What’s the deal with Kombucha?

What to Know

  • Learn the risks of drinking Kombucha while pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Learn the marketed benefits and how else you can achieve them
  • Research on safety of Kombucha during pregnancy and breastfeeding is limited and therefore, we cannot recommend it

Kombucha is sweetened black and/or green tea fermented with what is sometimes referred to as a “Kombucha mushroom” or a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) – think of a gooey, silicone-disk looking “blob” of sorts. The SCOBY is comprised of an acetic bacteria plus 1 or more yeast strains. When the microorganisms from the SCOBY feed on tea and sugar, the fermentation process results in the drink known as Kombucha. Basic Kombucha tastes like a fizzy, tangy (vinegar-like) soda, although the taste can vary because many manufacturers now create different flavors by infusing the drink with fruits and herbs.

Homemade Fermented Raw Kombucha

Kombucha often contains both caffeine and alcohol (a result of the fermentation process), making it a beverage that is probably best avoided while pregnant and breastfeeding. Other fermented (and safe) foods can provide you with the same probiotic benefits without the associated risks.

If you decide to drink Kombucha, check the labels of commercially brewed products to determine the caffeine content and take this into account when calculating your total daily caffeine intake (the recommended daily limit is 200 mg). The alcohol content in Kombucha (albeit typically small amounts) can vary. Some varieties contain more than .5% alcohol by volume (the line at which the Food and Drug Administration requires producers to label a beverage as being reserved for those 21 and older), while others contain less. For reference, wine is usually between 12.5-14.5% alcohol by volume and beer is around 4-6%. Remember there is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy.

While drinking Kombucha tea has been associated with various health benefits, it has also been linked to serious side effects and even deaths. Some reported cases show the tea causing lactic acidosis, a rare, but serious and often fatal condition (due to low pH and buildup of lactate). In addition to less severe adverse effects, there are potential risks for pregnant and breastfeeding women and some experts contraindicate Kombucha because of the potential for its detoxifying effects to cause metabolic waste to be excreted through breastmilk (and other bodily fluids).

What to Do

Best to avoid Kombucha during pregnancy

It is encouraged to avoid Kombucha while pregnant and breastfeeding due to the lack of evidence surrounding its safety, the lack of validity of any health benefits and the possibility of toxic build up.

If you do choose to drink Kombucha, drink smaller amounts and reduce your risks

If you make your own Kombucha at home, reduce risks by following strict food safety guidelines, obtaining your SCOBY from a trusted source, fermenting for shorter periods of time to keep alcohol levels lower and avoiding brewing in ceramic, lead crystal, or painted containers (because the acidity of the tea can cause it to absorb harmful elements from its container).

If you buy ready-made Kombucha from a store, reduce risks by making sure the item contains less than .5% alcohol by volume (to minimize alcohol exposure) and no herbs infused for flavor that are contraindicated in pregnancy.

Reap the benefits of probiotics from other fermented foods

Other foods containing pre and or probiotics are safe to consume during pregnancy and breastfeeding, like yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, and high quality dark chocolate!

Sources

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