If you’ve been paying attention to health trends, you might have noticed that there’s a big buzz about probiotics. Many companies are developing and launching probiotic and prebiotic supplements designed to help balance and improve gut flora so that you can reap the health benefits.
Research and studies have shown that gut flora is important to our health in so many ways. Whether dealing with stress, improving gastrointestinal health, or even preventing and treating serious conditions, researchers are looking into how the bacteria in our gut may or may not play a role.
However, when it comes to gut health, there are two very different sides to the story: natural products versus commercial supplements. Fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha are gaining popularity — But in the battle of kombucha vs probiotics, which is better? Here’s all you need to know.
A long time ago, the human diet was very different. We didn’t eat much sugar or processed foods. We were living in a pre-industrial age where our environmental conditions were very different. In those days, our gut flora was balanced, and it kept our bodies healthy and strong.
These days, we eat processed foods, breathe polluted air, drink bottled water, and take antibiotics to treat diseases. Some of these things are convenient and make modern life a little safer, but they’re not always great for our gut flora.
Although antibiotics can prevent infection, they can also cause absolute chaos in your gut. After just one bout of strep throat treated with antibiotics, good bacteria can be wiped out, while harmful bacteria, and even fungal infections like thrush, can flourish. And it may take months or even years to get things back in balance naturally.
As the gut is considered the body’s “second brain,” a gut flora imbalance can do so much more than just make us physically unwell. It may have a profound impact on your mental health and wellbeing too — so it’s more important than ever to keep everything balanced and in sync.
The first thing we should probably clarify is what exactly kombucha is.
Kombucha is a naturally fermented drink made from tea and various herbs, spices, and botanicals.
Like other naturally fermented products, kombucha takes a little time to go from its “raw” state to the drink you might buy in a store, and the magic is in the fermentation.
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, and they’re immensely beneficial to our gut health.
Of course, because kombucha and similar foods and drinks are fermented, they must be made under the strictest possible health conditions, with a meticulous eye for quality and food safety. So, while good kombucha is one of the healthiest drinks you can choose, you should only buy your kombucha from a reputable source that complies with all health regulations.
Probiotics, or probiotic supplements, are commercially manufactured, bottled probiotics designed to be taken as a pill or powder, much the same way you would your daily multivitamin.
Many probiotics are excellent, but some contain the wrong kinds of bacteria. Not that they are harmful, but it’s just that of the tens of thousands of kinds of beneficial bacteria we find in food products, only about 400 to 600 are effective in the human gut.
If the supplements you choose contain the wrong kind of probiotics, they won’t harm you, but they will probably pass through your gut without doing any good either. Consequently, if you do plan to use commercial probiotics, you need to speak to a dietary specialist to find a product made with probiotics that are beneficial to the human gut.
But keep in mind that labels aren’t always accurate. The Harvard School of Public Health says, “Because probiotics fall under the category of supplements and not food, they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration in the US. This means that unless the supplement company voluntarily discloses information on quality a probiotic pill may not contain the amounts listed on the label or even guarantee that the bacteria are alive and active at the time of use.”
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 tasty and refreshing delicious addition to your diet. It comes in all sorts of flavors, ranging from fruity to spicy to herbal to floral. It’s not only good for you, but it’s delicious too, which means you’ll actually want to drink them – and let’s face it, there’s nothing better on a hot day than an ice-cold, good-for-you beverage!
When you choose commercial probiotics, you don’t get any taste. This might be a plus for some, but if you’re someone who struggles to stick to positive health changes in your life, you’re probably going to struggle with this too. There’s no flavor to a probiotic pill or powder, so you’re not going to be craving a delicious flavor!
On the flavor front, kombucha wins the battle, hands down.
Many of the better, made-for-the-human-gut probiotics out there are not what you would call cheap. Some are only available as a prescription or from specialized suppliers, which means they can cost a lot of money. Because they are considered a supplement rather than medication, your health insurance probably won’t cover them.
However, adding kombucha and other fermented foods to your diet is as easy as a visit to a good grocery store or an online order. You can get great quality products quickly, and they not only taste wonderful, but they’re also nutritious too – so you get more bang for your healthy buck!
On the ease of use front, it does depend what kind of commercial probiotic you get. Some are in pill form, which means you can pop one in the morning and leave it at that. Others are in powder form that you add to water or juice, making them harder to consume and requiring a little more effort.
When you drink kombucha, it’s just a matter of unscrewing the cap and enjoying a cold beverage.
So, on the ease of use front, most commercial probiotics and kombucha score about even.
Related: Is There A Best Time Of Day To Drink Kombucha?
When you’re taking commercial probiotics, there’s a massive range in the quality of the product. Some are fantastic and contain large amounts of readily bioavailable, human-specific probiotics. Others, like the Harvard report says, might mostly pass through your system and contain very few live probiotics, if any.
Since kombucha is a naturally fermented product, all the present probiotic bacteria are alive and easy to digest, particularly if the kombucha is raw. So more 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.
Most commercial probiotic products are one-trick ponies. Even the good ones are designed to do one thing only: they deliver probiotic bacteria to your gut to boost and balance gut flora.
Natural probiotics like kombucha, kimchi, kefir and sauerkraut offer added benefits too.
Some, like kombucha, might contain large amounts of other healthy phytochemicals, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Others, like sauerkraut and kimchi, also contain fiber, another essential ingredient in gut health.
Natural probiotics like kombucha are also great ingredients in the kitchen, whether it’s as a component in your favorite smoothie or as a healthy condiment in the case of kimchi and sauerkraut. The natural acidity and tartness of fermented foods can add a fresh dimension to your cooking.
If you’re still wondering which one is better: kombucha vs probiotics, and which one you should choose, the easiest answer is: why not both?
You might not always be in the mood for kombucha. In that case, a good quality, quick, and easy-to-take probiotic supplement is a great choice. Or you might want to get a little more boost to your gut flora. Then why not wash your supplement down with some kombucha?
When it comes to natural health and keeping our bodies healthy and in balance, it doesn’t always have to be a contest. Natural options like kombucha or even kefir or yogurt for breakfast are beneficial, but when things are too busy for breakfast, grab a toast and supplement on your way out of the door and keep the health benefits going.
Natural products like kombucha are always a great choice because they’re not overly processed, are easy to digest, and taste great. But if you can’t or don’t want to drink this kind of beverage every day, it’s perfectly okay to supplement with a supplement! If you are looking to try some delicious kombucha, check out Brew Dr. Apart from refreshing flavors, they offer tons of recipes for cocktails, mocktails, and even smoothie bowls and salad dressings.