Stephanie Greunke is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition who specializes in women’s health. She is a certified personal trainer and prenatal and postnatal corrective exercise specialist. Stephanie guides and supports women locally and globally through her web-based private practice.
The information included in our Dear Stephanie series is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult your healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for your own situation, or if you have any questions regarding conception, pregnancy, or your prenatal treatment plan.
Is Kombucha safe during pregnancy? – Hundreds of moms on Facebook, Instagram, and via email
I’ve been meaning to sit down and write this post, since I get this question almost daily. The problem with this question (and similar questions regarding other foods and supplements during pregnancy) is a lack of thorough, pregnancy-specific research. In cases where research is available, it’s sparse, so we need to use critical thinking; wisdom from traditional cultures and past history of use; advice from health care providers; and our gut instinct to make the best decision.
Kombucha is a popular fermented beverage made from tea. Fermented foods have been included in the human diet for thousands of years. While we’re still researching them, we’ve seen evidence of their positive impact on gastrointestinal health. Because of this, there’s been an overall rise in the popularity of these products. Outside of kombucha, things like raw sauerkraut, kimchi, kvass, and fermented pickles are becoming increasingly more popular and are now being sold at grocery stores, restaurants, and health food stores nationwide. For more information on the history and use of fermented foods, check out this FAQ on Whole30.com.
To help you decide whether or not kombucha has a place in your diet during pregnancy, I’m going to discuss the potential benefits and potential considerations during pregnancy. And, I’ll tell you what I did during my pregnancies.
Potential benefits of Kombucha
Kombucha (and other fermented foods) may:
- Improve gut health: Most women notice digestive issues during pregnancy. Kombucha can improve your digestion by providing beneficial acids, enzymes, and probiotics.
- Elevate energy: Kombucha contains B-vitamins and small amounts of caffeine and released iron (depending on the type of tea used), which can lead to an appreciated boost of energy.
- Increase the number of probiotics in mom’s (and baby’s!) gut: New evidence suggests that babies are colonized with mom’s bacteria while in utero. Small amounts of bacteria have been found in the amniotic fluid, placenta, and baby’s small intestines. This influences baby’s overall health, metabolism, and immune system, so supporting a healthy gut flora in mom is especially important.
- Diminish sugar/alcohol cravings: You’re already aware that we want to limit our sugar consumption and limit/avoid alcohol during pregnancy, so this can be a great alternative option! This tangy, carbonated drink may help calm your sugar dragon. You can also make it fancy by serving it in a wine glass at parties (or while you watch a movie in your coziest pajamas). It does have a very tiny amount of alcohol (skip to the “considerations to learn more), but is nowhere near what you’d find in a glass of wine. Kombucha flavors that don’t have sugar added after the initial fermentation (including stevia) are even Whole30 compliant. For more information about Kombucha and the Whole30, read this article on Whole30.com.
- Reduce morning sickness: Skip the ginger ale (a 12 oz. can contains 32 grams of sugar!) and go with a ginger flavored kombucha to ease your tummy troubles.
- Possibly regulate blood sugar levels: Animal studies have shown kombucha’s ability to significantly reduce blood sugar levels and has been considered a candidate for the treatment and prevention of diabetes.
- Sugar content: Kombucha is sold in a variety of flavors that influence sugar content, so make sure to read your labels when choosing kombucha at the store. One popular brand of mango flavored kombucha contains 20 grams of sugar per bottle while the same brand of ginger flavored kombucha contains 4 grams per bottle.
- Homemade vs. store-bought: If you’re concerned about potential contamination, you may wish to purchase store-bought kombucha, which is carefully monitored, versus making your own at home. I personally recommend store-bought for the pregnant population.
- Alcohol content: Some companies, such as GT’s Classic line of kombucha, have a variety of kombucha with a higher alcohol content (potentially more than 0.5% alcohol). These are typically labeled as “21 and older.” While the amount is minimal, you may wish to skip this kind, if you’re concerned about potential alcohol exposure. The amount of alcohol in your homemade kombucha will depend on how long you ferment it, with longer fermentation times yielding a higher alcohol concentration. So again, store-bought might be the way to go during pregnancy.
- Amount consumed: A little goes a long way. You just need a few ounces to get the benefits, so more is not better. This is especially true if you’ve never consumed kombucha. Start small, with just an ounce or two, and work up. I also recommend making sure to drink plenty of water along with kombucha to ensure hydration and eliminate any possible reactions.
- Bioindividuality: In a healthy individual, small amounts are unlikely to cause issues. However, if your liver isn’t functioning properly, you have a histamine or yeast intolerance, and/or you’re drinking large amounts, you may be more sensitive to its effects on your body. If you notice adverse reactions while drinking it, please use your best judgement and stop.
Should you drink it?
I can’t tell you the answer to this question. It really boils down to what you feel comfortable with based on the information discussed above and your current situation. After reading this article, if you continue to have questions or concerns about consuming kombucha during your pregnancy, be certain to raise these issues with your health care provider at your next visit.
What I can tell you is that I felt comfortable drinking 8 fl. oz of kombucha once or twice/week during both of my pregnancies and have two very healthy boys. I personally wasn’t concerned about drinking kombucha while pregnant and have worked with many pregnant clients who have benefited from drinking kombucha during their pregnancy. Remember, the choice is yours and what works for one mama does not necessarily work for another.
If you’re interested in learning more, I have a podcast regarding this very topic on Real Food Mamas podcast, Episode #42. We also have a video in our HMHB Handbook where I discuss kombucha and other controversial foods. Interested in joining our program? Click here to learn more.