Can it assist with Crohn’s illness?
We don’t really know what causes or cures Crohn’s disease, says Diane R. Javelli, a nutritionist at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle.
But we know this: When you have Crohn’s disease, it is harder to keep the balance between “bad” and “good” bacteria in your gut. They have less of the type that can reduce inflammation. And this imbalance can lead to diarrhea and other digestive problems.
Could Kombucha Help?
Kombucha is an acidic, carbonated, fermented drink, most commonly made from green or black tea, says Javelli. Some types of kombucha are high in probiotics. These are live microbes that are added to foods or supplements to help your body. “You’re the type that lives in harmony with us and helps us stay healthy,” says Javelli.
Why people with Crohn’s disease try kombucha
Some people with Crohn’s disease try kombucha because they hope the probiotics will help restore balance to their gut.
“Many of my patients have tried taking probiotics or continuing to take them,” says Javelli. “Many say they think it will help in some way. It can make them less gaseous or bloated. Or it can help regulate bowel movements and cause less diarrhea or constipation. Others say they feel more bloated after taking probiotics. “
It’s hard to tell whether the probiotics or some other factor are making your symptoms better or worse, she adds.
One challenge is that nobody regulates probiotics. “So it’s hard to know what you’re getting,” says Javelli. There are many, many different types and strains of these good bacteria.
“We also don’t know what everyone already has in their digestive system or what they need,” she says. What kind of bacteria do people with Crohn’s disease need? And is it different for each person with Crohn’s disease? “We really don’t know.”
“There’s not a lot of research to show the benefits of probiotics, either,” she says. “The American Gastroenterology Association recently released new guidelines stating that there isn’t enough data to justify their use under most conditions.”
Even fewer studies have found probiotics to benefit from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) like Crohns. They haven’t clearly demonstrated the ability to prevent or reduce symptoms of Crohn’s disease.
Other possible benefits of kombucha
Sure, with few side effects, kombucha contains other substances that can help people with Crohn’s disease.
Kombucha contains polyphenols found in kombucha’s green or black tea. You can help:
Some types of kombucha also contain glucosamine. This can help with joint pain, which is common in people with Crohn’s disease. But, says Javelli, we need more research to know if any of these kombucha benefits are unique.
When you try Kombucha
If their patients want to try probiotics, Javelli encourages them to get them from food sources rather than supplements. This can be yogurt, sauerkraut, miso or tempeh. She doesn’t advise drinking kombucha for Crohn’s. But if you have Crohns and want to give it a try, she suggests you:
- Discuss this with your doctor first.
- Make sure that you are not taking any drugs that suppress your immune system.
- Don’t use homemade kombucha. “If you don’t handle it properly, home-brewed kombucha can grow mold, fungus, or other toxins,” she says. That can make you sick. Kombucha fermented too long can also develop too much acetic acid. That can make you sick too.
- Use a commercial kombucha. The products are more standardized and safe.
- Check the ingredients. Not all kombucha are created equal. Choose a product that contains little or no alcohol. “Three percent or more is too much,” says Javelli. High caffeine levels can also worsen loose stool. And high amounts of lactic acid or acetic acid can be harmful when you have acid reflux.
- Start slowly and drink a small amount. See how your body is doing before you drink more. If you overdo it, you can get more gas, gas, gas, or loose stools. Have you already experienced loss of appetite, weight loss, diarrhea, or nutrient absorption problems? “If so, the last thing you want is to take something that makes your symptoms worse,” says Javelli.
- Include prebiotic foods that will help feed the probiotics. These are mostly complex carbohydrates. Examples are onions, garlic, bananas, artichokes, and asparagus.
- Whatever you do, don’t just rely on one thing like kombucha. For example, don’t forget:
Diane R. Javelli, RD, University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle.
Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation: “Probiotics and Microorganisms”, “What should I eat?”
National Center for Complementary and Inclusive Health: “Probiotics: What You Need to Know.”
American Gastroenterology Association: “AGA Clinical Practice Guidelines on the Role of Probiotics in the Treatment of Gastrointestinal Disorders.”
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: “Probiotics for Induction of Remission in Crohn’s Disease.”
American Family Doctor: “Probiotics for Gastrointestinal Disease: A Summary of the Evidence.”
International Journal of Food Properties: “Polyphenols and Their Benefits: A Review.”
National Health Institutes: “Probiotics”.
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