Kombucha! Recovering The Lost Art of Fermentation

KombuchaSCOBY The mother SCOBY and its "baby."

"I once heard a man say that the creation of the refrigerator was one of the worst inventions for our health."

At first glance that statement seems preposterous, and at face value it is. According to Jordan Rubin, the essence of the man's lamentation was not the actual refrigerator, rather the loss of fermentation as a preservative and all the health benefits that we once derived from it.

As more people are seeking new and healthy lifestyles, the lost art of fermentation is making a comeback.

There is a new trendy drink that is actually centuries old, it's called Kombucha. Kombucha starts out as little more than a sweet tea that would make any southerner smile. Then, with the help of a pale colored disk a "symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast," otherwise known as a SCOBY, your sweet tea transforms into a probiotic-laden powerhouse.

Health food stores carry shelves of the stuff in all flavors. One of my favorite coffeehouses actually sells Kombucha on tap and it costs about the same as a Latte.

In this week's mining of The Maker's Dietthe author explains that every long-lived culture in the world consumed fermented vegetables, dairy and meat. Fermentation reaches back six thousand years into Chinese culture, the Aboriginal peoples of Australia buried sweet potatoes, and ancient Roman manuscripts describe lacto-fermented sauerkraut.

"Fermentation is especially effective in releasing important nutritional compounds through "pre-digestion" that would otherwise pass through the human digestive system, undigested and unused."

According to the author, our modern large scale vinegar-based fermentation techniques won't do the trick. It's the lactic acid fermentation, driven by the beneficial microorganisms that we need to break down foods into usable compounds and inhibit "putrefying" bacterial growth.

It's common knowledge that prolonged heat, processing and pasteurization kills all enzymes. What isn't so well known is that, according to Dr. Howell, author of Enzyme Nutrition we are all born with a finite number of enzymes. That's why it's important to consume as many outside enzymes as possible from raw food sources.

My PJ Lifestyle colleague Charlie Martin explored the need for a healthy gut in his popular 13 Weeks post "I Got Bugs":

"One of the interesting research areas recently has been a number of reports that obesitytype 2 diabetesirritable bowel syndrome, and more serious problems like various kinds of inflammatory bowel disease all seem to associate with differences in the population of the bugs in your gut."

Charlie's approach is to use probiotics from Garden of Life Raw Probiotics 5-Day Max Care-- and so far he is having great success. This isn't surprising, Garden of Life was founded by our featured author Jordan Rubin.

We've also used probiotics over the last year and the benefits are numerous. So much so, I really don't want to be without it.

The problem is that probiotics are expensive -- especially a good quality brand. My philosophy on dieting and health is that it must be a sustainable change that can last throughout a lifetime. Call me cheap or rebellious, but I just hate being dependent on any product, no matter how good it is.

A healthy gut is vitally important. So over the last couple of months I've been experimenting with Kombucha for a more natural intake of "good" bacteria, yeast and probiotics.

Making it at home is ridiculously easy and inexpensive. Here's how I did it.