Is Kombucha Safe to Drink During Pregnancy?

The energy-boosting, fermented tea is a favorite beverage, but if you are pregnant or breastfeeding then it might not be ideal for you. In fact, drinking Kombucha tea during pregnancy might even be dangerous.

 

Kombucha tea is a fermented, carbonated beverage that’s origins can be traced by back to China during the 3rd century B.C. The tangy tea beverage is created by mixing black, oolong, or green tea with bacteria, sugar, and yeast to create a fermentation process. The tea then ferments and becomes carbonated. The bacteria and yeast cocktail is typically referred to as a Kombucha mushroom but it is in no way related to a typical mushroom. Ul

When made properly, the tea has a slightly sweet and sour taste that is reminiscent of wine. It contains high levels of B vitamins and also contains probiotics which can assist with digestion.

Fermentation and Alcohol of Kombucha Tea

The fermentation process creates alcohol levels within the tea that can be extremely elevated. Some kombucha tea manufacturers have been targeted by the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) have had to adjust their product because of high levels of alcohol, according to WebMD.

Unlike many other drinks, the fermentation process that occurs within the Kombucha tea continues even after the tea is bottled and on store shelves. This means that the alcohol level can increase in the tea if it sits unopened for an extended time period.

Risks of Kombucha Tea

It is recommended that a healthy person consume only 4 oz. of kombucha tea per day. In 1995, two women died after drinking the fermented beverage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believe that there existed a connection between the tea and the women’s deaths.

Due in part to the many unanswered questions that surround the tea and the linked deaths, the CDC warns that those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or suffer from chronic health disorders should abstain from drinking the tea.

The United States Food and Drug Administration regularly evaluates Kombucha manufacturers and have found no pathogens during their inspections. Unfortunately, the threat of a pathogenic organism invading the tea remains a viable concern, according to the CDC.

Even with the best practices, mold has been reported on the tea during inspections. The mold is typically not harmful but the risk remains that someday it could prove dangerous.

Kombucha Tea Contains Alcohol

All Kombucha tea contains varying levels of alcohol. By law, store-bought Kombucha tea can only contain 1 to 3 percent alcohol. However, it is hard to regulate all batches of the tangy tea and, in many cases, the levels may be higher. In general, alcohol consumption during pregnancy and breastfeeding should be avoided. If a woman who is breastfeeding consumes Kombucha tea then it is highly advised that she wait at least two hours before feeding her infant.

Possible Health Benefits of Kombucha Tea During Pregnancy

Despite the dire warnings issued by many well-known agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States Food and Drug Administration and respected medical websites such as WebMD, many pregnant women feel that the risks of drinking Kombucha tea do not outweigh the possible benefits.

For centuries, Kombucha tea has been rumored to provide numerous health benefits during pregnancy, especially the first trimester.

  • Detoxify: Many advocates of Kombucha tea believe that it helps remove potential toxins from your system. The tea is also rumored to prevent your body from absorbing toxins.
  • Boost: Drinking the tea is rumored to provide an energy boost by increasing your hemoglobin count and improving your blood’s oxygen supply. It also appears to hinder the absorption of non-heme iron.
  • Blood Pressure: Helps lower blood pressure, even during pregnancy.
  • Immunity: Kombucha tea contains high levels of Vitamin C which have been shown to help bolster immunity.
  • Ulcers: When consumed regularly, the tea is thought by many to reduce the likelihood of developing ulcers by reducing the gastric secretions.
  • Nervous System: It is believed to reduce nervousness, depression, headaches, and epilepsy attacks.
  • Antioxidants: The tea is a rich source of potent antibiotics.

What the Experts Say

“Kombucha tea should not be consumed by pregnant or lactating women. If your immune system is already quite frail, you probably don’t want to mess with anything unpasteurized unless you have your doctor’s go-ahead,” says Dr. Chad Gonzales, a board-certified gastroenterologist.

“Once you put it on the shelves, it continues to ferment and the fermentation process increases the level of alcohol. It rises over the allowable level, which is .5 percent. In some cases, it comes in at double or triple. The public needs to be made aware of what they’re purchasing,” states Noel Rivers is an attorney specializing in consumer protection.

“There is no science to say yes, it does reduce blood pressure, yes it does improve digestion. There is just nothing there at the moment. More people are interested in the mystery of the health benefits than the scientific evidence,” points out  Prof. Keith Warriner from the faculty of Food Science at the University of Guelph.

“At this point, I would advise against drinking kombucha until further studies are performed,” advices Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, a board-certified gastroenterologist, and creator of @HappyGutMD.

When questioned about Kombucha being classified as an L5 by Dr. Thomas Hale’s Medications and Mother’s Milk: 14th Edition, Bulsiewicz goes on to say that “basically means that it’s contraindicated due to concern for harm. It may be overly cautious, but until we have safety data, I wouldn’t recommend drinking kombucha while breastfeeding.”

Until further research is done on the health risks of kombucha, most medical experts advise their pregnant patients and breastfeeding mothers to steer clear of the effervescent tea. Undoubtedly, the risk of it contain harmful pathogens or a high alcohol content are way too risky.

As with anything that you ingest during pregnancy, you will need to determine if it is righ for you and your baby. Ideally, you should consult with your pediatrician before making a decision.

 

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Kimberly Sharpe

Based in Florida, Kimberly Sharpe has been a full-time writer since 2006. Her writing has a strong focus on travel, parenting, outdoor sports, gardening, health issues, pets (both domestic and exotic), home improvement, DIY, and business promos. Her work has appeared in USA Today, MORR Gear, Hipmunk, Travelocity, Livestrong, Hotels.com, Hydro Live, Maximum Yield, eHow, Yahoo News, SF Gate, Garden Guides, Whitefence, S.F. Gate, fixr.com, and numerous other publications. She has traveled extensively throughout Europe, India, and Sri Lanka in an effort to expand her knowledge and enhance her writing skills.

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