Acid Reflux Cured by Kombucha? Yes

My friend with acid reflux — who used to have acid reflux — contacted me today:

My stomach is so much better [since I started drinking kombucha]. I rarely have problems. Every once in a while I might be a little uncomfortable. Then I drink a little kombucha, it gets better within an hour. I got up in the middle of the night the other night and I felt the usual kind of pain, took some sips of the kombucha, felt better, and fell back asleep. Hardly ever have pain now. The kombucha is much more effective than the Asiphax medicine I took. That was $60 for a 10-day course. It might even be more effective than Prilosec. (Which cleared up the problem but then it came back.)  I’ve been drinking kombucha for about three weeks. I really like the grape, guava, and strawberry flavors of the Synergy brand. The grape flavor is like sangria that’s just started to go bad. A couple of people I’ve tried to turn on to it but they just can’t stand the taste. My levels of stress haven’t decreased. I’m drinking less than half a bottle a day. Now the problem is that I forget I’m supposed to have stomach trouble so I forget to drink it.

If you know of anything (data, anecdotes, whatever), positive or negative, that sheds light on whether kombucha cures acid reflux, please let me know.

16 Replies to “Acid Reflux Cured by Kombucha? Yes”

  1. “Cured”? Sounds more like “treated”. “Treated more cheaply”, in particular. That’s no bad thing, but not a cure.

  2. Don’t overdo it, though!

    Here’s a bit of information you might find interesting, Seth, regarding stomach problems and probiotics. My room mate has a very good friend who is Vietnamese and a surgeon, practicing in the US. According to him, Vietnamese eat a lot of fermented food, but not much fatty food. In the US, however, we do the opposite- eat a lot of fatty food, but barely any fermented food. In Vietnam, colon cancer is relatively rare, while stomach cancer is a real problem. Again, in the US, the opposite is true: we have low rates of stomach cancer, with colon cancer being much more common.

    Digestion of fats takes place primarily in the colon, while digestion of fermented foods is almost exclusively a stomach affair.

    You can probably see where I’m going with this. According to him, just look to whatever the bulk of digestion is taking place to see where the cancer will be. This seems to be the case in other cultures, as well. Czechs (a group I am personally familiar with) also eat a lot of fatty foods and colon cancer is a huge problem for them.

    Still, here in America, we could probably afford to eat a LOT more fermented food than we currently do. Overdoing it might be next to impossible.

    What do you think?

  3. Nathan, I’m afraid I don’t understand the distinction you are making. What’s the difference between “curing” something and “[successfully] treating” it? In this example, the problem didn’t entirely disappear but it certainly is cause and effect (more kombucha, less acid reflux). If by “cure” you mean get rid of so that you don’t need the treatment any more, then Vitamin C doesn’t cure scurvy, because you have to keep taking Vitamin C.
    Bennetta, the Japanese eat a good amount of fermented food and have much higher rates of stomach cancer and much lower rates of heart disease than Americans. I don’t know what their colon cancer rate is. But perhaps their stomach cancer rate is high because their food is really salty, not because it’s fermented. Might be the explanation for the Vietnamese, too — all that salty fermented fish sauce. Like the Japanese and their salty fermented soy sauce.

    Because of our liking for umami, sour, and complex flavors, I believe we need fermented foods to make up for the lack of bacteria in the rest of our food. It isn’t a tradeoff (between colon cancer and stomach cancer); it’s a deficiency being met.

  4. Hi bennetta,
    I am also personally familiar with Czechs, that’s because I am one of them 🙂

    Little statistics about colorectal cancer in Czech Republic for you. I just looked it up using official statistics published by Institute of Health Information and Statistics of the Czech Republic:

    2006
    new cases: 152
    died: 82

    2005:
    new cases: 156
    died: 83

    2004:
    new cases: 158
    died: 90

    Total population: about 10 millions. Huge problem? No. And it even looks like a downtrend. Please do not let confuse yourself with press releases doing relative comparitions with other European countries. Absolute incidence is very small. In fact, number of death on colorectal cancer is lower then number of death on AIDS, and incidence of AIDS in Czech Rep. is very low.

    Source: http://www.uzis.cz/cz/dps/english/index.html
    Diagnoses: C18-C21 for both man and woman

    Now about your ideas about digestion.

    Human colon is not a digestive organ, even though some digestion happens there thanks to fermentative microorganisms, but the fatty acids produced by them are used mainly for colon nourishment (about 100 calories per day). Fats are absorbed in small intestine, as are absorbable parts of fermented foods.

    I will end with the relevant link:
    http://www.fibermenace.com/

  5. Interesting, Jaroslav. (and Dobry den!)

    I taught English in Prague, myself, and my friend Petr said it was a problem for them, citing two family members who had died of colon cancer. He was also extremely critical of the average Czech diet and blamed it for his family’s cancer.

  6. I can imagine that the cancer is a real problem for people who are directly affected by it, but beside that, statistical data speak for themselves.

    Generaly I see only two major problems with our diet: tons and tons of products made from refined while flour, and tons and tons of sweets. Replace that with something better, and Czech diet will become pretty sound (I should say that I don’t see animal fats and red meat as a problem, as their supposed harmfulness is not being proved by science, and never was). That’s of course pure fantasy 🙂 Lots of people are still cooking at home (perhaps even most of them), so better choice of ingredients and methods of preparition would make a big difference.

  7. I don’t know about kombucha, but I’ve drank buttermilk when I’ve had heartburn, and it works really well. I believe that modern buttermilk is a cultured product.

  8. Yes, Seth, curing means the condition goes away. Scurvy is caused by forcing people to eat bad food, and cured by letting patients eat what they choose. Vitamin C treats the acute condition. Kombucha treats acute acid reflux. Dietary changes may cure it. Kombucha might serve as a substitute for those dietary changes, just as taking vitamin (etc.) supplements may substitute eating for good food.

    There’s no evidence to blame stomach cancer on salt instead of fermented food, is there? Maybe it’s salt, maybe it’s bacteria, maybe it’s something else entirely. To decide up front that the fermented food can’t have a role is just wishful thinking. Quantities matter. Vitamin A prevents all kinds of problems, but too much kills. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if it were demonstrated we need to eat at least X mg of bacteria, and can tolerate up to nX, but more causes problems. Amounts of different strains matter too. The beneficial dosage of salmonella is probably fairly low. Science doesn’t tell us until we do the work. Assuming interferes with doing the work.

  9. Thanks for explaining that, Nathan. My friend isn’t drinking much kombucha. I’m pretty sure if he drank more the condition would go away completely. He doesn’t eat any fermented food apart from the kombucha. Yeah, I suspect if he changed his diet and ate other fermented foods, such as yogurt, he would no longer need to drink kombucha.
    I don’t “decide up front” that fermented food has no effect on stomach cancer. I wrote “perhaps their stomach cancer rate is high because their food is really salty, not because it’s fermented.” Note the “perhaps.” I think we agree that a range of possibilities should be considered.

  10. Sure enough, you did say “perhaps”, and I didn’t read carefully enough.

    I asked at Berkeley Natural Grocery about kombucha starter, and they said they didn’t have it and didn’t know anybody who did. Then I thought of starting a colony from the bottled stuff, and sure enough people do that. One of the FAQs suggested “continuous fermentation” in a “sun tea” jar, where you draw some off from the spigot and then add more tea. That seemed to me most practical.

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