Are you a huge kombucha fan, but are wondering if it’s safe to drink now that you’re pregnant? Did your health-obsessed friend recently recommend this trendy beverage to you, and you’re wondering, “What exactly is kombucha and why would I want to drink it?”
Now that you’re pregnant, you have to watch every little thing that enters your body to protect your growing baby.
We’ve all heard of avoiding raw fish, alcohol, and soft cheeses during pregnancy, but what about kombucha? Is it harmful? Or, could it possibly even be beneficial?
In this post, we’ll talk about what kombucha is, cover its many health benefits, and discuss whether it is safe or not to consume during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a probiotic-rich beverage fermented by bacteria and yeast and brewed with black or green tea and sugar. Many times, fruit juices or other flavors are added during the brewing process to make its tart taste a little more palatable.
While this powerful drink may seem like a new health fad, it has been consumed for thousands of years in Asian cultures.
It has only recently become popular in the U.S. within the past decade (source). But you can now find it strolling the aisles of most health food stores and even some gas stations and Targets.
What are the Benefits of Kombucha?
Despite its acquired taste, kombucha comes with several health benefits, some of which could be particularly helpful during pregnancy. Here are some of the benefits of drinking it.
- Boosts energy: The caffeine and B vitamins in kombucha can give you that kick in the butt that you need (source).
- Improves digestion: Constipation and nausea are symptoms that many moms-to-be know all too well. The organic acids, enzymes, and probiotics in kombucha promote healthy digestion and can soothe an upset stomach (source).
- Wards off depression: The flood of hormones going through your pregnant body can wreak emotional havoc on you. Vitamins B1, B6, and B12, all found in this powerhouse drink, are known to battle depression and stabilize mood.
- Supports the immune system: Kombucha is also full of antioxidants, which help kill harmful bacteria and ward off several diseases. The high amount of vitamin C also helps boost your immune system.
- Prevents kidney stones: The acidic properties in kombucha have been shown to prevent calcification and formation of kidney stones, which you are at higher risk of getting now that you’re pregnant.
- Detoxes the liver: Regular consumption of the antioxidants, enzymes, and beneficial bacteria in kombucha reduces liver toxicity by removing toxic chemicals from your system (source).
- Promotes joint health: Kombucha also contains glucosamine, which is known for alleviating joint pain, which is all too common during those last trimesters.
Is Kombucha Safe to Drink During Pregnancy?
Kombucha is a healthy, powerful drink that could provide many benefits for pregnant women, but is it safe?
Kombucha’s safety during pregnancy is a bit controversial, even between the experts.
Some claim that its unsafe for these three main concerns:
- Contains caffeine: Because kombucha is brewed with black or green tea, it does contain some caffeine.
- Contains alcohol: Kombucha possesses a trace amount of alcohol, as this is a natural byproduct of the fermentation process. Alcohol could potentially compromise the health of your growing baby.
- Detoxifies the body: Because of the detoxifying agents in kombucha, your body could see your fetus as a toxin, especially early on in the pregnancy, and it may attempt to “detoxify” it out, resulting in a miscarriage.
While there is some truth to these concerns, let’s take a look at them a little closer and see what other experts, including the world’s most respected master kombucha brewers and educators, Hannah and Alex of Kombucha Kamp, have to say:
- Limited Amount of Caffeine Is Okay: Experts claim that consuming moderate amounts of caffeine has not been shown to cause any negative effects during pregnancy. Most providers will recommend limiting your caffeine intake to 200 milligrams a day, which is about one 12-ounce cup of coffee (source). Kombucha only has about one-third of the caffeine as the tea that it’s made with. Black tea has about 30 to 80 mg. of caffeine per cup and will yield a glass of kombucha with 10 to 25 mg. of caffeine, while kombucha brewed with green tea might only have just 2 to 3 mg. of caffeine (source).
- Alcohol Levels Are Miniscule: While some brands of kombucha are considered an alcoholic beverage, most commercial products are under 0.5 percent and are considered non-alcoholic. The amount of alcohol in these brands is similar to what you’d find in ripening fruits or unpasteurized juice (source). If you homebrew, you’ll have more control over the alcohol content.
- Extreme Detox Isn’t Safe: It is true that pregnant women should never do any extreme cleanse. If you’ve never drunk kombucha before, the detoxifying properties will send biochemical signals to your body, putting it into a deep cleansing process.This will lead to an overload of toxins circulating through your system and potentially passing through your placenta onto your baby. If you had been drinking kombucha regularly before becoming pregnant and your body is used to it, then your body won’t be sent into a “deep cleansing.”
So what does all this information mean? Is kombucha safe for pregnancy or not?
If you have been drinking kombucha on a regular basis before you got pregnant and your body is used to it, it may be okay to continue to do so, but it should be discussed first with your midwife or doctor.
If you’ve never drunk kombucha before or have not been drinking it on a regular basis, then now is not the time to start.
While the alcohol and caffeine levels aren’t usually of concern, the detoxifying agents could pass harmful waste onto your baby or potentially even signal to your body that your baby is a toxin.
Beware of Allergies
Is Kombucha Safe While Breastfeeding?
As with pregnancy, kombucha is thought to be okay to continue to consume if you had been drinking it before, but not recommended to start while breastfeeding.
Kombucha, and anything else that could do a radical detox on your body, is best to avoid while breastfeeding because that toxic waste could then pass through your breastmilk to your baby.
A Few Words of Caution
If you are going to drink kombucha while pregnant or breastfeeding, there are a few precautions you should take:
- Limit your intake: As little as 4 ounces of commercial kombucha can be safe and effective for pregnant and nursing moms. Too much kombucha could cause dehydration, bloating, heartburn, and insomnia, as resources on kombucha point out.
- Avoid alcoholic versions: The alcohol content in kombucha can vary widely, so be sure to check the label before you swig. If you get carded at checkout, you need to find a different brand. GT’s Enlightened is a good one to stick with when pregnant or nursing.
- Stay hydrated: Staying hydrated is critical when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, and especially more if you’re drinking kombucha. If you’re dehydrated, toxins could come out of you and go straight to your baby through your breastmilk or placenta. Mix a few ounces of kombucha with water to gain all the benefits with extra hydration.
- Watch for side effects: You could be more sensitive to the ingredients now that you’re expecting, so be sure not to drink more than a few ounces at a time. And while kombucha is great for boosting your energy and relieving constipation, this could pass on to your breastfeeding baby and cause loose stools and sleeping troubles (source).
Drink at Your Own Risk
Kombucha is a fermented, probiotic-rich tea with numerous health properties, such as boosted energy, improved digestion, detoxification, and immune support.
While these can prove extremely beneficial for women who have drank kombucha regularly before pregnancy, it could potentially be detrimental for women who have never drank it before, as toxins could get passed on to baby via the placenta or breast milk.
Before you take a swig of kombucha, be sure to weigh the benefits and risks, factor in your pre-pregnancy habits, and consult with your provider.
Are you a lover of kombucha and pregnant? Do you plan to keep drinking it? Let us know your thoughts and experiences down in the comments below. We’d love to hear your opinion.