Updated: Feb 22
One of the most controversial questions regarding kombucha is whether you can drink kombucha while pregnant or breastfeeding!? The process of bringing a new human into existence itself has become such a personal and stressful experience, and now we’ve got one more question to add to that stress.
If you’re not drinking kombucha before your pregnancy it would be advisable to avoid beginning to drink kombucha during your pregnancy. The main reason behind this is the fact that unpasteurized kombucha contains small amounts of caffeine, alcohol, and can possibly be contaminated with bad bacteria such as listeria, which is bad for pregnant women.
Although the above is theoretically true, let’s understand in practical terms how kombucha may or may not affect your pregnancy journey.
And in case you weren’t too clear and what kombucha is; kombucha is essentially a fermented tea that is abundant in probiotics, B-vitamins, organic healthy acids, and live enzymes, that makes it great for your gut health.
Let’s understand how kombucha can affect your pregnancy journey.
The Gray Areas Of Kombucha During Pregnancy
1. Caffeine in Kombucha
Right off the bat, yes kombucha does have caffeine; after all the ‘cha’ in kombucha stands from the tea it’s fermented from. In reality, the caffeine in kombucha is as less as 1/3rd the amount of caffeine present in the tea it is brewed from.
During the fermentation process, the bacteria and yeast actually consume some amounts of the caffeine, therefore, leaving a residual amount. A general standard, if the tea you used in brewing your Kombucha has 30mg of caffeine, the final ready Kombucha will most likely have around 10mg of caffeine. So, if you’re someone who’s caffeine sensitive or trying to cut down on caffeine consumption in the evenings (Yes, you should), your fizzy friend kombucha is always there for you!
Caffeine & Pregnancy:
As per the NHS UK, pregnant women should limit their daily caffeine intake to less than 200mg a day, which is the equivalent of 2 cups of Instant coffee or 3 cups of tea.
To put that into perspective, you’d have to consume more than 2.5 liters daily of kombucha to reach that 200mg mark of caffeine recommended by the NHS. And I am guessing no one in the world has 2.5 liters of kombucha a day!
Check out some other foods you might commonly consume that are actually high in caffeine! (Source: https://www.myfooddata.com/articles/high-caffeine-foods-and-drinks.php)
What are the risks of having too much caffeine during your pregnancy?
While the effects of caffeine on pregnancy are inconclusive and definitely not certain, you should anyway know them. The two main risks are
The low weight of the baby at birth
So if you’re someone who’s reading this after consuming caffeine while pregnant, do not fear, just consult your doctor!
Summing it up, the caffeine in kombucha is too low to possibly have any negative implications even if you consume it in moderate amounts during your pregnancy.
2. Alcohol in Kombucha
Again, ‘Right of the Bat’ ( I guess I like saying that), kombucha does contain alcohol. It contains around 0.5% alcohol, thus considered as a nonalcoholic beverage.
If you’re wondering, where Kombucha gets its trace alcohol content from, you first need to understand the basic process of kombucha fermentation. Kombucha, essentially being a fermented tea, requires some sugar to kickstart this fermentation.
In the first few days, the bacteria get active and break down the sugar into alcohol. This alcohol is then used by the yeast to produce the organic acids, like lactic acid, acetic acid & gluconic acid, that make kombucha so healthy. During this process of conversion, trace amounts of ethanol are left behind which gives kombucha its sub 0.5% alcohol content.
Alcohol & Pregnancy
In the last couple of decades, alcohol and pregnancy have been widely known to not go together. Both the CDC US and the NHS UK state that no amount of alcohol should be consumed during the entirety of the pregnancy.
On the flipside, there are a couple of studies like that have carried out a test on a variety of mothers and their children, taking into consideration the amount of alcohol consumed by the mothers during pregnancy; And found no concrete evidence proving that the alcohol consumption causes any cognitive issues in the child.
For example, this Danish study surveyed 1628 mothers and their children in 4 cities in Denmark. They concluded ‘This study did not observe significant effects of low to moderate alcohol consumption during pregnancy on executive functioning at the age of 5 years.’
Having said that, the above study was not too robust and had a relatively small sample size. Hence, I would yet recommend following the suggestions of the NHS and CDC to avoid any amount of alcohol during pregnancy.
What are the risks of having alcohol during your pregnancy?
The major risk arises from the possibility that alcohol may go via the umbilical cord to the baby. This could lead to learning difficulties and other cognitive impairments. The major risk comes from heavy consumption of alcohol throughout pregnancy which leads to a condition known as fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).
Some of the symptoms of FAS include:
Minor Facial Deformities
Summing it up, Kombucha does contain very minor amounts of alcohol, so it will most likely be of no determinant to your child’s birth. Yet, just to be on the safer side, consuming small amounts of kombucha should be done only during the first trimester of pregnancy.
3. Bad Bacteria
Someone once said ‘All good kombuchas are unpasteurized’. That, someone, was me.
The main health benefit of kombucha is the fact that it has probiotics. Now, with the growth of the industry, some brands pasteurize (add high temperature) their kombucha to increase its shelf life. And what pasteurization does, is it kills all those probiotics that are great for the gut.
But, sometimes what happens to good unpasteurized kombucha is bad bacteria can sneak in. The risk is that bad bacteria like listeria can harbor itself in the kombucha brew.
The possible effects of listeria on childbirth are:
However, we need to understand the kombucha is acidic and has a low pH. This makes it rare, and almost impossible, for bad bacteria like listeria to survive in the kombucha brew.
So although this might be rare, it can pose a significant problem considering the fact that gut bacteria play an extremely important role in pregnancy.
4. Kombucha ‘Detox’
Through our daily lifestyle, we intake toxins and by the general functioning of our body we ‘detox’ or get rid of these toxins. Kombucha too has shown detoxification properties and some worry this detox is not good for pregnant women.
So while our bodies anyway detox, drinking kombucha is not going to make you ‘over detox’ (if that is even a thing) or any of that sort. This should especially not be a worry of people who are used to kombucha and have been consuming it prior to their pregnancy.
If you’re drinking kombucha for the first time during your pregnancy, I’d recommend starting with small amounts (as low as 100ml) to just see how you feel drinking it!
The Reality Of People Who Actually Consumed Kombucha During Pregnancy
While all the above is technically true, there haven’t been many large scale robust studies to support the facts stated by the authorities on the topic. So when we look at it more practically and see real-life experiences of individuals who have consumed kombucha during their pregnancy, it paints a rather different picture of the question ‘Can I Drink Kombucha During My Pregnancy?’
Let’s look at what women who did the ‘deed’ had to say. We came across some comments on the topics on the https://www.mamanatural.com/ website. Some of the women who commented had some views contrary to what is generally believed. Check it out.
So if you have gone through the above comments of first-hand experiences, you might feel more at ease with drinking your kombucha during your pregnancy! And if you’re yet not sure, the next part of this article will definitely clear the air for you.
Summing It Up – Should You Actually Give Up Kombucha?
If you’ve read this article thoroughly till this pint, you know we’ve laid down all the facts. All that the health institutes say as well as personal experiences of moms who actually drank kombucha during their pregnancy; and that might yet leave on the fence. But let’s take everything into consideration and sum it up!
If you’ve never consumed Kombucha before, it’d be best to avoid it during your pregnancy as you don’t know how your body is going to react to it.
If you’ve been an avid consumer of kombucha before your pregnancy, then during your first trimester consume kombucha without any worry. Post that, see how you feel, and consult your doctor too.
If you just want to try a glass of booch during your pregnancy, it is absolutely no worry. The caffeine and alcohol levels in kombucha are too less for just a glass to have any effect at all on your body and pregnancy.
Bonus Content :
Kombucha while nursing/breastfeeding
The main worry with kombucha during the breastfeeding period comes from the fact that it contains alcohol. Now know from above that kombucha, depending on how it is brewed, may contain anywhere from 0.5% to 2% of alcohol.
The issue is that alcohol takes time for our body to metabolize and thus increase the alcohol content of the breast milk. The same is the worry with the acidity of kombucha that may affect the breast milk.
You might also read that the caffeine levels in kombucha can make its way and affect the caffeine content in the breast milk. However, truth be told, the caffeine in kombucha is just too little to have any significant effect on the body!
Factoring that kombucha has such minimal amounts of caffeine and alcohol, breastfeeding moms should be able to consume small amounts (100-150ml) of kombucha a day, and be completely stress-free!
Probiotics During Pregnancy
Probiotics, the good live bacteria found in our gut (and some amazing foods), are great for our gut health. And good gut health equals good overall health. At the time of pregnancy,when a mother has to nurture another life, maintaining her optimal health would of course be a good idea; and gut health is an important part of that!
In fact, this one study examined the rationale and benefits of giving probiotics to pregnant women. The study highlights the importance of gut microbiome during pregnancy and how probiotics play a vital role in maintaining a healthy and balanced gut biome.
Healthy gut microbiota in pregnant women can help with the following:
Reduced Sensitivity to Allergies
Reduction in the risk of Pre-eclampsia (a condition that arises in the third trimester of pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure and protein content in the urine)
Better Digestion of Nutrients
We all know kombucha’s call to fame is the probiotics. But along with that, if the minor alcohol and caffeine content is keeping you from consuming it, you should yet consider other forms of probiotics that will help you feel more confident in your pregnancy journey!