Kombucha tea, with its plethora of health-promoting benefits, has mixed reviews when it comes to pregnancy usage. While some sites and some health care professionals advocate its usage during pregnancy, there are just as many denouncing its use during this critical baby building period. While I have drunk small amounts of the tea both during pregnancy and breastfeeding with no ill effects, it does not mean the practice should be the norm for every pregnant and/or breastfeeding woman.
Kombucha tea, a probiotic beverage, is made by fermenting black tea with sugar and a flat, the pancake looking culture of yeasts and bacteria called a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts). It can also be called a “Kombucha mushroom” due to the culture’s shape and size as it floats on top of the tea after fermentation. Kombucha tea originated in East Asia and was introduced into Germany in the early 1900’s. Since then, it has been promoted for boosting immunity, increasing energy, improving digestion, reducing high blood pressure, maximizing nutrient absorption, and strengthening the body against certain ailments.
Ailments caused by physiologic side effects of being pregnancy have been noted to be alleviated from drinking Kombucha tea. Kombucha has been touted as a remedy for constipation, indigestion, heartburn, and other digestive issues.
Those who denounce its use during pregnancy and breastfeeding give some of the following reasons, which should be pondered prior to discerning whether or not to partake of the drink.
- Kombucha contains alcohol, and alcohol has the potential to cause birth defects such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Kombucha contains anywhere from 0.3 to 2.5% of alcohol, depending on the amount of alcohol produced during the fermentation process. Beer contains anywhere from 3 to 10%, wine 8 to 20% and spirits anywhere from 20 to 70%. While most literature encourages mothers to completely steer clear of all alcohol during pregnancy, a study published in The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health in 2010 reported five-year-old children of women who drank up to one or two alcoholic drinks per week were not at increased risk of behavioral or cognitive problems. If you are concerned about alcohol consumption during pregnancy, and the possible risks to the baby, then do not consume Kombucha while pregnant.
- Kombucha is a detox agent, and there are concerns that a woman should not start a detoxification program while pregnant. Detox is a natural process that occurs every night. The organs rest and release built up waste, which is why most people feel the need to eliminate shortly after awakening. Kombucha aids in this process, and could easily be consumed during pregnancy; however, it is imperative to stay well hydrated. Eight to ten glasses of water daily will keep you hydrated during pregnancy, and the toxins will be removed naturally through the urine and feces. If you are dehydrated, those toxins will move out of the body through other organs, one of which can be the uterus. If you are concerned about toxins moving out of the body into a baby, best to stay away from Kombucha.
- Kombucha can cause an allergic reaction in first-time drinkers. If you have never consumed Kombucha prior to pregnancy, it is imperative to use caution or stay away completely. While it is very rare to have an allergic reaction to Kombucha, having an allergic reaction during pregnancy could be a dangerous, nightmarish, and deadly experience. If you choose to start drinking Kombucha during pregnancy, begin slowly. Start off with no more than 2 oz per day, and monitor your body’s response. Do not drink if you know you have allergies to mold.
- Kombucha has been reported to cause kidney failure, lactic acidosis, and liver dysfunction. While these findings were reported, the patients were also diagnosed with serious diseases and on medications which could cause these same problems.
If you are going to drink Kombucha tea while you are pregnant and planning on brewing it at home, it is imperative to brew it only in glass jars as the tea will leach any metals out of other containers. Do NOT use ceramic, lead, steel, or any other material for brewing. Purchase your Kombucha SCOBY from a reputable source as some SCOBYs can harbor potentially dangerous bacteria. Watch the PH of your brew. It should be no more than 2.5 to 3.0. You can use PH strips to test. If there is obvious mold growing, dump it out and start over.
As with all things natural health related, be certain to check with your health care provider prior to starting Kombucha consumption.