Are you familiar with kombucha?
This drink has been skyrocketing in popularity in the past decade! It’s a fermented beverage made from black or green tea that is touted to have multiple health benefits. Kombucha, or fermented tea, has been said to improve digestion and diabetes, speed weight loss, strengthen the immune system, reduce blood pressure, & more. With these positive side effects, it’s easy to see why this drink has gained traction.
Kombucha is believed to have originated in Japan or China. It’s made through a fermentation process. Acetic acid is a byproduct of fermentation and is not unsafe. Vinegar is around 4% acetic acid, and it is safe to use during pregnancy. The kombucha process includes adding good bacteria, sugar, and yeast strains to black or green tea. Then the beverage mixture needs to ferment. You can learn more about how kombucha is made here. The final result is a drink that tastes bubbly, tart, and a little sweet. The final flavor of kombucha depends on the flavors you add to it. So it can become more fruity, spicy, or floral, depending on the ingredients!
So far, it sounds like a tasty beverage. But what about drinking kombucha while pregnant?
Pregnant women undergo many changes, and their diets often change to support the growing baby. So, we know it can be tough to navigate potential pregnancy diet restrictions and can be a gray area for obstetricians and gynecologists. And we want to clear up any doubts. So, today’s post is all about drinking kombucha during pregnancy!
Is Kombucha Safe For Pregnancy
This isn’t a black-or-white sort of question, unfortunately. Many women and healthcare professionals consider it perfectly fine to drink kombucha while pregnant. But, at the same time, other future moms prefer to avoid drinking kombucha during pregnancy. So, how can you figure out what’s best for you and your growing baby? It is always wise to have a chat with your doctor before deciding. However, this is hard to answer with a simple yes or no.
There are tons of health benefits to drinking kombucha. However, there are also risks. There is a lot of variety when it comes to kombucha. It could be more or less risky depending on which type you choose. That being said, drinking kombucha during pregnancy does come with some risks.
It’s also important to consider the fact that there is an overall lack of information related to drinking kombucha while pregnant. No large-scale studies depict adverse side effects on pregnant women who have enjoyed this drink.
There are a few elements of concern that you should take into account before making a decision. Unfortunately, these potential risks have not yet gone through in-depth research on pregnancy. But they might be enough reason to take a break from kombucha while pregnant! So now, let’s analyze the potential risk factors.
Risks of Drinking Kombucha During Pregnancy
Kombucha is an unpasteurized product.
This fermented beverage contains a lot of good bacteria that work wonders for your gut health. And if pasteurized, the gut health benefits don’t exist. This is because pasteurization kills any bacteria present, good and bad!
So, in its purest form, kombucha is unpasteurized to maximize its health benefits. Most organizations, like the FDA, recommend pregnant women steer clear of unpasteurized products to avoid the potential of getting sick. But, of course, commercial kombucha goes through an extensive food safety process. So if you do consume kombucha, make sure to buy a store-bought variety. Remember, pasteurizing any product does not guarantee the product will not cause foodborne illness.
Kombucha contains caffeine.
Yes, kombucha contains caffeine because it’s made from either black or green tea! During fermentation, caffeine levels are minimized to no more than 6 mg to 14 mg per 8-oz serving. Still, the amount of caffeine varies depending on the tea leaves used to prepare it. Pregnant women are advised to lower their caffeine intake to less than 200 – 300 mg daily. So, kombucha’s caffeine content shouldn’t be a big problem! Still, if you prefer to avoid all caffeine during pregnancy, it’s best to skip kombucha until after the baby arrives, then begin to enjoy caffeine consumption.
It has a small percentage of alcohol.
This is one of the most significant risks and reasons why kombucha often gets the “no” for pregnancy. There is a slight trace of naturally occurring alcohol in this beverage because it is fermented, actually very similar to fermented vegetables like sauerkraut. However, research is inconclusive and not plentiful on whether these small amounts of alcohol could negatively affect the growing baby. Still, the CDC reiterates there is no generally safe amount of alcohol to consume during pregnancy. So, can you drink kombucha safely while pregnant?
By law, anything under 0.5% ABV is considered nonalcoholic. So if you’re shopping for kombucha, choose a brand with less than 0.5% alcohol. This is all unless someone asks to see your ID when purchasing. The amount of alcohol in kombucha can vary.
Some home-brewed kombucha undergoes a second fermentation stage, increasing the alcohol content. Therefore, it is not recommended to consume home-brewed kombucha or alcohol during pregnancy. Kombucha, which anyone can buy at the store, is legally considered nonalcoholic. If you’re drinking kombucha while pregnant, it’s essential to stick to commercial brands to avoid the high alcohol percentage and prevent the development of a negative effect.
Some brands of kombucha contain a lot of sugar.
With all store-brand beverages available, there is a risk of sneaky hidden sugars. Kombucha is no different. Because the flavor largely depends on what is added, some brands use a lot of sugar to sweeten their drink. Every brand is other. So make sure you check the nutrition facts label (look at the sugar content and serving size) and sugar content before purchasing kombucha while you have a bun in the oven.
Kombucha can give you heartburn.
Anything that increases your chances of heartburn during pregnancy might be worth avoiding. Well, unfortunately, kombucha is acidic and carbonated. Both of which can increase heartburn symptoms and bloating potentially. So, if you’re constantly dealing with heartburn, especially in the final trimester, it is a good idea to avoid drinking anything acidic, kombucha included.
Harmful bacteria can creep into kombucha.
This is an issue almost unique to home-brewed kombucha. Still, there’s always a risk if the product has not been pasteurized. Since pasteurization kills off the good and bad bacteria, this process is not conducted for kombucha because it negates the benefits. So, pathogenic bacteria could sneak in amidst the healthy ones. This could lead to listeriosis or other pregnancy complications. But, again, commercial kombucha undergoes severe food safety regulations to prevent harmful bacteria from entering the drink. So, the chances of having harmful bacteria are less likely in commercial brands. However, this is still a concern for pregnant women. So it’s essential to keep that in mind!
Will you be drinking kombucha when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding?
As you can see, there are potential health benefits and downsides to drinking kombucha while pregnant. It’s a tricky debate due to the varied pros and cons. While the general consensus is that it can be safe to drink this beverage during pregnancy, it’s best to keep the consumption to a minimum (a few times per week or less) or avoid it altogether.
The final choice is up to you and your comfort level; you may want to stick to fermented foods! But, again, definitely talk to your doctor and get their professional opinion before deciding. Be safe and enjoy this miraculous stage! For a list of risk-free, packed, beneficial drinks for pregnancy, check out this post for the best drinks for early pregnancy.
To avoid any more confusing answers from Google about what you can or can’t eat during pregnancy, join The Prenatal Nutrition Library, an online searchable database of all things prenatal nutrition by a prenatal registered dietitian nutritionist! We’ve got you covered on common pregnancy topics such as soft cheeses, deli meats, and essential vitamins!