Fermented Foods vs. Probiotic Pills {And Cashing in on Kombucha}

I recently had lunch with an old client at one of my favorite local healthy fast food spots, Bryn & Dane’s.

I love the build your own salad, I add avocado, cucumber, tomato, carrots, cheddar or feta cheese, grilled chicken over mescaline greens and arugula with the white balsamic vinaigrette. It took me months to find a dressing I liked there. I got this taco dressing twice (by accident), I forgot how freaking spicy it was the first time I ordered it (and couldn’t even finish my salad), never again. This dressing, however, is soooo good!

Sometime in January Bryn and Dane’s got local kombucha on tap and I am absolutely obsessed. I remember it being early in the year because my girlfriend was pregnant and she joked that she would go over there to get some for as her cocktail. I was there the first night they were sampling it and a girl from the company had the cutest little setup giving out samples. It is definitely dangerous for me being the B&D is so close to home (like Whole Foods).


I am kind of crazy about my fermented drinks.

My farm just started carrying water kefir (um, yum!), and I started getting milk kefir from them this past winter (man, that takes some getting used to!), which I add to smoothies in small amounts.

Water Kefir is a fermented, probiotic beverage (zippy and delicious!) that is made using a culture and contains over 30 different strains of beneficial bacteria and yeasts. Each quart contains billions of probiotics and enzymes that aids the body in digestion and recolonizes the gut with good bacteria.

We also flavor our Water Kefir with organic and whole fruit juices to make it taste great and to add an additional boost of nutrients!

Water Kefir is a raw, living food that is dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan and made using non-GMO and organic ingredients.

You can even make kefir from coconut water!

Milk kefir is another probiotic beverage made with either milk kefir grains or a powdered kefir starter culture. Milk Kefir Grains (once active) and Kefir Starter Cultures can be used to culture dairy milk or coconut milk.

I promise, it is only a matter of time before I start making these things myself. I’ve been saying it for two years but I am too chicken. Maybe if I say it on my blog I will make it happen!?

The benefits of consuming fermented beverages and foods over taking probiotic pills is that the foods are reliable, pills can be helpful, but don’t always work as well. I will admit, I bought into the probiotics thing for a long time and I STILL think they can be beneficial, however, consuming a variety of fermented foods that come from nature are going to give you much, much more bang for your buck and your health.

A  healthy gut should contain between 20,000 and 30,000 species of bacteria. Having a variety is key, which is why I always recommended a multiple strain probiotic to friends and clients that were skeptical of fermented foods, or new to “healthy eating”. The greater the diversity, the healthier the microbiome.

The issue is, probiotic supplements favor a relatively small number of species at the expense of ecosystem diversity.  A typical probiotic pill contains 35 billion to 50 billion colony forming units (CFUs) of just a few species. While some products contain up to 24 species, that’s still a far cry from the diversity that we know to be optimally healthy.

We find a probiotic pill we like, but then we are giving copies of the same bacteria over and over in the gut, creating a monoculture. Even though they are “good bacteria” this could be creating problems.

When starting a probiotic pill for any reason (digestive issues, kickstarting a healthy lifestyle regimen), you will see the most benefits in the first month. I am not on probiotic pills all the time. I go on one a few times per year, then I will let the communication system between the bacteria in the gut reestablish a healthy balance.

(These are the probiotics pills and powder we use when we are on them. I have definitely seen benefits with the kid’s immune and gut health at times, especially as babies … but the ultimate goal is to get them to eat more fermented foods!)

Probiotics Pills vs. Fermented Foods:

  • Fermentation pre-digests vital nutrients for you making B vitamins, minerals and enzymes you eat more bioavailable. You are only as healthy as the nutrients you digest, absorb and assimilate … so this is crucial!
  • Pills only contain bacteria, whereas fermented foods and beverages contain food for the bacteria to help their growth and sustainability during the digestive process as they make their way to colonize in your intestines.
  • You get a variety of live and active cultures supplied by nature in fermented foods and drinks, where pills only contain a few species as mentioned above.
  • Many probiotic supplements cannot survive harsh stomach acid in order to get to your intestines, fermented foods are acid resistant.
  • Supplement companies don’t always offer the types or combinations of probiotics (CFUs) that are ideally suited to human intestines. Re-colonizing your inner ecosystem is the goal, taking supplements can be helpful, but do not help to get you to where you ultimately want to be.
  • There is no heating in the fermentation process, so vital amino acids that can be destroyed by heat remain in tact.

Probiotic beverages are my favorite way to get my daily dose of gut-healthy bacteria (just personal preference), but eating a variety of fermented foods each day with meals is another amazing way to get that gut colonized with the good guys. If you are a newbie to this type of healthy living, eating raw sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, etc may not sound appealing to you. I  know many people who are not down with this, and that is when I tell them to find a multiple strain probiotic like Garden of Life or Renew Life to start, then ease into something like store bought Kombucha.

Ella has been asking me for MONTHS to make some pickles. She is so curious about how they are made, and when I told her she was stoked and wanting to make her own. I am going to talk more about the lacto-fermentation process in another post, when I get something going. Honestly, I know it is easy, and I KNOW it  is just a matter of jumping in and doing it. Ella’s FAVORITE food is pickles, she will polish off a jar then drink the pickle juice. We usually buy Bubbies because they are more cost-effective than a brand like “Real Pickles” (but Bubbies is not organic). It is MUCH cheaper to make your own for sure! I know how my essential oils peeps feel about jumping in and making salves and body butters, it is seriously the easiest thing ever but can be intimidating. I was also afraid I was going to mess up and poison us, but I have gotten over that fear with all I have learned about the process. The SCOBY in my fridge needs some love already!

This is not the first time I have written about the controversy surrounding GT’s Kombucha. This is my favorite brand of Kombucha, but unfortunately they have had some bumps in the road. Years ago it was about the alcohol content (, and now it is about false advertising.

A settlement has been proposed in a class action lawsuit alleging Millennium Products Inc. and Whole Foods Market Inc. misrepresented the alcohol, sugar, and antioxidant content of certain GT’s kombucha products.

If you purchased GT’s kombucha products between March 11, 2011 and Feb. 27, 2017, you may be entitled to benefits from the kombucha class action settlement.

The kombucha products covered by this class action settlement include several varieties of GT’s Classic Kombucha, Classic Synergy, Enlightened Kombucha and Enlightened Synergy products.

The GT’s kombucha class action lawsuit alleges Millennium mislabeled the products by advertising and labeling them as non-alcoholic even though they contain more alcohol than is permitted in order to label them as non-alcoholic beverages; failing to include added sugar as an ingredient on the label even though the products allegedly contain added sugar; understating the amount of sugar included in the kombucha products; and including the term “antioxidant” on the labels even though the kombucha products do not actually contain antioxidants.

Class Members of the GT’s kombucha settlement include anyone who, between March 11, 2011 and Feb. 27, 2017, purchased one or more of the following kombucha products:

  • Classic Kombucha: Original, Citrus Gingerade, Multi-Green, Third Eye Chai
  • Classic Synergy: Cosmic Cranberry, Maqui Berry Mint, Divine Grape, Gingerberry Raspberry Rush, Strawberry Serenity, Superfruits, Trilogy
  • Enlightened Kombucha: Botanic No. 3, Botanic No. 7, Botanic No. 9, Citrus, Gingerade, Multi-Green, Original
  • Enlightened Synergy: Black Chia, Cosmic Cranberry, Cherry Chia, Gingerberry, Grape Chia, Green Chia, Guava Goddess, Mystic Mango, Passionberry Bliss, Raspberry Chia, Strawberry Serenity, Trilogy

So when I filled out my form and file my claim and it asked how many bottles I have consumed between the dates above I was dying, immmm probably like 900?!?! I’ve been drinking it since 2010 or 2011, maybe even sooner …  my blog is proof  (too bad I didn’t keep hundreds of other old posts on here).  It won’t even let you go above 99 in your claim. I am SO mad I don’t keep receipts. If you have proof of purchase (which I am wondering if my WF Rewards card has any proof?) you may receive a cash award of up to $60.00. Otherwise you can receive $35.00 in cash or vouchers.

Submit your claim here if you are a GT’s Kombucha drinker. I was SO mad I missed out on the Tom’s Class Action Lawsuit last year. I had purchases so many Tom’s products like toothpaste and deodorant over the years. I was not missing out on this one!

PS- Worried about sugar content in your Kombucha or Kefir? I know it took me a long time to ditch my cravings, and it took cutting all added sugars out! However, when I consume these drinks I find they HELP ward off cravings.  There IS sugar in Kombucha, without the sugar, there is no fermentation, and without fermentation, there’s no good stuff to feed your body. However, the sugar in Kombucha is for the culture to consume, not for you. When it is finished fermenting, there will be about 2-6 grams per 8 ounce glass of unflavored Kombucha. If you add any fruit juice to flavor that is where the bulk of the sugars are coming from. This is another reason I want to brew my own. With the GT’s lawsuit, I assume they were noting the end results on their label but not adding proper grams of the fruit juice? That is just a guess.

What is your favorite way to get in your probiotics? Have you seen a difference in health since incorporating pills or fermented food into your healthy lifestyle regimen?

Talk soon!



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  • Reply Alicia

    I’m always worried about the extra sugar in all the store bought kombuchas… seems like it would counteract the good work of the bacteria. Hopefully some more truly low sugar options will come out onto the market soon

    March 21, 2017 at 9:54 am
    • Reply

      The fermentation process NEEDS sugar, but it is to feed the culture, not us. The end result only has like 2-3 grams, but it is all the added fruit juice companies put in it to flavor. That is another reason I want to make my own!

      March 21, 2017 at 1:41 pm
  • Reply Barrie

    Such an informative post! I am not a kombucha girl, but I like that you pointed me to all the benefits over the probiotic pills that I take- food for thought (wink)!

    March 21, 2017 at 2:32 pm
    • Reply

      Totally! I hear yah, the supplements are SO easy!

      March 22, 2017 at 1:10 pm

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