Monday, August 17, 2009

Kombucha Tea and Sugar Addiction

I started drinking Kombucha tea a few years ago and immediately noticed positive changes in my health. It seemed as if my digestive system was waking up. It cleared out my sinuses and reduced my sugar cravings. Even my hormone imbalance seemed to clear up!

Kombucha tea is a fermented drink said to strengthen the immune system by repopulating the digestive tract with live probiotics and enzymes that grow during the fermentation process.

When I first learned about it I was hesitant to make it because the recipe called for sugar and black tea, two foods I had stayed away from for decades. I was told that I had to make it this way or the benefits would be minimized. Having recovered from candidiasis I was concerned about drinking something with sugar in it. I was also unable to consume caffeine, (kept me up at night and made my hands shake) and was concerned about the caffeine in the tea. I went ahead and made it with herbal mint tea and organic sugar. It came out great and I felt sure the drink was plenty potent! I did not get any candida symptoms as long as I drank it in small amounts.

After making this lovely gentle potion for a few years I finally took a sip of a commercial kombucha drink, made with black tea. That one sip felt like a shock to my system. I knew my gentle herbal kombucha tea was right for me.

Recently, a few people expressed to me that they had been drinking Kombucha tea for awhile, felt good results but then got to a point where their bodies didn’t want it anymore. I was surprised to hear this as my body was craving a little every day.

Then, this summer, all of a sudden, my body didn’t want it! I tried a few sips, but no, it just wasn’t right anymore. I wonder if the kombucha did for me what I needed at the time and then I simply didn’t need it anymore.

I use a variety of lacto fermented products and I find myself craving different ones at different times. I trusted my body when it said it no longer needed Kombucha.

One of the major concerns about Kombucha is the large amount of sugar used for the fermentation. I believe that most of the sugar is used during the fermentation stage but I also believe that if one is extremely sensitive to sugar, candida, diabetes, IBS, it may not be the right drink.

I’ve also been thinking about some of my students who have had a difficult time “giving up” sugar. I’ve been through this myself. We are trying to heal illnesses such as candida, IBS, chronic fatigue, hypoglycemia, and fibromyalgia. We cut out the sugar and begin to feel deprived. Then it’s easy to binge on sugar and carbs exacerbating our symptoms.

I'm beginning to see Kombucha tea as being an important stepping stone for some people making the shift away from sugar. If someone is trying to minimize sugar intake but has occasional uncontrollable bingeing it seems that it could be more beneficial to drink the kombucha tea as an interim step. They could sip some tea when the craving for dessert shows up. They could sip some more when everyone is having a soda. They could put a slice of lemon in it when everyone is drinking overly sweet lemonade. This may satisfy the sugar fix while beginning the healing of their digestive and immune systems enabling the person to stay away from ice cream, baked goods and candy. As the bodily systems begin to return to a higher state of health the feeling of being sugar deprived could become a distant memory.

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Lacto-fermented Fruit drink

This is a good recipe for when you have an abundance of fresh fruit that you know will spoil before you can use it all. When the drink is ready you will strain the batch, discard the fruit and drink the juice. It will be bubbly!

10 plums
10 peaches
1 tsp sea salt
1 squirt agave (optional)
1 quart Water kefir (excluding water kefir grains)*see recipe below for water kefir
Leaf layer (this is about 3-4 leaves layered top of the fruit to keep it sumberged under the liquid. You can use swiss chard leaves or bok choy leaves)
rock (use a rock that fits easily through the mouth of the jar. scrub, wash thoroughly and boil before use)

Coarsely cut up fruit and press into a half gallon canning jar.
Add salt and agave (optional)
Add leaf layer and rock.
Fill the jar with water kefir to cover the fruit.
Cover with canning lid and set on the counter for 2-3 days to ferment.

This drink will get very bubbly so when you’re ready to drink this, open jar carefully over the sink.
Allow bubbles to rise to surface.
Remove rock and discard leaf layer.
Pour it all through a strainer reserving the liquid.
Press the fruit to extract as much juice as possible.
Discard fruit and store juice in the refrigerator.
This is potent! Drink in small amounts.
Keeps for about a week.

Water Kefir

Prep time: 10 minutes
Fermentation time: 2-4 days

2-3 tablespoons Water Kefir grains *see resources below to purchase
2 tablespoons sugar (I find organic dark sugar works the best, but any sugar works)
20 raisins (or a comparable amount of figs or prunes)
1 quart of filtered or spring water
1 slice of lemon

Nearly fill a wide mouth quart jar with water.
Add 2 tablespoons sugar, stirring to dissolve, 20 raisins and a slice of lemon or lime.
Add the water kefir grains to the jar or if this is your first batch add the contents of your bottle of water kefir grains into the quart jar.
Cover with a paper towel or cloth and secure with a rubber band.
When raisins float to the top, scoop them and the lemon slice out and discard.
Ferment the water kefir for 6-12 more hours on the counter with the paper towel.
Then store, covered, in fridge and use as needed.
When you have used the liquid down to about an inch in the jar start a new batch in a new jar and pour the water kefir grains plus the liquid their in right into the new jar, cover and ferment.
Lasts about 1 month

To replenish:
Use up the water kefir to about an inch of water kefir and water kefir grains left in the jar.
When you are ready to make a new batch just a fill a clean jar with 1 quart of water, add sugar and dissolve, add the last inch of water kefir and water kefir grains, trying to get all the grains into the new batch. Add fruit, cover and let ferment.

Other uses for Water Kefir:
tonic, a small amount through the day
supplies lactobacillus and serves as an inoculant for lacto-fermented vegetables, fruits, chutneys 2 Tablespoons per quart -2 cups for 2 gallon crock
soaking grains before cooking (2 Tablespoons) predigests and increases availability of enzymes and B vitamins
soaking beans before cooking (2 Tablespoons) predigests and increases availability of enzymes and B vitamins