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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.

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.

The link between kombucha, kefir and psoriasis

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.

With a reduction in vaginal births and breastfeeding partnered with an increase in anti-bacterial cleaning sprays and antibiotic use, as a population, we are increasingly aware of the need to maintain a healthy gut population. As usual, our favorite method of problem-solving is usually a pill or manufactured product judging by the size of the probiotics market, whose worldwide value is expected to reach $57.4 billion by 2022.

More recently we have seen the resurgence of whole food health, and with good reason. In the probiotic world, this has come in the form of home fermented food and drinks. In terms of jumping on the bandwagon – I was right up there. But sometimes things aren’t what they seem.

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.

Kombucha produces acetic acid

The flavor is more like a fizzy apple cider vinegar. In contrast, milk kefir produces more lactic acid and as a result, encourages more creamy acidic liquid yogurt products richer in lactobacilli.

 

Kombucha takes longer to ferment

The product can be bought more easily in shops and the only thing is most places I have been to pasteurize the products before sale. This actually kills all of the bacteria and yeast you are trying to consume – so make sure you read the packaging correctly!

Where to find kefir grain

Kefir grains can be found in the community – people readily offer them for free on community boards, or you can ask at your health food shop. They grow pretty quickly, but they are higher maintenance, and cannot be left for more than a few days unloved (hence mine died). This is great if you want to drink probiotics daily – as you can have a product ready within 1-2 days – but this rapid turnover needs feeding.

Avoid kombucha & kefir if you are sensitive to histamine

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 psoriasis?

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.

I will happily save up my daily histamine allowance for rice topped with a fried egg, drizzled in kimchi or sausages coated in sauerkraut. Plus making these foods encourages neglect, chopping cabbage and leaving it for weeks? I’m all over being able to do that.

Find what works for your psoriasis

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?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The PlaquePsoriasis.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Probiotics Market by Ingredient (Bacteria, and Yeast), Function (Regular, Preventative Healthcare, and Therapeutic), Application (Food & Beverages, Dietary Supplements, and Animal Feed), and End Use (Human Probiotics, and Animal Probiotics) - Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast, 2014-2022 https://www.alliedmarketresearch.com/probiotics-market accessed 29/11/2019
  2. Jessica Martínez Leal, Lucía Valenzuela Suárez, Rasu Jayabalan, Joselina Huerta Oros & Anayansi Escalante-Aburto (2018) A review on health benefits of kombucha nutritional compounds and metabolites, CyTA - Journal of Food, 16:1, 390-399, DOI: 10.1080/19476337.2017.1410499 accessed 29/11/2019
  3. de Simone (2018), The Unregulated Probiotic Market Claudio Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Volume 17, Issue 5, 809 - 817 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cgh.2018.01.018 accessed 29/11/2019

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