Can It Help With Crohn’s Disease?

We don’t really know what causes or cures Crohn’s disease, says Diane R. Javelli, a dietitian at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle.

But we know this: If you have Crohn’s disease, it’s harder to keep the balance between the “bad” and “good” bacteria in your gut. You have less of the type that can reduce inflammation. And this imbalance can lead to diarrhea and other digestive issues.

Could kombucha help?

Kombucha is a sour, sparkling, fermented drink most often made with green or black tea, Javelli says. Some types of kombucha are high in probiotics. These are living microbes added to foods or supplements for the benefit of your body. “They are the ones who live in harmony with us and help 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 in their gut.

“A lot of my patients have tried or continue to take probiotics,” explains Javelli. “Many say they think it helps in some way. This can make them less gas or puffy. Or it can help regulate bowel movements, resulting in less diarrhea or constipation. Others say they feel they have more swollen when they take probiotics.

It’s hard to say whether probiotics or some other factor improve or worsen their symptoms, she adds.

One of the challenges is that no one is regulating probiotics. “So it’s hard to know what you’re getting,” says Javelli. There are many types and strains of these good bacteria.

“We also don’t know what each person 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 everyone with Crohn’s disease? “We really don’t know.”

“There’s also not a lot of research proving the benefits of probiotics,” she says. “The American Gastroenterology Association recently released new guidelines indicating that there is not enough data to justify their use under most conditions.”

Even fewer studies have found the benefits of probiotics for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) like Crohn’s disease. They have not clearly shown the ability to prevent or alleviate the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.

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Other possible benefits of kombucha

Safe, with few side effects, however, kombucha contains other substances that may help people with Crohn’s disease.

Kombucha contains polyphenols, found in green or black kombucha tea. They can help:

Some types of kombucha also contain glucosamine. This can help relieve joint pain, which is common in people with Crohn’s disease. But, says Javelli, we need more research to find out if any of these benefits are clear from kombucha.

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If you try Kombucha

If his patients want to try probiotics, Javelli encourages them to obtain them from food sources rather than supplements. This can include yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, or tempeh. She does not advise drinking kombucha for Crohn’s disease. But if you have Crohn’s disease and want to try it, she suggests:

  • Discuss this with your doctor first.
  • Make sure that you are not taking drugs that suppress your immune system.
  • Do not use homemade kombucha. “If you don’t manage it properly, homemade kombucha can grow mold, fungus, or other toxins,” she says. It can make you sick. Kombucha that has fermented too long can also develop too much acetic acid. It can also make you sick.
  • Use a commercial kombucha. Products are more likely to be standardized and safe.
  • Check the ingredients. Not all kombucha are the same. Choose a product that contains little or no alcohol. “Three percent or more is too much,” says Javelli. High levels of caffeine can also make loose stools worse. And high levels of lactic or acetic acid can be harmful if 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 might have more gas, bloating, or loose stools. Do you ever have a poor appetite, weight loss, diarrhea, or difficulty absorbing nutrients? “If so, the last thing you want is to take something that makes your symptoms worse,” says Javelli.
  • Include prebiotic foods, which help nourish the probiotics. Most of them are complex carbohydrates. Examples include onion, garlic, bananas, artichokes, and asparagus.
  • Whatever you do, don’t rely on just one thing, like kombucha. For example, don’t forget to:

Sources

SOURCES:

Diane R. Javelli, RD, University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle.

Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation: “Probiotics and microorganisms”, “What should I eat?”

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Probiotics: What You Need to Know”.

American Gastroenterology Association: “AGA Clinical Practice Guidelines on the Role of Probiotics in the Management of Gastrointestinal Disorders.”

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: “Probiotics for the Induction of Remission in Crohn’s Disease.”

American family physician: “Probiotics for Gastrointestinal Disorders: A Summary of the Evidence.”

International Journal of Food Properties: “Polyphenols and Their Benefits: A Review.”

National Institutes of Health: “Probiotics”.


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