I have been wondering whether or not the drink kombucha is safe to drink while pregnant. What are your thoughts? There does not seem to be a lot of scientific/medical evidence one way or another, but many cultures around the world practice drinking fermented drinks in daily life and during pregnancy. The following are excerpts from the blog Food Renegade and Kombuchakamp.com
Is Kombucha Safe When Pregnant or Nursing?
Written by Kristen
If you’re a new or expectant mother, you may want to know whether or not it’s safe to drink kombucha when pregnant or nursing. Ask enough people, and you’ll get a myriad of answers.
Here’s mine: Yes, kombucha is safe when pregnant or nursing. With qualifications.
What are those qualifications?
If you’ve been a regular kombucha drinker, keep drinking it! Kombucha has a lot of benefits for the pregnant mother:
It increases energy levels.
It helps bowel movements be regular.
It detoxifies the body.
It helps you maximize nutrient absorption because it’s probiotic.
All those are good things! Pregnant ladies often suffer from lack of energy, and this will give you an energy boost without resorting to caffeine or sugar. Pregnant women also frequently struggle with constipation during pregnancy, and this can help you be more regular. Everyone knows that pregnancy increases mucus production, and this can make battling normal colds or allergies difficult. Kombucha can help cleanse and detox your body safely so you can ward off potential illnesses. And, of course, pregnant women are creating a new little life inside them, so they need to be able to use all the nutrients from their (hopefully) nutrient dense foods.
I do have a couple of cautions for pregnant women, though.
If you’re pregnant and you’ve never drunk kombucha before, use caution. In very rare cases, kombucha can cause a reaction in first time drinkers. It’d be terrible to be one of those rare people and have that reaction while pregnant. If you still choose to try to start drinking kombucha, please do so slowly. Start off drinking as little as 4 oz. a day, then slowly build that up as you ascertain your body’s response to this potent beverage.
Again, I have a couple of cautions for nursing mothers, though.
First, kombucha is a detoxing agent. If you’re well-hydrated, those toxins will come out in your pee or stool. If you’re dehydrated, they can come out through your skin, your eyes, even your breast milk. It’d be terrible to have those toxins going out of you and straight into your baby. So, stay hydrated!
Second, kombucha increases energy. Whatever you eat or drink, you’re essentially sharing with your baby as you nurse. So while you may profit from increasing your energy levels, you need to ask whether your baby needs an energy increase or not. If the answer is no, don’t drink kombucha. Get your probiotics from kefir, sour cream, fermented foods, or supplements instead.
Third, kombucha makes you more “regular.” While this is incredibly helpful for most adults, who suffer from various kinds of digestive stagnation, it may not be helpful to your baby at all. If you drink kombucha while nursing, watch out for overly-loose stools in your baby. You don’t want to risk dehydrating your little one! Remember, with breastfed babies defining diarrhea isn’t so much about frequency of passing stools (some breastfed babies can pass 12 a day while others manage only one every two or three days!), but about how liquid or explosive they are. You’re the mom; you know what’s normal. If their stools start becoming abnormal when you drink kombucha, lay off it.
All that said, please know that I drank kombucha for years while nursing my sons and never noticed any ill effects. My babies were happy, healthy, had regular naps, etc. And by healthy, I mean healthy. My first son didn’t have his first cold until he was 14 months old, and my second son didn’t have his first cold until he was 12 months old.
Concerns to Consider: From kombuchakamp.com
1. “Kombucha is fermented and fermented foods are unsafe for pregnant women.”
Zimbabwean children consume fermented foods as young as 4-6 months to ease the weaning process.
Fermentation has been around as long as humans have existed on earth. We are walking bags of bacteria.
Cultures from all over the world have understood that fermented foods are healthy despite current medical trends that foster fear of all bacteria. In the Western world, we have lost our connection to this cultural legacy. Old traditions were discarded in order to fit in to the American way of life which preaches better living through chemistry. Sadly, oftentimes the side effects of modern medications are even worse than their natural counterparts.
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.
2. “Kombucha contains alcohol (.3-2.5%*) and if alcohol is consumed during pregnancy, the child will get Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.”
Alcohol has been mankind’s friend since time immemorial. In moderate quantities, it has been shown in numerous studies to have a tonic effect on the body, benefiting bone density, lowering cholesterol, and balancing mood (most notably when you knock one back on lunch break). Despite these studies, the fear drum is continually being pounded with the message that consumption of even the smallest quantity of alcohol during pregnancy will cause great harm to the fetus.meta analysis of the scientific literature shows that moderate consumption of alcohol does not increase the risk of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
*Alcohol is a natural by-product of the fermentation process. The amount varies based on several factors.
Physiology of Pregnancy:
When I was pregnant, I would get headaches and the only thing that helped them was a glass of KT and a cal-mag supplement.” – Sarah Faith Hodges
Kombucha can also help with some of the most common ailments that arise from pregnancy. The symptoms listed below are caused by the influx of hormones released that prepare the body for childbirth. Many of the physiological side effects of being pregnant can be assuaged by consuming Kombucha.
- Constipation, Heartburn and Indigestion – While pregnant, the esophagus relaxes, leading to an increase in heartburn. Digestive muscles also relax resulting in less peristaltic movements; that contribute to constipation. Kombucha is a well known remedy for constipation, indigestion, heartburn and other digestive issues. Drinking small amounts of KT in a large glass of water not only passes on the health benefits of the Kombucha but hydrates the body as well.
- Fatigue, Sleep Problems – Feelings of fatigue are normal. The body expends much energy supporting the growing child. Kombucha boosts energy without the crash and burn cycle of caffeine, all while delivering microdoses of B-vitamins.
- Hemorrhoids – Increased blood flow causes the veins to expand. Couple that with constipation and pressure from the uterus and pop goes the hemorrhoids. Make your own Kombucha suppositories to heal hemorrhoids
- Stretch Marks, Skin Changes – Skin is an amazing organ. It stretches to accommodate the growing baby. Applying Kombucha cultures topically can be effective at minmizing lines.
- Leg Cramps – Due to shifts in how much calcium is used by the body, cramping may occur. Drinking KT with calcium supplements increases the amount of calcium absorbable by the body. Adding crushed eggshells to KT will mellow the flavor and increase carbonation as well.
All things considered, for me, the answer to this question is Yes, Kombucha tea is safe to drink while pregnant or nursing – but there are caveats. Many women have consumed Kombucha both while pregnant and when nursing and have received many benefits. There are also those who choose to abstain and also those for whom their body sends a very strong signal that it should not be consumed at all while they are with child.
Since I’ve not experienced pregnancy myself, I turned to my readers to share their thoughts.
The Reader’s Speak
The poll question on facebook was “Did you drink KT while you were pregnant?” There were 24 responses (see them for yourself here and share your answer while you’re there).
“No and won’t until I’m done breastfeeding.” – Holly Bechiri
The most common reasons cited for not drinking Kombucha during pregnancy have been outlined above. For some women, this choice makes the most sense. In the end, if uncertainty remains, then abstinence puts the mind at ease. Oftentimes Kombucha consumption recommences once the child is fully weaned.
“I used to drink Kombucha but then couldn’t stand it when I got pregnant,” – Vanessa Quednau
This reaction may seem extreme but it is the perfect example of instinct in action. Vanessa is not alone in her physical response to KT. My friend, Jenn C., confided, “I love Ginger Berry and used to drink a bottle a few times a week, but when I became pregnant, something shifted. My sense of smell became more sensitive and even just the smell of it made me gag.” It is imperative that you listen to the signals your body is sending you when making this decision. Trust your gut!
“Every day!” – Bridget Cabibi-Wilkin
Many regular consumers of Kombucha continue their habit into pregnancy and breastfeeding. Karen M @ Food Renegade posted about her experience as a regular KT drinker who made the decision to drink it during pregnancy. She offers some useful guidelines and tips including staying hydrated and drinking small amounts.
A common observation from breast feeding moms is that drinking KT increases milk supply. Sarah Grace Long noted, “I drank KT during both my pregnancies, and drink it now while breastfeeding my daughter, and drank it while i was breastfeeding my son. i used to drink synergy, and now i brew it myself.” When drinking Kombucha on a regular basis, homebrewing makes the most sense for many reasons.
Caveats for Consumption
- Drink small amounts of Kombucha at a time 2-6oz.
- Increase consumption of water. Or drink Kombucha water by adding a few ounces to a glass of water.
- Listen to your body! If at anytime it doesn’t smell good or taste good to you, then don’t continue to drink it.
If you’ve never drunk Kombucha prior to being pregnant, it is generally a good idea to start with small doses and to observe how your body reacts. Those with a regular Kombucha habit can generally continue but again, listen to the signals your body is sending you. While you may decide not to consume KT during pregnancy, it is always possible to resume again once the body is ready.