- Kombucha is a fermented drink made from black or green tea, sugar, and SCOBY. While it’s claimed to deliver many health benefits, some people are still concerned about whether it's safe to consume it during pregnancy. These concerns refer to kombucha’s alcohol content, caffeine content, and potential risk of bacterial contamination.
- While the risks of bacteria contamination are minimal, they still exist. It’s important to note that only homemade kombucha can be contaminated, as commercially sold products undergo many tests. Still, commercial brews may contain some alcohol or caffeine, which are recommended to avoid during pregnancy and nursing.
- Overall, it’s not recommended to drink kombucha during pregnancy. Instead, you should opt for a safer choice such as yogurts, kefirs, and sparkling water. The best pregnancy-friendly alternative to kombucha is FUL® sparkling spirulina drinks that will satisfy your craving for a fizzy drink and treat your body to a potent boost of nutrients.
With kombucha being one of the most popular drinks out there, many expectant mums wonder whether they can drink it for its numerous health benefits and some wonder whether it can be used as a safe alternative to other fizzy beverages. No matter why you’re thinking about drinking kombucha during pregnancy, it’s worth taking a look at whether this beverage is safe to consume during this special time in your life.
You may have heard of kombucha’s alcohol and caffeine content which makes it a questionable choice for mothers-to-be. In this article, we’ll take a look at all the factors that may make your reconsider your consumption of this drink during pregnancy and present you with some healthy and pregnancy-safe kombucha alternatives.
What Is Kombucha?
First, let’s have a look at what kombucha is and how it’s made. Kombucha is a fermented tea that takes its origins in China and contains bacteria and yeast (known as SCOBY, also referred to as “the mother”), and sugar. It’s typically made from green, black, or oolong tea. Depending on the desired flavor, kombucha may be infused with different fruits, herbs, spices, and juices. Some brands also use cane sugar or stevia to make more fermented drinks, while others may even add ingredients like CBD or ashwagandha. There’s also a type of kombucha called "hard kombucha" that contains more alcohol.
In recent years, kombucha’s popularity has spiked all around the world, partially due to its numerous health benefits. Like many fermented drinks, kombucha is valued for its probiotic content that promotes gut health. Yet there have been little to no studies on kombucha’s effect on humans, and scientists are still yet to get conclusive proof that it helps manage blood pressure, detoxify the liver, and control cholesterol levels.
Some commercially available kombucha is pasteurised and contains added probiotics. Homemade kombuchas, on the other hand, are unpasteurised and tend to have a higher alcohol content. Some commercially sold kombucha is also unpasteurised and labeled as “raw”.
Is Kombucha Safe To Drink During Pregnancy?
Despite all of kombucha’s health benefits, there are some safety concerns with consuming it during pregnancy.
Kombucha’s Alcohol Content
The main concern relates to alcohol levels that occur in kombucha as a result of fermentation. This concerns all fermented foods and drinks, including soy sauce, kefir, and vinegar. The SCOBY used to make kombucha feeds on sugar and converts it to acetic acid and ethanol.
While the alcohol content in kombucha is minimal - around 0.5% ABV, it’s still a concern for many people. Kombucha is considered to be a non-alcoholic drink, but its alcohol levels vary from brand to brand. Homemade kombucha usually contains higher alcohol levels - as much as 2% – 5% ABV, which is why it’s recommended to avoid it during pregnancy and nursing. Even minimal amounts of alcohol are not recommended during pregnancy, as it can result in different health and behavioral issues for the baby.
Kombucha May Contain Harmful Bacteria
As a result of the fermentation process, the beverage develops lots of gut-friendly bacteria known as probiotics. However, depending on how kombucha is brewed, it may become contaminated with a small amount of “bad” bacteria like listeria or E. coli. Potential consumption of this harmful bacteria is the second concern both for the mother and the baby, as it can result in premature labor and severe health issues like paralysis, seizures, loss of vision, or even death.
This risk is only present with homemade kombucha, as commercially sold kombucha undergoes many tests to ensure there are no harmful bacteria in it. All commercial kombucha manufacturers use strict sterilisation and sanitation practices to ensure that there’s no risk of contamination. Still, many doctors don’t recommend consuming certain unpasteurised foods and drinks during pregnancy, including kombucha.
Kombucha’s Caffeine Content
Additionally, kombucha contains caffeine, which is also a concern, especially if the beverage is consumed in large amounts. Kombucha is usually brewed from green tea, which contains a minimum amount of caffeine. Even though most kombucha will contain a very small amount of caffeine, it’s still recommended to check the label for caffeine content. Generally, kombucha contains around 15-20 mg of caffeine per serving, and it’s recommended to consume no more than 200mg of caffeine daily.
From this perspective, kombucha is safe during pregnancy unless you’re trying to avoid caffeine completely or your doctor advises you to do so. Even if you drink kombucha during pregnancy, you should still count the caffeine it contains towards your daily total. For instance, if you drink more than 8 ounces of kombucha a day along with tea and coffee, you may exceed the maximum recommended caffeine amount, so watch out for that.
Pregnancy-Safe Alternatives To Kombucha
Luckily, there are some healthy alternatives to kombucha that deliver plenty of health benefits and will satisfy your craving for a fizzy drink.
Yogurt or Kefir
Both yogurt and kefir contain live cultures that deliver many health benefits and have probiotic properties. Yogurt and kefir contain the same gut-friendly probiotics but pose no hazard of contamination as unpasteurised foods do. Plus, dairy products are an excellent source of calcium and protein and, depending on the brand, even vitamin D.
If you crave kombucha for its sparkling texture, opt for sparkling water instead. Mix it with some juices to add flavor, and you’ll satisfy your cravings with a much safer drink.
FUL® Sparkling Spirulina Drinks
If you’re looking for a beverage that will be both delicious and healthy, FUL® spirulina drinks are the best alcohol-free and caffeine-free alternative to kombucha that’s safe to drink during pregnancy. Our drinks are infused with spirulina extract that offers many health benefits and has potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties. Unlike kombucha, there’s no risk of FUL® spirulina drinks being contaminated, and each can and bottle undergoes rigorous testing before being sold. For those craving a delicious sparkling drink - FUL® sparkling spirulina drinks are the best choice. Not only do they taste delicious, but they are also nutritious and deliver lots of essential vitamins and minerals to the mother and baby.
The Bottom Line
Considering all the facts, it’s a good idea to cut back on kombucha during pregnancy. While this drink does have some health benefits, the potential risks both for the mother and the baby are serious, making this drink potentially dangerous. While the risks are usually low, they still exist, which is why we recommend choosing safer alternatives such as FUL® sparkling spirulina drinks.
Why can't you have kombucha when pregnant?
It’s recommended to avoid kombucha during pregnancy for several reasons. For example, homemade kombucha may be contaminated with harmful bacteria created during the fermentation process. Some people are also concerned about kombucha’s alcohol and caffeine content.
How much kombucha can you drink while pregnant?
It’s recommended to avoid kombucha during pregnancy and opt for safer alternatives instead, such as FUL® sparkling spirulina drinks. These drinks will give you the satisfaction of drinking a delicious sparkling beverage while also delivering numerous health benefits.
Does kombucha have listeria?
Homemade kombucha may be contaminated with dangerous bacteria, including Listeria and E. coli. Infection caused by these bacteria can be dangerous both for the mother and the baby. That’s why it’s recommended to put away this drink during pregnancy and choose healthier and safer alternatives.
Can you have fermented foods when pregnant?
While it’s recommended to avoid certain fermented foods and drinks like kombucha, not all of them pose a risk to the mother-to-be and the baby. Some of these foods are even essential for a healthy pregnancy. For instance, pickles are one of the favourite fermented foods during pregnancy, and they are safe to eat.
Is store-bought kombucha pasteurized?
Depending on the brand, commercially sold kombucha can be both pasteurized and unpasteurised. Most often though it’s sold in its raw form to save all the gut-friendly bacteria and their benefits. Pasteurized kombucha, on the other hand, is processed with heat to kill all potentially harmful bacteria but it doesn’t contain as many health benefits as raw kombucha.