Kombucha isn't new (it may have been around as long as 2,000 years!), but its popularity has newly resurfaced.
Kombucha is a fermented tea drink and is purported to have a multitude of health benefits. It's currently so popular that it's sold in most grocery stores (and even many gas stations!) under a variety of brands. It can also be made at home.
Through the fermentation process, kombucha develops a microbial cocktail of yeasts and bacteria that result in the good-for-you bacteria known as probiotics. Research does not yet have proof that the probiotics in kombucha are beneficial, even though the drink is reported to aid in overall health, digestion, energy, immune function, and a wide variety of conditions. The fermentation process of kombucha also means that it includes a small but varying percentage of alcohol, which is why professionals and pregnant people are questioning the safety of drinking kombucha during pregnancy and breastfeeding. MotherToBaby, the organization that provides the most cutting-edge and up-to-date information about the risks of medications, chemicals, herbal products, illicit drugs, diseases and much more during pregnancy and breastfeeding, has addressed this very topic in a parent resource article and more recently, in a podcast episode.
Is Kombucha Recommended During Pregnancy?
In summary, no. Under the "better to be safe than sorry" theory, drinking kombucha during pregnancy -- because it includes varying percentages of alcohol -- should be avoided because the effects of any amount of alcohol during pregnancy (even a small amount) are unknown. Both homemade and commercially bottled brews of kombucha can have unknown -- and higher than on the label -- amounts of alcohol, which is problematic for people who are pregnant. According to MotherToBaby:
Most of the time, the manufacturing process can stabilize kombucha after it is bottled. However, kombucha has been pulled from shelves in the past after it was discovered that fermentation in the bottle did not stop, increasing the alcohol content above the amount that would require the pregnancy-warning label. And determining the alcohol content of homebrewed kombucha is difficult. Homebrews can reach as high as 3% or more depending on the type of yeast used in the scoby, how long and at what temperature the tea ferments, and other factors.
Other issues to consider with kombucha during pregnancy are the potential for increased risks of foodborne bacteria (like listeria and salmonella) resulting from the fermentation process as well as the caffeine present in kombucha. While it is safe to consume caffeine during pregnancy, up to 200 milligrams per day, and a typical kombucha drink falls between 15-130 milligrams, it's important to keep track of the amounts of caffeine in various drinks consumed throughout the day.
Kombucha and Breastfeeding
According to MotherToBaby, kombucha can be safely consumed during breastfeeding as long as both the alcohol content and the caffeine content are taken into consideration. According to the organization: "If you do enjoy an “alcohol-free” kombucha from time to time, the small amount of alcohol it might contain is unlikely to have a negative effect on your infant. Yet waiting a couple of hours after drinking the kombucha before nursing again will allow time for your body to metabolize the alcohol from your blood and breast milk."
With caffeine and breastfeeding, it's important to know that any caffeine consumed could cause baby to be irritable or have difficulty sleeping.
To learn more about kombucha during pregnancy and breastfeeding, read this article on MotherToBaby or listen to the podcast.