Kombucha vs Probiotic Supplements: Which Is Better?

What's the best way to improve probiotic intake? Here's everything you need to know about kombucha probiotics versus supplemental pills and powders.

Probiotics have become a central player in the world of nutrition, yet not all probiotics are created equal. While innumerable studies have shown the importance of probiotics in digestion, how we ingest probiotics will determine how well they bolster gut health and improve overall nutrition. Even if probiotic supplements can provide a nutritional boost, research suggests that naturally occurring probiotics are the ideal way to add them to your dietary routine.

But why do experts think that natural probiotics are more effective than supplements? Do the best kombuchas offer the same benefits as other foods and beverages? As we learn more and more about how critical digestion is to our overall health, we're seeing encouraging signs that we can revamp our gut flora with good daily habits. Here's everything you need to know about kombucha probiotics versus supplements, and why the right booch can give you a considerable edge.

What Experts Think About Kombucha Probiotics

The gut is often considered the "second brain," as there is a domino effect that begins in our digestive tract. An imbalanced gut microbiome can do much more than just make us feel unwell; it can have a profound impact on a variety of core functions and even our mental health. As critical components of our gut-brain axis, our gut bacteria can fundamentally change our overall health outlook.

The clearest path to improving our gut-brain axis is diversifying our gut bacteria, which is where kombucha comes in. Researchers point out that naturally occurring kombucha probiotics can significantly improve the presence of good bacteria in our gut.

The boost in good bacteria keeps bad bacteria in check, improves digestion, and is linked to improving all-around health. While experts would like to see more research on kombucha's possible connection with cancer and heart disease prevention, there is already a strong link between kombucha probiotics and improved digestion.

This tradition dates back more than two thousand years to the earliest days of kombucha. While ancient humans drank kombucha, they were improving the balance of their gut bacteria and countering some of the effects of less-than-sanitary cooking conditions.  

How Probiotics Form in Kombucha

Natural yeast occurs everywhere, and when it finds its way into foods and drinks (like kombucha), it transforms them, creating remarkable, healthy bacteria known as probiotics. They're the same sort of bacteria you find in foods like yogurt, another probiotic superfood people rely on to boost gut health.

Of course, because kombucha and similar foods and drinks are fermented, they must be strictly regulated, with a meticulous eye for quality and food safety. This is why health experts don't recommend drinking homemade kombucha—even if it's high in probiotics.

While leading kombucha manufacturers must comply with federal regulations, ensuring safety in a homemade brew without pasteurization is impossible. This is why it's critical that you buy your kombucha from a reputable source that complies with all health regulations.

Countering the Effects of Antibiotics

Today we use probiotics to offset other negative factors that can suppress our health. Although antibiotics can prevent infection, they can also cause chaos in your gut and restrict good bacteria from having an impact. After just one bout of strep throat treated with antibiotics, harmful bacteria can flourish at the expense of good bacteria. The result can be fungal infections or a gut imbalance that takes months—or even longer—to return to normal.

Related: Kombucha Nutrition and the Health Benefits of Raw Nutrition

These days, we eat processed foods, breathe polluted air, drink bottled water, and take antibiotics to treat diseases. These conveniences make modern life a little easier and safer, but they're not always great for our digestion. Just like earlier humans who first experienced the benefits of kombucha, our bodies need probiotics to find a shortcut to balancing the gut flora.

What Are Probiotic Supplements?

Probiotic supplements are commercially manufactured, bottled probiotics designed to be taken as a pill or powder, much the same way you might take a daily multivitamin. Many probiotics are excellent, but some contain the wrong kinds of bacteria. Although not necessarily harmful, probiotics that don't have the right bacteria can offer only limited health upside.  

If the supplements you choose contain the wrong probiotics, they probably won't harm you, but they will pass through your gut without doing any good either. Consequently, if you do plan to use commercial probiotics, you should speak to a dietary specialist to find a product that is most beneficial to the human gut.

But keep in mind that labels aren't always accurate. The Harvard School of Public Health points out that supplements are not considered food and are not regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). This clouds the outlook for probiotic supplements, making it impossible to know exactly what you're getting in every bottle.

In a follow-up Harvard article, researchers concluded that supplements are best suited for very specific conditions and shouldn't be used every day. Physicians and patients should decide the use of probiotic supplements on a case-by-case basis. Instead, fermented foods with an established track record of healthy bacteria are considered a better conduit for improving health outcomes.

The Difference in Cost

Another reason to be cautious about using probiotic supplements every day is the cost. Many of the better probiotics are not exactly cheap, and some are only available as a prescription or from specialized suppliers. Again, because they are considered a supplement rather than medication, your health insurance probably won't cover them unless you have specific conditions.

However, adding kombucha and other fermented foods (e.g., sauerkraut and certain Greek yogurts) to your diet can be more cost-effective. Top kombucha brands are typically only slightly more expensive than the most prominent sodas, and booch enthusiasts keep prices down by buying in bulk. Kombucha is also on the low end of the range compared to the biggest coffee brands, which cost between $2-$6.

Ease of Use

The main reason that people use probiotic supplements is because of the expected ease of use, but this dynamic has shifted significantly in recent years. Bottles remain the most popular way to drink kombucha, but the top brands now offer canned options that provide more mobility. Office workers in particular have a much easier time including their favorite kombucha in their lunch than they did even a few years ago.

Kombucha is also much more readily available these days, as booch has matured from niche markets to the mainstream. Nearly every grocery store has decent kombucha options and they can also be easily added to grocery deliveries. In restaurants, the growing popularity of kombucha is also present. Amid robust projections for kombucha consumption over the next decade, more and more bars and restaurants are adding kombucha to their menu.

The same thing goes for barbecues and holiday get-togethers. Kombucha is now appearing in more coolers and fridges than ever before, making consumers much less reliant upon probiotic pills and powders. As kombucha continues to build in popularity, including it in your diet keeps getting easier.

Added Benefits

Most commercial probiotic products are one-trick ponies. Even the good ones are designed to do one thing only: deliver probiotic bacteria to your gut to boost and balance gut flora. But natural probiotics like kombucha, kimchi, kefir, and sauerkraut offer added benefits, too, making them ideal nutritional options for those looking for functional foods and beverages.  

Related: 7 Kombucha Side Effects You Didn't Know About

For kombucha, researchers are optimistic about the presence of antioxidants, polyphenols and various essential vitamins. For fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, fiber adds to the digestive outlook and can help ensure gut consistency. With benefits outside of probiotics, fermented foods can be an important staple of a healthy diet.

Natural probiotics can also be great ingredients in the kitchen, whether it's in a kombucha fruit smoothie or as a healthy condiment in the case of kimchi and sauerkraut. One fun way to include kombucha in cooking is by making a customized salad dressing. Others use kombucha as a base for meat or vegetable marinades, or for mocktails that taste as good as the original.

With more great flavors being added to the menu all the time, kombucha can offer countless ways to spice up everyday foods with flavor and nutrients.

Taste and the Effect on Our Diet  

Most of us want to live better, healthier lives, but we also want to enjoy our lives. In the battle of kombucha vs. probiotics, you have to consider taste. Kombucha can be a refreshing addition to your diet that comes in all sorts of flavors, ranging from fruity and spicy to herbal and floral. It's not only good for you, but it's delicious, which means you'll actually want to drink it.

This last point is absolutely critical once you add human psychology to the mix. When we taste something delicious, signals are sent to the brain that can then help us feel satisfied and full. In addition to the real impact of probiotics (and other nutrients), kombucha's great flavor serves as a nutritional marker for our brain. Paired with a healthy meal, a kombucha can ensure the right signals are getting through and that we don't continue to indulge after our body wants us to stop.

When you choose commercial probiotics, you don't get any taste. This might be a plus for some, but if you struggle to stick to positive health changes, you'll probably struggle with this. On the flip side, the great taste of kombucha can make it a more reliable partner for anyone trying to sustain a healthy lifestyle.

Choosing the Right Kombucha

Since kombucha is a naturally fermented product, all the present probiotic bacteria are alive and easy to digest, particularly if you choose a kombucha that is raw. Raw, organic kombucha means that more healthy bacteria will find their way into your gut, where they will be able to make a difference. This means that, in most cases, a good quality kombucha drink will get the maximum amount of healthy gut bacteria into your digestive system.

Unfortunately, it can be a much different reality for non-organic kombuchas that go through pasteurization. While pasteurization makes sense for many beverages, it tends to do more harm than good during kombucha production. In the effort to kill bad bacteria, the good bacteria are extinguished as well, which fundamentally alters the probiotic setup and changes the health outlook.

To overcome this deficiency, kombucha makers who use pasteurization will typically add probiotic supplements to the bottle after the fact. While this is certainly better than having no probiotics at all, this process comes with all the drawbacks of probiotic supplements.

Instead of a surge of naturally occurring probiotics, kombucha drinkers are left with a restricted gut impact. For those who rely on kombucha to be a positive factor in their overall gut health, raw kombucha is the only way to go

Should You Go with a Supplement or Kombucha?

When it comes to keeping our bodies healthy and in balance, it also doesn't always have to be a contest. Natural products like kombucha are always a great choice because they're not overly processed, are easy to digest, and taste great. But when you're too busy for breakfast, grab a quick meal and supplement on your way out of the door to keep the health benefits going. Despite the limitations of supplements, they can be very helpful for people who are always on the move.

You also might want to test out probiotics as you go to determine what's best for your body. Many consumers find that a mix of kombucha probiotics and supplements can perfectly complement each other. And if your digestive tract seems happy with balancing the two options, you can have the best of both worlds while maintaining a healthy gut microbiome.

Combining the Best Flavor and Probiotic Qualities

Your favorite kombucha should be a consistent part of your diet—a building block that can help guide you toward improved gut health. The kombucha probiotics in raw booch deliver a powerful dose of healthy bacteria that can assist in balancing gut flora and maintaining the gut-brain axis. Although kombucha won't remake your gut overnight, research shows it can be a powerful ally in piecing together a sustainable, healthy diet.

At Brew Dr., we're obsessed with fine-tuning the process behind every bottle of kombucha. Our diverse lineup of kombucha flavors is designed to appeal to all palettes, offering a range of great tastes to try as you look to include more probiotics in your diet. Take a look at our tasty options today!

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