Kombucha (pronounced kom-BOO-cha) is a fizzy, non-alcoholic fermented drink made with tea. It has gained praise and popularity in recent years for its ability to improve digestion and immunity. It's also a liquid more likely to quench your thirst and be more rewarding when you're thirsty.
According to new research published in PLOS One from Rutgers University nutritional scientist Paul Breslin, fizzy drinks may provide more stimulus to quench thirst based on sensory cues.
Fluid ingestion is necessary for life, and thirst sensations are a prime motivator to drink. There is evidence of the influence of oropharyngeal stimulation on thirst and water intake in both animals and humans, but how those oral sensory cues impact thirst and ultimately the amount of liquid ingested has not been well understood until now.
Made specifically with live bacteria and yeast, Kombucha is reported to boost your immune system (thanks to the probiotics), help ward off cancer, and improve your digestion and your liver function.
The texture of Kombucha can taste like something between sparkling apple cider and champagne, depending on what kind of tea you use. It's not what you'd imagine fermented tea to taste like. The fizzy sensation provided by Kombucha is more soothing than carbonated sodas yet still quenching for our thirst.
Thirsty humans often prefer beverages that are both cold and carbonated including: mineral waters, seltzer, sodas, and beers. There is, however, no clear explanation for why this behavior is so common. While many of these beverages are loaded with artificial sweeteners, preservatives and sugar, others such as Kombucha offer an excellent healthy alternative.
Breslin and his collaborators say, it's good news for the beverage industry, which has long touted cold, carbonated drinks as more thirst-quenching. The research may also suggest a way to help people who are particularly vulnerable to dehydration to drink more fluids. Soldiers, laborers, and elderly people are especially vulnerable to dehydration, and coldness and carbonation might make it more rewarding for them to drink more.
Thirst Quenching Science
At the heart of the experiment is the difference between one's thirst being quenched and one's hydration being adequate. A thirsty person feels his thirst quenched because of sensory clues in his mouth, throat and stomach. But that water has not yet been absorbed; the brain has projected that it will be adequately absorbed.
"Your physiology wants to meet a deficit," says Breslin, professor of nutritional sciences in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. "When you need to drink, it tells you, and when you've drunk enough, it says, ‘Okay, you've drunk enough; stop.' But if you make water colder -- or, if you make it seem colder -- the coldness will make your body think that more water is coming in than actually is."
Breslin and his co-authors wanted to find out which oral sensations influence thirst and have an impact on how much liquid people drink. In their paper, they report that they tested 98 people between the ages of 20 and 50. These subjects abstained from drinking and eating overnight and then ate a small breakfast. Their thirst thus awakened, they were given 13.5 ounces of water to drink in five minutes. Some subjects drank room-temperature water, carbonated or plain; some drank cold water, carbonated or plain. After a break, the subjects were allowed to drink as much room-temperature, non-carbonated water as they wished.
"There's a difference between what your body is doing, and what you're conscious of," Breslin says. "We asked people to drink a fixed volume of water from a glass that was opaque, and then to indicate how much water they thought they had drunk by pointing to one of several clear glasses with different amounts of water. They consistently thought they had drunk more water when it was cold and carbonated. We're talking about a volume illusion here, not just a physiological feedback to thirst centers of the brain."
Breslin and his colleagues also tested for other oral sensations -- astringency, sweetness and acidity. Only temperature and carbonation had any effect. Though cold and carbondated beverages do not hydrate better than room-temperature or noncarbonated ones, they are more appealing to consume, says Breslin, which can stave off dehydration in some.
"If you're really busy, and you're just concentrating on doing what's in front of you, it's easy to ignore the sensory signals that tell you it's time to drink," Breslin says. "With elderly people, the sensory signals themselves may be weakening, and therefore are easier to ignore. If you can meet the need to drink with something that makes it more enticing and makes people want to drink more, that can help."
Making Your Own Kombucha in 5 Simply Steps
Many health claims are made for kombucha but there is less research on the benefits of kombucha than there is on fermented milk products. It has certainly been shown to have similar antibiotic, antiviral and anti fungal properties in lab tests. In rats it’s been shown to protect against stress and improve liver function. There is a lot of experiential evidence from people who have been using kombucha over many years. Many of the benefits reported include improvements in energy levels, metabolic disorders, allergies, cancer, digestive problems, candidiasis, hypertension, HIV, chronic fatigue and arthritis. It ‘s also used externally for skin problems and as a hair wash among other things.
The body's most important detoxifier. When toxins enter the liver this acid binds them to it and flushes them out through the kidneys. Once bound by glucuronic acid toxins cannot escape. A product of the oxidation process of glucose, glucuronic acid is one of the more significant constituents of Kombucha. As a detoxifying agent it's one of the few agents that can cope with pollution from the products of the petroleum industry, including all the plastics, herbicides, pesticides and resins. It kidnaps the phenols in the liver, which are then eliminated easily by the kidneys. Kombucha can be very helpful for allergy sufferers. Another by-product of glucuronic acid are the glucosamines, the structures associated with cartilage, collagen and the fluids which lubricate the joints. It is this function that makes Kombucha so effective against arthritis.
Essential for the digestive system. Assist blood circulation, helps prevent bowel decay and constipation. Aids in balancing acids and alkaline in the body and believed to help in the prevention of cancer by helping to regulate blood pH levels.
A powerful preservative and it inhibits harmful bacteria.
A natural antibiotic that can be effective against many viruses.
An effective preservative and encourages the intercellular production of energy.
Helps detoxify the liver.
Produced by the bacteria, it can break down to caprylic acid is of great benefit to sufferers of candidiasis and other yeast infections such as thrush.
Produced by the yeast, protects human cellular membranes and combined with Gluconic acid strengthens the walls of the gut to combat yeast infections like candida.