You love the tangy, effervescent zip of kombucha, but now that you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you’re having second thoughts about your habit. Is kombucha during pregnancy safe? Can it offer a pregnant mama any extra benefits?
Well, let me share what the world’s most respected Master kombucha brewers and educators Hannah and Alex of Kombucha Kamp have to say:
If you drank kombucha before pregnancy or breastfeeding and didn’t have any adverse effects, you are probably fine continuing to drink kombucha in moderation (no more than a few ounces at a time, with a max of 8-16 ounce per day, depending on how much you drank before pregnancy.)
I know that I drank it myself with both pregnancies!
What if you’ve never had kombucha before?
If you have never had kombucha before, then pregnancy may not be the best time to begin drinking it.
If you still want to try it to help ward off morning sickness or fatigue, talk to your doctor or midwife. You would want to start very small, consuming only a few tablespoons a day with meals, and notice how you feel. If you are sensitive, have a weakened immunity, or other medical conditions, it would be best to wait until after you are done being pregnant and/or nursing before trying kombucha.
Okay, here’s more info from the experts
Here is some more information from Hannah and Alex’s definitive book, The Big Book of Kombucha regarding drinking kombucha during pregnancy and/or nursing.
How much alcohol is “safe” when pregnant?
Most sources will tell you that alcohol in any amount while pregnant is a dangerous game that puts your baby at serious risk. And while alcoholism and the resulting fetal alcohol syndrome are very serious conditions, the issue isn’t quite so cut and dry.
“A large study looked at 400,000 women in the U.S. All had consumed alcohol during pregnancy. Not a single case of FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome) occurred. And no adverse effects occurred when consumption was under 8.5 drinks per week.” (source)
How much alcohol is really in kombucha?
With that being said though, it’s important to know how much alcohol we’re really talking about here. No one’s telling you to throw back a few shots of whisky after supper, but the small amount of alcohol in kombucha is different. Store bought kombucha has about 1-3% alcohol, while homemade has .5% or less. When kombucha is bottled, either for sale or during a second fermentation, this can increase the alcohol content to that 1-3% level. GT’s Kombucha has two kombucha varieties, one with a higher alcohol content (which you need to be 21 or older to purchase) and a lower alcohol version called GT’s “Enlightened”. Stick with the Enlightened when pregnant and nursing.
Common foods like orange juice and bananas naturally contain small amounts of alcohol at around the same levels of kombucha. Even popular brands of cola’s have been found to contain trace amounts of alcohol. The fermentation process is just a natural part of the foods that we eat. (source)
Kombucha is what’s known as an aerobic ferment, because it needs oxygen. This is why you put a coffee filter, or breathable layer on the kombucha during the first brew. Anyone who has overbrewed their kombucha before knows that this aerobic ferment converts into acetic acid and begins to make vinegar. Kombucha contains a culture called glucuronic acid. The longer glucronbacteria ferments, the less alcohol there is. So if you want to keep your kombucha at the lowest alcohol level possible, don’t drink it before it’s fully matured.
What about detox?
We are constantly bombarded with toxins from our food, air and water, even with our best efforts at eating clean, and living healthy. Making healthy choices greatly reduces the toxic load, but it doesn’t eliminate it completely. Some people are concerned that kombucha can cause a detox reaction, so therefore it shouldn’t be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding. While an intense cleanse isn’t advised during these times, the more gentle effects of kombucha are similar to your body’s natural, everyday detox processes. If our bodies never eliminated toxins without the help of a heavy handed cleanse, they’d become overburdened pretty quickly.
However, if you are sensitive, it’s best to wait to try kombucha until after your done being pregnant and nursing. A good rule of thumb is if you drank kombucha and didn’t have any adverse reactions before pregnancy, you are most likely just fine consuming during pregnancy and nursing. If you haven’t tried, but want to start when pregnant, talk with your midwife or doctor.
An energy boost
There’s a reason why that bottle of bubbly stuff is so appealing. During pregnancy or breastfeeding your body is burning through more nutrition to feed both you and your little one. This in itself can drain your energy, but add to that other, everyday energy drainers, and maybe even multiple children, and you get one exhausted mamma. Kombucha gives you that kick you need.
“Kombucha boosts energy naturally by delivering micro doses of B vitamins and small amounts of caffeine, both of which energize without the crash and burn cycle of coffee.” (source)
Many women find that their normally functioning digestion goes into all out chaos during pregnancy. Heartburn, constipation and indigestion commonly come with the territory. Fortunately, kombucha can help alleviate all of these symptoms. It also increases stomach acid to improve digestion. If kombucha is brewed for longer and allowed to sour more, the better it is for stomach acid and heartburn, and the alcohol is also less.
Benefits during breastfeeding
In addition to increased energy and better digestion, kombucha offers benefits specifically for the breastfeeding mom. Unfiltered beer is commonly used in Europe to improve breastmilk flow and relax the body. And one study found that:
“97% of women who participated in a study conducted in rural Africa use fermented foods to protect their infants from bacterial contamination during the weaning process which can start as young as 4 months. Without the fear-mongering of for-profit Western medicine hanging over their heads, they have continued the traditional practices of their ancestors with success.” (source)
Pregnancy can be a stressful time, and it can also cause insomnia, or trouble sleeping for some women. Adaptogens are substances that help your body respond better to stress. Kombucha is a natural adaptogen that helps keep your nerves under control, and you happy. You can even infuse your brew with calming herbs, like chamomile and lavender to increase its relaxing effects.
Some say that leg cramps during pregnancy can be caused by a lack of calcium. While kombucha itself doesn’t naturally contain calcium, if it’s taken with calcium, it helps to increase the absorption. If you want to further increase your kombucha’s mineral content, then add some clean, crushed eggshells to the ferment for a calcium boost. The acidity of the kombucha will break down the eggshells, and extract their calcium, while increasing carbonation.
How much kombucha during pregnancy should you drink?
Now before you go chugging a liter of kombucha, there are some caveats for safely consuming it during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
“As with all beginning kombucha drinkers, a pregnant or nursing mother should not consume more than a couple of ounces of kombucha at a time.” (source)
Mixing a few ounces of kombucha in a glass of water will give you all the benefits of the brew, with extra hydration. Some women report that they develop an aversion to kombucha during pregnancy, while others crave it. Trust your gut on this one, and don’t consume kombucha while pregnant if it’s unappealing to your body right now.
Kombucha’s benefits don’t stop with the sweet and tangy liquid. The SCOBY has it’s own benefits. When applied topically, the SCOBY can help minimize stretch marks and can even help with the dreaded pregnancy hemorrhoids.
“ Kombucha reduces topical inflammation, so a small piece of SCOBY or a compress soaked in kombucha and positioned over the affected area can bring relief. Repeat as needed.” (source)
There are so many benefits to kombucha, that one article can’t really do it justice. To get recipes, and even more information on kombucha’s safety and uses during pregnancy and breastfeeding, then be sure to check out this free guide from the experts over at Kombucha Kamp.
If you’d like to dive deeper, buy their new book on Amazon, The Big Book of Kombucha. This is the most comprehensive book on the subject and contains 400 pages full of detailed instructions, tips, troubleshooting, cocktails, history and more! And there are also tons of ways to flavor your nutritious brew with over 400 recipes.
How about you?
Did you drink kombucha during pregnancy? Did you change your kombucha habits at all while pregnant or breastfeeding? Share with us in the comments below.
This article features excerpts from The Big Book of Kombucha © Hannah Crum & Alex LaGory. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.
Photograph by (c) Matt Armendariz.