Drinking Kombucha While Breastfeeding – Is It Safe?

Drinking Kombucha While Breastfeeding - Is It Safe?
Kombucha the name is familiar to many, but not everyone knows much about what Kombucha is or why there is so much hype around it. Kombucha is a health drink that originated in Manchuria, ancient Northeast China, as far back as 220 B.C. Eventually, a Korean physician took this healing beverage to Japan as a restorative tonic for Emperor Inkyo. This doctor was known as Dr. Kombu, where the name “Kombucha” came from. 

After gaining popularity in Japan, the drink started to make its way to Europe and made its way worldwide. When Kombucha first reached the United States, it was not very popular, nor did it hit the markets. Instead, Kombucha had very humble beginnings in the United States, where it was initially only brewed in homes for personal use before becoming more widespread and in demand. 

So, what is so special about Kombucha, and what are the health benefits that have made it so popular around the world? Despite all the positive reviews, are pregnant, and nursing mothers recommended to stay away from Kombucha, and what are the precautions to take while consuming it? Here, we discuss all this and more.

What Is Kombucha? 

Kombucha is a sweet and sour fizzy drink made with a base of black tea. Yeast and sugar are mixed into the tea, and the mixture is then kept aside for around a week to ferment. A little alcohol, acid, and bacteria are formed during the fermentation process. 

A film made up of acid and bacteria is formed on top of the liquid. This is called SCOBY, which stands for “Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast,” It can be used to ferment new kombucha. 

The health benefits of Kombucha come from the bacteria, which is lactic-acid bacteria. This bacterium can work as a probiotic, which is healthy for the gut. Kombucha is also rich in B Vitamins, which are also beneficial to health. 

Components of Kombucha to Consider Before Consuming It While Breastfeeding 

Whether or not Kombucha while nursing is safe to drink should be discussed with your doctor, but here are a few components present in Kombucha that may help you make the decision much more accessible.

1. Contains Alcohol 

Kombucha that has been fermented naturally contains a small amount of alcohol produced during the fermentation process. When the yeast consumes the sugar in the tea, carbon dioxide and alcohol are produced. The bacteria that form in the SCOBY consume the produced alcohol, resulting in healthy acids being formed.

Unlike wine or beer, the alcohol content in Kombucha does not increase the longer it is left to ferment. When the yeast produces alcohol, the bacteria in the culture convert it into acid. This cycle goes on, causing the level of alcohol in Kombucha to remain limited.

2. Unpasteurized/Raw 

Unpasteurized food can pose a risk to specific people, such as the elderly, young children, and pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. Raw Kombucha is very acidic, which prevents harmful pathogens usually present in raw or unpasteurized foods such as salmonella, listeria, E. Coli, and others from thriving. This is why raw Kombucha is not considered risky to health as other unpasteurized or raw food. 

3. Contains Caffeine 

As the base of Kombucha is black tea, a certain amount of caffeine is present in Kombucha. However, the fermentation process tends to remove most traces of caffeine, so the amount of caffeine present in Kombucha after fermentation is equivalent to decaf coffee, meaning it is only around 8-15 mg of caffeine in each serving.

4. Contains Probiotics 

Probiotics are very good for health, and breastfeeding mothers are often encouraged to include them in their diet. Food like miso, kefir, kimchi, yogurt, and kombucha are well known for being rich in probiotics. Probiotics are great at helping to maintain smooth digestive functioning, even amidst all the hormonal changes that come with pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Can You Drink Kombucha While Breastfeeding? 

“Is Kombucha safe while breastfeeding?” is something you may have asked yourself many times. Despite the many health claims associated with Kombucha, most medical professionals would advise breastfeeding mothers to avoid consuming it. Though it is a good source of probiotics, breastfeeding mothers are encouraged to consume it. The low levels of alcohol and caffeine present in Kombucha are best avoided during this time. 

Though the alcohol in Kombucha is self-limiting, Kombucha is still considered to carry a slight risk with it when consumed by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. This is because the acidity levels in Kombucha are very high, which is why the alcohol level never increases. This high acidity level is not suitable for your baby and could cause digestive problems as they grow. 

Can Kombucha Be Safe for Babies? 

As Kombucha has caffeine in it, it is not considered the best drink for babies. Babies cannot break down caffeine as well as adults, meaning it will take around 2 to 3 days for your baby’s body to break down only half of the caffeine consumed. 

How much caffeine can transfer into breastmilk based on what a mother consumes will vary from individual to individual, so there is no proper standard for how much can be consumed. If you find that your baby is a bit irritable after you have finished Kombucha, it is most likely not having a good effect on your baby. The same goes for the level of acidity in Kombucha.

Though the amount of alcohol and caffeine in Kombucha is very minimal, it is not easy to measure or keep a standard for the level of content in this fermented drink. Another concern that medical professionals have with Kombucha is that it is raw. While the acidity levels keep harmful bacteria from growing, it is still not a risk most would recommend taking for your child.

Benefits of Drinking Kombucha During Breastfeeding 

The information related to the health benefits of consuming Kombucha is limited in itself, so understanding the true benefits of Kombucha while breastfeeding is even rarer. Some believe that consuming Kombucha while breastfeeding may be beneficial to the mother’s immune system. This will benefit a nursing child as well. Some of the immunity-boosting qualities are likely to be transferred to the baby through the breastmilk.

Does Kombucha Help You to Detox?

Kombucha is a wonderful way to detox, as with most fermented things. The state of the bacteria in the gut is altered, which is what triggers the detox. Though some say that only a little of the detox passes through to the breastmilk, even that little can be too much for your baby. Those who find that their babies are slightly fussy or irritable after consuming Kombucha are likely a result of the caffeine or the detox that takes place due to the Kombucha.

Precautions to Take While Drinking Kombucha

As there are mixed reviews on whether or not breastfeeding mothers should consume Kombucha, there are a few precautions that you can take if you are still interested in trying it:

1. Avoid Home-Made Kombucha 

Since Kombucha is a raw, fermented drink, trying to understand how hygienic it is or the level of alcohol and caffeine present in it is difficult to tell when it is made at home. Drinking store-bought Kombucha is a better alternative.

2. Read The Labels 

As with any product, you should read the label on the brand of Kombucha that you are considering purchasing. This will enable you to understand the levels of alcohol and caffeine that are present in it. Opt for the brands that have the least amount of both. 

3. Consume In Moderation 

When consuming Kombucha, make sure that you drink it in moderation not to increase the level of caffeine or alcohol in your system, as this could get transferred to your baby through breastmilk. 

4. Consult Your Doctor 

If you are still not confident or have a few issues with your gut health, it is best to consult with your doctor before consuming Kombucha while nursing. 

Safe Alternative for Kombucha 

The probiotics in Kombucha are what make this drink so desirable. Still, if you decide that you would rather be cautious and not consume Kombucha as a means to gain the benefits of probiotics, there are other safer alternatives for you:

  • Probiotic supplements are available on the market, so it is a good option if you want to ensure that you are consuming the right amount of probiotics that your body needs. 
  • Fermented foods such as Kimchi and sauerkraut are great options to include probiotics in your meals. 
  • Consume Kefir or Yogurt to add safe probiotics to your meals. Both are made from milk and are also an excellent way to gain the right calories needed during this delicate time.

Though this fermented drink can be very beneficial to your health, Kombucha and breastfeeding do not always go hand in hand. When you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is better to always consult with your doctor to find out if it is safe for your situation. Remember, what is suitable for one person may affect another in a completely different way. By ensuring you speak to your doctor, you can be sure that you will not be consuming anything that could negatively affect your baby. 

Also Read:

Lemon Water during Breastfeeding
Green Tea while Breastfeeding
Apple Cider Vinegar during Breastfeeding

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