperglycemia. With hyperglycemia always a concern for diabetics, a chance to improve gut health via a delicious habit like kombucha can be a very positive development.

3. Probiotics Might Positively Impact Stress Levels

Common probiotics found in kombucha are believed to improve overall gut health and promote healthier lifestyles. This lifestyle improvement can already help with stress, but now researchers are finding a promising link between stress and probiotics. A series of intricate studies tested how probiotics affected a school of zebrafish, with the data showing that probiotics helped the fish thrive in a high-stress environment.

For those of us who don't have advanced degrees in neurobehavioral science, zebrafish are considered a very helpful species for understanding drug interactions. Although researchers are still trying to pinpoint the exact reasons probiotics help with stress, there is reason to believe that probiotics are doing even more than we originally believed.

4. Fermented Foods May Be Helping People Cope with Social-Related Stress

Social anxiety is extremely common in the U.S. and around the world, with it often spilling into Social Anxiety Disorder. Roughly 15 million American adults are estimated to have significant social anxiety. Looking to test the connection between social anxiety and fermented foods, researchers conducted a survey that provided tremendous insight into the connection. The result: yes, fermented foods like kombucha can actually lower social anxiety levels.

Related: Is Kombucha a Good Antioxidant?

While more research on kombucha's effect on social anxiety will provide further clarity, any improvement in social-related stress can help move health forward. As we continue to see anxiety tied to social activity in a hyperconnected world, regular intake of fermented, probiotic-rich foods like kombucha is an easy, delicious way to grab onto some of those potential benefits.

5. How Antioxidants Can Affect Depression and Anxiety

Stress can wreak havoc on an individual's biochemical makeup. Over time, when stress is consistently high, the natural self-defense system that regulates our biochemistry might need a pick-me-up. The best way to help your body's organic regulatory system? According to studies, key vitamins that have high levels of antioxidants can improve biochemical balance and help individuals avoid major bouts of depression and anxiety.

Although many kombucha drinkers are broadly aware of the importance of antioxidants, they may not know their role in diffusing stress and anxiety. While kombucha alone is not enough to fundamentally alter someone's outlook, we do know that regular doses of antioxidants – teamed with a healthy lifestyle – can help control anxiety levels and ward off depression.

6. How Antioxidants in Fermented Foods Affect Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress can be a plague on the body and is often a symptom of serious disease. Unsurprisingly, the diagnosis of a serious disease can dramatically increase psychological stress and anxiety over the long haul. In other words, one form of stress can create a direct channel to another. Those who can alleviate oxidative stress can improve their health outlook, lower risk factors, and ultimately diminish long-term anxiety that can create other health dilemmas.

Ailments like heart disease, various cancers, and Alzheimer's are often associated with an imbalance of antioxidants and free radicals – the central cause of oxidative stress. To combat this, health experts recommend an increased level of antioxidants, which can improve the balance of free radicals and help avoid oxidative stress issues. Eating plenty of veggies and fruits (especially berries) is critical, but choosing a favorite kombucha flavor and enjoying it regularly is a great addition for anyone looking to up their antioxidant levels.

7. Low-Sugar Diets and Stress Levels

Considering that about 60% of Americans (two years old and older) go above the recommended daily sugar intake. A 14-oz glass of lemonade might have as much as 3-5x times as much sugar as a 14-oz bottle of kombucha. it's clear that the population at large could use some alternative beverages to stay on a healthy track.  

The connection between sugar and stress is well-known today. Beyond increased risks of obesity and diabetes, those with high-sugar diets tend to be more irritable and end up craving even more sugar to stem the tide. This can lead to increased stress in both the short and long term because of the overall health risks associated with having too much sugar. Substituting high-sugar beverages for those much lower on the sugar spectrum (like kombucha) can be a very positive lifestyle change.

How Kombucha and Exercise Go Together

Just like a healthy and balanced diet, it's hard to overestimate the positive impact of regular exercise. That is especially the case when it comes to improving stress levels. Nearly two out of three adults who exercise say that it lowers their stress levels. Those who exercise regularly report better sleep, higher self-esteem, and more stabilized moods.

Beyond the positive feelings produced, exercise can lower health risks across the board. Diabetes, heart disease, many cancers, and plenty of other illnesses can be averted or improved with regular exercise. Considering the direct relationship between physical health and stress, exercise should be a critical focus for nearly everyone.

But there can also be a drawback for those who regularly exercise. For some who work out, GI issues can be disruptive. Instead of ditching exercise, anyone in this camp can look for ways to improve their gut health.

Fermented, probiotic-rich foods and beverages can help here, as well. Because of the probiotics and associated digestive benefits, kombucha can be an easy choice to help regulate the digestive tract. This can be especially important for those who rely on exercise to stave off stress or other health problems.

While nutritional experts point out that individuals may need to find the best time to drink kombucha near a workout (it differs from person to person), the potential benefits are there. Regular exercise and a happy gut boosted by kombucha can put you on a path to improved health and lowered stress levels. Drinking kombucha instead of a high-sugar sports drink after exercising can also help keep you under the recommended daily sugar dosage.

Add Kombucha to Your Anti-Stress Game Plan

Dealing with stress and anxiety is a fact of life, and yet many of us don't have a sufficient game plan for coping with it. As stressors build up, it's easy to make poor health choices that can ultimately lead to even more stress. While trying to navigate the tricky relationship we have with anxiety, it can feel like there are few solutions that can truly make a difference.

Many find that starting small can lead to bigger results down the road, and finding ways to add healthy yet delicious options to our diets can be the first move towards winning the battle with stress. Drinking kombucha can be a great way to focus on mindful eating, a way to pull back from the brink and consider the ingredients that go into your body. So take a deep breath, choose your favorite raw kombucha flavor, and help your gut help you!

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