A woman drinking from a mason jar while surrounded by healthy gut probiotic drinks.

Psoriasis, Kombucha and Kefir

When researching psoriasis and diet online, it doesn't take long to come across the leaky gut hypothesis and the importance of maintaining healthy gut flora.

I can't disagree with the research (and there is a lot) around the importance of encouraging "good bacteria" to live in my intestines.

The link between kombucha, kefir and psoriasis

In addition to reducing the places harmful bacteria can hang on too (bacteria like to grow one layer thick, hanging onto the intestine surface) they also make substances that help regulate our immune systems and can reduce inflammation.

From birth, we regularly consume bacteria every time we put anything in our mouths. The body kills the bacteria and fungi that shouldn't be there, and if we eat healthy fibrous foods - which support the growth environment of the bacteria we want to keep - then we can maintain a healthy population in the intestines.

Educate yourself on kombucha and kefir

These drinks are popular and with good reason. Both are easily made at home, and provide a creamy cocktail of bacteria, yeasts, and vitamins (depending on which starting liquid you use).

Probiotic drinks require the same starting point. A sugary liquid (the sugar provides the bacterial food) and the SCOBY (which stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. These are the living goodies you're trying to grow).

Kombucha

Kombucha is based on a sweet black tea and can often be found with additional flavors such as peach, making it a fun way to explore probiotic drinks. Just be aware, if the original tea was caffeinated, the final product will probably be caffeinated too.

This can be a fun realm to explore. With different flavors, starting points and different fermentation lengths and levels of fizz. I have seen some people tout this as a healthy alternative to champagne but its no competitor in my mind, I'd prefer it as a swap out for a soda.

Kefir

Kefir comes in two forms - milk kefir and water kefir. Milk kefir encourages the growth of more of the lactobacilli bacteria as they feed off the lactose in milk and this is the reason that sometimes people with lactose intolerance find they can tolerate milk kefir. The problem for people like me is that I cannot tolerate milk at all, and its a total no go for milk allergy sufferers.

Water kefir was my drink of choice (briefly) as it's simply water, sugar and the kefir grains (the SCOBY). I am pretty sure this doesn't taste as nice as milk kefir, but I mixed it into smoothies, and that worked well enough.

Learning what to avoid

Seriously, this is how I learned I had histamine sensitivity. As these are fermented products histamine is released into the drinking liquid as the bacteria grow. This is fine for most people, but if you're sensitive to histamine like me, once I have consumed my daily quota, I get itchy.

And you know psoriasis and itchy isn't a great combination. Be careful and pay attention - just because its a ‘health food’ doesn't mean its healthy for you.

Suppressing your immune system

I would be super careful if you are taking drugs that suppress your immune system too - you do not know what you are growing - there may be some ‘bad’ bacteria in there also.

If your immune system isn't on top form, you could innoculate yourself with something you didn't want in there. It's better you consult a nutritional therapist about a suitable probiotic supplement (I ended up with one that was histamine free for example).

Did kombucha and kefir help my symptoms?

Well no, not at all. They made me itchier because of the high levels of histamine. I also struggled to keep my kefir grains alive and to purchase unpasteurized kombucha was hard work for me as a resident of the rural British countryside.

So where do I find my probiotics? There are other things I would prefer to drink than kombucha and kefir. When it comes to food though, that's an entirely different matter. I love sauerkraut, a fermented cabbage side dish served commonly in Germany and with kimchi - a fermented spicy tomato sauce.

Find what works for you

When I'm too tired to make my own probiotic food, I take probiotics. The ones recommended by a qualified practitioner as I don't trust the probiotics sold cheaply in most stores.

A 2018 study concluded that the current regulation of probiotics is inadequate to protect consumers, especially when they are critically ill or immunosuppressed. As probiotics can get expensive, making sure you're taking the right ones is a worthwhile investment in my opinion.

Kombucha, kefir? Saurkaraut or supplements? Are they safe for you? If they are, which way do you think you will go?

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