Probiotics are big news right now. A lot of information is starting to appear about the benefits of feeding and supporting your microbiome: more studies are being conducted and people are starting to talk about their experiences of using them. I have been trying out a probiotic drink called kombucha for my allergies and I’d like to tell you about the benefits I have discovered.
I have had allergies since I was 10 years old. I don’t know why they began at that age, but that was when I started becoming allergic to fur and pollen. (Luckily, I don’t seem to have any adverse reactions to foods: I can only imagine how awful that must be because it’s bad enough having to contend with itchy eyes, skin rashes, wheezing chest and a runny nose without also having to worry about anaphylaxis, eczema and stomach upsets.) It felt so unfair to my 10 year old self! My best friend’s adorable kitten was suddenly out of bounds. Being near horses, rabbits, dogs and even tiny hamsters would make me curl up and wheeze for hours. As for hay fever, warm weather meant suffering. The only thing that would help would be to shower off any pollen and then lie down in bed dosed up with antihistamines. However! I now feel that there is light at the end of the tunnel because my allergies have improved dramatically in the last two years and I think it is to do with probiotics, specifically, because I have been drinking kombucha for my allergies.
Isn’t bacteria bad?
Like most people, I grew up with the idea that bacteria were bad. Milk has to be pasteurised, kitchens and bathrooms need to be cleaned with antiseptics, everything, including the air, has to be germ-free to prevent pathogens and illness. As a fan of aromatherapy, I studied how to kill bacteria by diffusing oils and putting them on cuts etc. Antiseptics and antibacterials, whether natural like essential oils or man-made, are very useful, but now I realise that when they are used to excess, other problems appear in the long run. After I had children I became even more paranoid about preventing illnesses and spent a lot of time sanitising and sterilising everything. The more my family got sick, the more I cleaned. Despite eating healthily and doing the right things, we kept getting ill all the time. I would have about 3 colds a year and the rest of my family were the same. That is a lot of snot, and that’s not even including the allergies!
Learning about probiotics
Gradually, I started to find out about probiotics as more books and websites started discussing them. I had used them successfully to treat my son’s oral thrush when he was a newborn and realised that taking supplements of acidophilus helped with my digestion and live yoghurt fought fungal infections. What else could they do? Whilst idly watching random health videos online, I came across a lady called Donna Schwenk, who had an inspirational life-changing experience after she discovered homemade probiotics (you can read her story here). In earnest, I started making foods which contain natural beneficial bacteria, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, milk kefir, water kefir and kombucha. Donna claimed that it could help with all sorts of allergies and improve the immune system so I was curious to try it. Taking kombucha for allergies sounded crazy but I was willing to see if it would work.
Changes in my health since starting kombucha
It hasn’t been long, I have been making probiotic foods for just over 2 years and kombucha for 18 months. I have noticed a big change since I added kombucha to my life. My whole family have hardly had any colds and my allergies are barely affecting me. I would say that on average we have had about 1 cold each per year. Sometimes I can feel a cold coming on but my body seems to fight it off within a day or so and I don’t get the full spectrum of symptoms, I just feel slightly run down.
My hay fever is also much better now, I used to use tablets, a nasal spray twice a day and eye drops from March until the end of August and I would still feel the symptoms, but now I am down to a nasal spray for about a month only, plus the occasional day where I might have one spray if the pollen count is high.
I have also noticed that I have been in several of my friend’s houses in the past year and haven’t reacted to their cats and dogs. Normally, as soon as I enter a house with a pet I would be wheezing within 10 minutes but now I haven’t felt any symptoms the last few times. These were short visits of under two hours so I can’t say that my allergies are cured: I haven’t stayed overnight anywhere with an animal in the house. When I’m feeling more confident I may test that out. It’s great that I can now have a cup of tea and a chat with a friend without using up a box of tissues!
Which probiotic foods did I use?
I started off with milk kefir and it didn’t agree with me: it was too sour and hard for me to digest, so I moved onto water kefir and kombucha. Both these drinks are my family’s main probiotic sources; I make kimchi and sauerkraut but not everyone eats them all the time so the benefits we are feeling must be coming from the drinks. I think it must be the kombucha which is giving me the benefits because I don’t often drink water kefir, but have a small glass of kombucha a few times a week. The rest of the family switch between the two drinks.
Conclusion: did kombucha work for my allergies?
Taking kombucha for allergies really works for me. It has improved my immune system so much that I can now be near animals, and I am hardly using any antihistamines for my hay- fever. My family rarely catch colds now. It’s amazing to me that all this can come from a small glass of home-made kombucha a few days a week. If you have allergies, perhaps you could try it for yourself? If you are interested, here is a link to my other article, how to make kombucha at home.