Is Kombucha Good for Schizophrenia?

Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on January 27, 2021

You may have heard claims that kombucha, a fermented tea drink, can be helpful for a wide variety of physical health conditions. But what about mental health disorders like schizophrenia? Here’s what you should know.

What Is the Gut Microbiome?

The trillions of bacteria in your intestines make up your gut microbiome. Many things can affect it, including:

  • How you were delivered when you were born (C-section vs. a vaginal delivery)
  • What you were fed as a baby
  • Your genes
  • Infections
  • The medications you take
  • What you eat

Nobody has the same exact mix of microbial cells -- not even identical twins.

Studies have found that these bacteria play a role in communication between your brain and gut. The microbiomes of people who have mental conditions like schizophrenia are very different from those of people who don’t.

Researchers think that boosting the good bacteria could help ease anxiety and improve mood, whether you have a mental health condition or not. It might have to do with the signals that go to your brain. But more research is needed before scientists can say for sure.

This idea is the root of some theories about whether kombucha -- which contains probiotics, a mix of good bacteria or yeasts -- could help with schizophrenia.

Probiotics and Schizophrenia

Probiotics support a healthy balance in your body. The good bacteria fight inflammation and help bolster your immune system. You can find them in foods like:

The claims about kombucha helping people with schizophrenia are related to the fermented foods that support good gut health. But in the end, there’s no evidence that kombucha is good or bad for people with mental disorders. Researchers are trying to learn more about it.

If you have schizophrenia and want to try kombucha, it’s most likely fine. There’s no evidence that it will interact with your medications. But it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before adding anything to your daily routine. Some experts advise against drinking more than 12 ounces of kombucha a day.

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Some schizophrenia symptoms called psychosis may change your senses of taste and smell. This can make it harder for you to eat a healthy variety of foods, says Theresa Nguyen, chief program officer at Mental Health America and a licensed clinical social worker. So if you like the taste of kombucha, go for it.

“A lot of times, when we work with clients, we’re like, ‘What tastes good to you? And what of these healthy options or the probiotics tastes good and is enjoyable to you? Let’s start there,’ ” she says.

What to Eat When You Have Schizophrenia

If you have schizophrenia, it’s important to eat balanced, healthful meals, including plenty of veggies. If you don’t already, try to get into the habit of eating three times a day.

It’s a good rule of thumb to base your meals on starches, especially ones that are high in fiber. For example, brown bread, rice, and pasta are all high in fiber.

People with schizophrenia should also cut down on sugar, salt, and saturated fats. This may be easier when you cook your own meals instead of choosing premade meals and to-go orders.

It’s important to avoid caffeinated drinks, like coffee, tea, and energy drinks. Try to limit alcohol, too, and drink it only on special occasions.

You should also make sure you’re drinking enough water to stay hydrated. Five cups a day is a good goal, but you’ll probably need more if it’s hot outside or if you exercise a lot.

Nguyen says one of the most important things for people with schizophrenia is to focus on a variety of healthy foods.

“People with schizophrenia and any mental illness should focus on eating a diversity of healthy foods but cut back on unhealthy foods, especially sugar,” she says. “If they want to explore a gut biome approach, they can add foods that increase probiotics, like yogurt or any fermented foods.”

WebMD Feature

Sources

SOURCES:

Mayo Clinic: “What is kombucha tea? Does it have any health benefits?”

Canadian Journal of Psychiatry: “The Gut Microbiome and Mental Health: What Should We Tell Our Patients?”

Cleveland Clinic: “Probiotics,” “What Are Kombucha’s Health Benefits (and How Much Can You Safely Drink)?”

Living With Schizophrenia: “Healthy Living: Schizophrenia and Diet.”

Theresa Nguyen, chief program officer, Mental Health America; licensed clinical social worker, Virginia.

The Journal of Nutrition: “Factors Influencing the Gut Microbiota, Inflammation, and Type 2 Diabetes.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Can Probiotics Improve Your Mood?”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Probiotics may help boost mood and cognitive function.”

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