Can You Drink Kombucha While Pregnant or Breastfeeding?

Although kombucha offers many health benefits, there are some things to keep in mind before consuming it while pregnant or nursing.

Contains Alcohol

The fermentation process of kombucha tea results in the production of alcohol in trace amounts (6, 7).

Kombucha sold commercially as a “non-alcoholic” beverage still contains very small amounts of alcohol, but can contain no more than 0.5% according to Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) regulations (8).

A 0.5% alcohol content is not a lot, and is the same amount found in most non-alcoholic beers.

However, federal agencies continue to recommend completely restricting alcohol consumption during all trimesters of pregnancy. The CDC also states that all types of alcohol can be equally harmful (9).

Plus, it is important to understand that kombucha produced by home-brewers tends to have a higher alcohol content, with some brews noted to have up to 3% (6, 10).

Alcohol can pass into breast milk if consumed by the breastfeeding mother (11).

In general, it takes 1–2 hours for your body to metabolize one serving of alcohol (12-ounce beer, 5-ounce wine or 1.5-ounce spirit) (12).

Although the amount of alcohol found in kombucha is much less than one serving of alcohol, it should still be considered, as babies metabolize alcohol at a much slower rate than adults (13).

Therefore, it may not be a bad idea to wait a while before breastfeeding after consuming kombucha.

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The effects of alcohol consumption in minute amounts during pregnancy or while nursing are still undetermined. However, with uncertainty, there is always a risk.

It’s Unpasteurized

Pasteurization is a method of heat processing beverages and food to kill harmful bacteria, such as listeria and salmonella.

When kombucha is in its purest form, it has not been pasteurized.

The FDA recommends avoiding unpasteurized products during pregnancy, including milk, soft cheeses and raw juices, as these may contain harmful bacteria (14, 15).

Exposure to harmful pathogens, such as listeria, could harm pregnant women and their unborn babies, including increasing the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth (15, 16).

Could Become Contaminated With Harmful Bacteria

Although more likely to happen in home-brewed kombucha than commercially prepared beverages, it is possible for kombucha to become contaminated with harmful pathogens.

Unfortunately, the same environment needed to produce the friendly and beneficial probiotics in kombucha is the same environment that harmful pathogens and bacteria like to grow in as well (17, 18).

This is why brewing kombucha under sanitary conditions and proper handling are of utmost importance.

Contains Caffeine

Since kombucha is traditionally made with either green or black tea, it does contain caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant and can freely cross the placenta and enter a baby’s bloodstream.

The amount of caffeine found in kombucha varies but is something to keep in mind, especially as your body takes longer to process caffeine during pregnancy (19, 20).

Additionally, for breastfeeding mothers, a small percentage of caffeine ends up in breast milk (21, 22).

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If you are a breastfeeding mom and consuming high amounts of caffeine, it could cause your baby to become irritable and promote wakefulness (23, 24).

Because of this, pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to limit caffeine consumption to no more than 200 mg per day (25).

Most studies show that drinking caffeine during pregnancy in moderation is safe and has no harmful effect on your fetus (26).

However, some studies show that increased consumption of caffeine may be related to detrimental effects, including miscarriage, low birth weight and premature birth (27, 28).

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About the Author: Tung Chi