Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic took over the world two years ago, our immune systems have been top of mind for many of us. In fact, a recent survey by the American Psychological Association revealed that nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults say COVID has forever changed their lives. Whether it’s exercising more, eating healthier, or reducing stress, many people are doing all they can to strengthen their immunity. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to give your body an extra boost, and it can be found at the grocery store. Read on to find out which popular beverage can help fortify your immune system—and potentially protect you from future illness.
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Instead of waiting for illness to strike, you can take control of your health by reducing your risk of chronic disease. How? By adopting healthy lifestyle habits. The experts at Healthline recommend several ways to strengthen your immune system naturally, including getting enough sleep, eating a predominantly plant-based diet, exercising regularly, limiting added sugars, and consuming fermented foods that contain probiotics. This is good news, since research findings show one popular drink rich in probiotics can especially benefit your immune system.
If you haven’t heard of kombucha, it’s time to learn more about this potent elixir. Kombucha is a fermented drink made from tea, sugar, bacteria, and yeast—and is one of the fastest-growing bottled beverages in America. In fact, the global kombucha market is estimated to exceed $1.5 billion in 2022. And it’s no wonder, considering the myriad health benefits of this fizzy brew.
Studies show that kombucha possesses anti-bacterial, antioxidant, and anti-diabetic properties, improves digestion, removes toxins, boosts energy, promotes weight loss, lowers blood pressure, reduces heart disease risk, prevents certain cancers, and strengthens the immune system. A rather impressive resumé!
The health benefits don’t stop there. “Kombucha, especially when made from green tea, contains a high concentration of polyphenols,” says Erin Hendriks, board-certified physician and functional medicine practitioner at Salvo Health. “Polyphenols stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, lower inflammation, and […] offer protection against several cancers, including cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.”
The most-touted health benefit of kombucha is its ability to improve gut health. Why? Because kombucha is packed with antioxidants and probiotics (healthy gut bacteria) that enhance the health of intestinal cells, boost immune function, and improve digestion. By promoting your gut health, kombucha bolsters your immune system, since 70 to 80 percent of immune cells are found in your gut microbiome.
“The digestive system and immune system are closely intertwined; the lining of the intestines creates antibodies that help protect the body,” reports John Hopkins Medicine. “Additionally, kombucha is high in polyphenols which promote the growth of butyrate-producing bacteria,” explains Hendriks. “Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid well known for its potent anti-inflammatory activity in the gut.”
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Don’t start chugging this gut-healing beverage just yet. Since kombucha is loaded with live culture (probiotics), you may be wondering, “Is kombucha safe to drink daily? If so, how much?” In short—yes, probiotic foods such as kombucha can, and should, be consumed daily. However, there’s a limit to how much is safe. The Cleveland Clinic reports that drinking four ounces of kombucha one to three times per day is safe. However, don’t exceed 12 ounces in one day, as this can lead to excess intake of calories and sugar and cause digestive issues.
Added sugar is another thing to be wary of. “Some kombucha products are high in sugar, which is not ideal for gut health,” Hendriks says. “Also, when it comes to nurturing the gut microbiome, variety is key. You want to consume lots of different fermented foods, not just stick to the same thing every day.”