Is Kombucha Safe When Pregnant or Nursing?

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If you’re a new or expectant mother, you may want to know whether or not it’s safe to drink kombucha when pregnant or nursing.  Ask enough people, and you’ll get a myriad of answers.

Here’s mine: Yes, kombucha is safe when pregnant or nursing. With qualifications.

What are those qualifications?

If you’ve been a regular kombucha drinker, keep drinking it! Kombucha has a lot of benefits for the pregnant mother:

  • It increases energy levels.
  • It helps bowel movements be regular.
  • It detoxifies the body.
  • It helps you maximize nutrient absorption because it’s probiotic.

All those are good things! Pregnant ladies often suffer from lack of energy, and this will give you an energy boost without resorting to caffeine or sugar. Pregnant women also frequently struggle with constipation during pregnancy, and this can help you be more regular. Everyone knows that pregnancy increases mucus production, and this can make battling normal colds or allergies difficult. Kombucha can help cleanse and detox your body safely so you can ward off potential illnesses. And, of course, pregnant women are creating a new little life inside them, so they need to be able to use all the nutrients from their (hopefully) nutrient dense foods.

I do have a couple of cautions for pregnant women, though.

If you’re pregnant and you’ve never drunk kombucha before, use caution. In very rare cases, kombucha can cause a reaction in first time drinkers. It’d be terrible to be one of those rare people and have that reaction while pregnant. If you still choose to try to start drinking kombucha, please do so slowly. Start off drinking as little as 4 oz. a day, then slowly build that up as you ascertain your body’s response to this potent beverage.

Is drinking kombucha safe while nursing?

If you’ve made a safe home brew, the answer again is yes, but be cautious. What is a safe brew? One that is not overly acidic (that might cause acidosis), but is also not so basic that it doesn’t ward off pathogens. Normally, I’d tell you to just go by smell and taste to determine when your brew is done. But when nursing, it’s best not to take any risks. You can use inexpensive pH testing strips to make sure you’re drinking the brew between pH levels 2.5 and 3.0.

Again, I have a couple of cautions for nursing mothers, though.

First, kombucha is a detoxing agent. If you’re well-hydrated, those toxins will come out in your pee or stool. If you’re dehydrated, they can come out through your skin, your eyes, even your breast milk. It’d be terrible to have those toxins going out of you and straight into your baby.  So, stay hydrated!

Second, kombucha increases energy. Whatever you eat or drink, you’re essentially sharing with your baby as you nurse. So while you may profit from increasing your energy levels, you need to ask whether your baby needs an energy increase or not. If the answer is no, don’t drink kombucha. Get your probiotics from kefir, sour cream, fermented foods, or supplements instead.

Third, kombucha makes you more “regular.” While this is incredibly helpful for most adults, who suffer from various kinds of digestive stagnation, it may not be helpful to your baby at all. If you drink kombucha while nursing, watch out for overly-loose stools in your baby. You don’t want to risk dehydrating your little one! Remember, with breastfed babies defining diarrhea isn’t so much about frequency of passing stools (some breastfed babies can pass 12 a day while others manage only one every two or three days!), but about how liquid or explosive they are. You’re the mom; you know what’s normal. If their stools start becoming abnormal when you drink kombucha, lay off it.

All that said, please know that I drank kombucha for years while nursing my sons and never noticed any ill effects. My babies were happy, healthy, had regular naps, etc. And by healthy, I mean healthy. My first son didn’t have his first cold until he was 14 months old, and my second son didn’t have his first cold until he was 12 months old.

Wait a minute! You can brew kombucha at home?

For those of you who want to know how, here’s a tutorial on how to make those tasty flavored kombucha teas at home. If you’re looking to start that process, you can find reliable sources of starter supplies and kombucha “mothers” (symbiotic colonies of bacteria and yeast that start the culture) online here.

(photo by Food Loves Writing)
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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.

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40 Responses to Is Kombucha Safe When Pregnant or Nursing?
  1. Psychic Lunch
    January 26, 2010 | 11:24 am

    I thought kombucha was one of those things that is acidic before consuming but while being digested actually becomes alkaline. Have you heard about that Kristen?

    -Dan
    .-= Psychic Lunch´s last blog post …Those Relentless Girl Scouts! =-.

    • KristenM
      January 26, 2010 | 12:15 pm

      Dan — I haven’t heard any such thing. In fact, I’ve only read cautions about it being too acidic (particularly for young children). Guess that one calls for more research!

    • Salihah
      April 8, 2010 | 3:41 pm

      Dan, that is correct from my understanding. I am trying to find the article now and I can’t remember where it was. But it was about how kombucha, like other fermented foods, supports alkalinity in the body due to the conversion of acids during digestion.
      .-= Salihah´s last blog post …The Little Sultan Has Arrived =-.

  2. emily
    January 26, 2010 | 2:00 pm

    well i drink GT’s kombucha, store bought. and i did so when it seemed palateable while pregnant and have drank it at least once per week while nursing mynow 1 year old baby. I did drink it for years prior to her conception though. how could drinking kombucha cause acidosis? this sounds a bit extreme, i mean are you talking like gallons per day? thanks for all the good info as always!
    .-= emily´s last blog post …Fast, Cheap and Low Carb Breakfast =-.

    • KristenM
      January 26, 2010 | 3:29 pm

      Emily — Only talking about drinking gallons a day of an over-fermented drink. If you ferment it correctly, I don’t think any one would have any problems.

  3. LadyC925
    January 26, 2010 | 4:50 pm

    Is Kombucha Safe When Pregnant or Nursing? | Food Renegade: You can use inexpensive pH testing strips to make sure… http://bit.ly/bgHSOh

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  4. Wendy (The Local Cook)
    January 26, 2010 | 9:24 pm

    so sad, I neglected my poor scoby and had forgotten about it until this post. I really should try to find a new one.
    .-= Wendy (The Local Cook)´s last blog post …Sunflower Raisin Cookies =-.

  5. Amanda
    January 27, 2010 | 10:02 am

    Great post! As a midwife, I’m often asked this question.It’s a hard one (and complicated to answer!). Nice job. :)
    I’m also one of the founders of a great small-scale magazine called The Birth Project. I was wondering if the author of this post might be interested in letting us reprint this as an article in the spring issue of TBP? You can check out our site at. http://www.birthproject.com to for more information and to see if it’s something you’d be interested in.
    Keep up the amazing posts, Food Renegade! Love it!
    .-= Amanda´s last blog post …Pondering Potatoes =-.

  6. Lauren
    January 27, 2010 | 1:50 pm

    “It’d be terrible to have those toxins going out of you and straight into your baby. So, stay hydrated!”

    I think it’s a matter of more than just hydration. This is an issue that’s been discussed quite a bit on MDC, and because I personally have amalgam fillings in my mouth and never drank kombucha pre pregnancy or nursing, I am waiting until my ds is weaned to start. I think the risk of me dumping mercury and all sorts of other toxins into him is just too great to be worth the benefits of drinking kombucha for me at the moment. (Here is a thread on MDC with some info on why kombucha may not be perfectly safe while pregnant/nursing: http://www.mothering.com/discussions/showthread.php?t=1143566&highlight=kombucha+detox+nursing)

    Many many many people have detox pathway problems, which can cause those toxins to be released in wonky ways, in places they are not supposed to go to. Doing any kind of detox (including kombucha which I’ve read is a very strong mobilizer of mercury and other metals) while pregnant or nursing can be dangerous IMO b/c if your detox pathways are blocked, those toxins will get released, and because they can’t get out through the correct pathways, they will just circulate through your system and resettle themselves in scary places like your organs, or, if you are pregnant, right into your growing fetus. Breastmilk is a detox pathway, which is why I personally just avoid super detoxing things like kombucha as I wasn’t doing it prepregnancy. I feel I get enough benefits of fermented foods from my kraut, kimchi and non-dairy kefir for now, and don’t think it’s worth the risk for me/my son. I have a very sensitive child w/ food sensitivity issues which is a big part of my reasons for being so cautious, but I think it’s important to look at all possible angles of this issue before adding it in to your pregnancy or nursing diet.

    Just another perspective! ;) (If you’re interested, check out the mothering.com allergies, health and healing, and traditional foods forums, along w/ http://www.heal-thyself.ning.com for more info on detox pathways–I certainly don’t know enough about all of this, but have learned sooooo much from those two places.)

    • KristenM
      January 27, 2010 | 2:37 pm

      Lauren — Sounds like yet another good reason for a pregnant/nursing mother to only drink kombucha if she’s CONTINUING to drink it and not just STARTING to drink it!

      • Lauren
        January 27, 2010 | 5:25 pm

        I totally agree! :)

    • Salihah
      April 8, 2010 | 3:43 pm

      Interesting!! Thanks so much for this perspective!
      .-= Salihah´s last blog post …The Little Sultan Has Arrived =-.

  7. Elizabeth @ The Nourished Life
    January 27, 2010 | 6:20 pm

    Wow, great answers to a tough question. I do think it comes down to the fact that it’s not healthy to try heavy detoxing during pregnancy or nursing. Kombucha is a powerful food, and that definitely has to be taken into consideration.
    .-= Elizabeth @ The Nourished Life´s last blog post …Weight Loss Wednesday: Why Your Next Diet Will End in Disaster =-.

  8. Alex Lewin
    January 28, 2010 | 12:55 am

    The caffeine in kombucha might be worth considering, too. It plays a role in the energizing nature of kombucha. So if you are limiting your coffee and tea intake because of the caffeine, you might want to limit how much kombucha you drink. Kombucha contains less caffeine than tea, but it is still noticeable.
    .-= Alex Lewin´s last blog post …T.W. Food: Totally Local (this Wednesday) =-.

  9. Tam
    January 28, 2010 | 2:06 am

    Would you please tell me when is a good time to flavor the kombucha drink? Is it when the taste is right to you? Or is it just a day or two before the taste is right to you so that you can bottle it and put flavor at the bottom and let it ferment for another two more days or so.

    This is my first kombucha, so it would be nice to know. I am growing a mother SCOBY but it will take a very long time. I got a mother from someone and started last night, but I was never clear on when is the time to bottle and flavor the kombucha though.

    I hope you can clearify this.

    Regards,

    Tam

  10. Salihah
    April 8, 2010 | 3:44 pm

    Thank you so much for this article! I kept reading not to drink kombucha while pregnant or nursing but I never saw WHY. I was talking to Wardeh over at http://gnowfglins.com/ and she recommended I read your post here on the issue. Thank you for the information, I really appreciate it!
    .-= Salihah´s last blog post …The Little Sultan Has Arrived =-.

  11. Alex
    July 31, 2010 | 9:08 am

    Great info. Thanks.
    I just wanted to add to your description of how a breastfed baby’s diarrhoea might look like. A lot of breastfed babies have very runny, very explosive poos when they are healthy. Mine sure did. No nappy, be it cloth or dosposable could hold that. Especially with my daughter who only did a poo every 5-6 days, but then did 2 or 3 in a row.
    It is the colour and consistency that is a giveaway. If their stool is sort of slimey and looks like it has gelatinous matter in it and has a greenish tinge, then that is a definite sign of diarrheoa.
    You know your baby and his pattern. If it changes all of a sudden after you have introduced a new food/beverage, then use caution.

  12. Amanda
    December 6, 2010 | 9:15 am

    Can I give Kombucha to my 21 month old son? I began to drink it a few months ago (and I’m breastfeeding my 4 month old…now I will stop), but I would like to continue to make it if it’s okay for my son to drink…any thoughts?

  13. Kominfo
    December 15, 2010 | 1:18 pm

    This article makes claims about kombucha that are unfounded through medical trials and dispenses potentially dangerous advice. To call it a “detoxifying” beverage is misleading and vague at best.
    Several prominent doctors in both Western and alternative medicine urge caution if not avoidance with regards to kombucha. Dr. Andrew Weil singles out pregnant women as a group who should avoid it. Read here:
    http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/id/QAA365602
    Mayo clinic urges avoidance as well:
    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/kombucha-tea/AN01658

  14. Nocturne
    December 20, 2010 | 6:20 pm

    I stopped drinking kombucha back in September when I found out I was pregnant. We home brewed and also drank GT’s, Honest Tea’s Kombucha, and High Country Kombucha. I have had a few ounces a few times since finding out I was pregnant.

    I was wondering if I would be considered someone who is continuing or a new drinker, since it has been so long since I have had large amounts (8 or more oz a day)?

    I have been having severe indigestion and my doctor has me taking Zantac…which doesn’t work much and I hate taking, but I need relieve from these digestion issues.

    I’m thinking kombucha might help.

    I’m 16 weeks pregnant now.

    • Jessica B.
      August 11, 2011 | 1:03 pm

      Oh, wow! I’m in almost the same situation now and would love someone’s insight. I was drinking Kombucha regularly even when I first found out that I was pregnant. But then, I got sick and couldn’t stand the smell/taste. I’ve been leery of starting up again due to the ‘detox’ effects, but my digestion has gone insane and I’m missing it now.

      I was drinking it regularly for 6-8 months before now. Surely all of the detoxing would be over with by now? Or, is it an ongoing kind of deal?

      Any thoughts would be very much appreciated!

  15. Jett
    March 31, 2011 | 12:44 am

    Wow looks interesting. Never heard of this tea before. This is definitely better the regular black tea, right?

    • Blake
      July 7, 2011 | 4:08 pm

      RIGHT!!

  16. teresarex
    June 7, 2011 | 3:16 pm

    I love kombucha tea
    just had a baby girl : )
    As soon as I was pregnant i stopped drinking kombucha ,I paln on breastfeeding for 6-8 months so i don’t think im going to be brewing for a while .
    just to be on the safe side ,that’s OK I will stick to the yogurt for my pro biotic’s
    when im back on my feet im going to order mine from
    Kombucha Health Drink

    their the bees knees !!!

  17. Renee Zillweggar
    December 9, 2011 | 4:20 pm

    I was just searching for detoxifying foods and I was brought here. I didn’t know there was an issue about kombucha and pregnancy. I used to give my sister kombucha tea when she was pregnant 2 years ago and it helped her reduce muscle pains and made her bowel movement regular. Good thing nothing bad happened to her, I mean, can something bad could really happen to a pregnant? Im not a medical person though. By the way, I already tried brewed kombucha and it is really great.

  18. Anna
    December 18, 2011 | 9:28 pm

    Does anyone know if pregnant and nursing women in the areas that kombucha was traditionally brewed continued to drink it during pregnancy and while nursing? Sally Fallon says that pregnant women can drink it in Nourishing Traditions and the WAPF site also recommends it. I drank a bottle here and there before pregnancy and have been drinking about 16 oz a week since part way through the 1st trimester. It seems to help me with nausea.

  19. Mindy
    April 26, 2012 | 4:05 pm

    Following link didn’t work when I clicked on it:

    “how to brew those tasty flavored kombucha teas at home”

    from page:

    http://www.foodrenegade.com/is-kombucha-safe-when-pregnant-or-nursing/

  20. Whitney
    June 20, 2012 | 1:06 am

    My family loves kombucha, even my one year old daughter loves it. When we are at the store she asks, “bucha mommy?” we also make our own. My five year old takes it when he gets diarrhea… and it makes him regular almost instantly.

    • Jess @ Crunchy Hot Mama
      December 19, 2012 | 3:12 pm

      That’s funny, Whitney! My 2-year old loves it, too, and asks for ‘booch whenever I open the fridge. She had bad diarrhea a couple of months ago, and between the kombucha and coconut water, she was 100% better. It’s amazing stuff!

  21. Vinnie
    June 25, 2012 | 8:54 am

    You say a first time drinker can have a negative reaction, but what is the reaction? It would be good info to include in your article so the reader can weigh the potential side effects.

  22. Eleanor
    October 16, 2012 | 3:29 am

    I just tried to click on your how to make kombucha link and it didn’t work. Where might I be able to find it?
    Thanks!

  23. karli
    January 29, 2013 | 11:30 pm

    So I was just wondering if there is a clear answer for the question: is it OK for young children/toddlers to drink this?
    I started a home brew several months ago to help my husband with early onset oesteo arthritis (@the age of 27) :( and since then my daughter and I have started drinking it… none of us has had any negative reactions. In fact, my daughter and I were both sick recently and drank some and it really made us better. Just like a previous commenter, she is always asking for “bucha” and I do limit her consumption to about a quarter to half a cup per day. She is 3. Is there any reason why a child should not have this?

  24. Sarah @ RealFoodOutlaws
    May 6, 2013 | 4:32 pm

    I drink kombucha throughout pregnancy and while Breastfeeding and have had no ill effects. Quite the opposite. My kids drink it too.

  25. Amy
    June 2, 2013 | 7:35 pm

    My husband was in the hospital for 8 days / almost died from a bowel obstruction after consuming homemade kombucha. Never again.

  26. Kami
    June 9, 2013 | 5:07 pm

    I started drinking kombucha for about a week to week & 1/2 because I was having digestive issues & it helped. Then found out I was pregnant! I keep hearing not to drink if you’re not used to drinking it because it may have effects I don’t want but I have yet to see an explanation of what the side effects are. It seems to be helping me be regular. Once in a while if I’ve been running errands & drink I get warm but otherwise it takes away abdominal discomfort. What bad effects am I looking for?

    • WinnieCooper
      December 31, 2013 | 4:42 pm

      It seems to me that one of the side effects of drinking Kombucha is pregnancy! I’m kind of half joking, because I keep hearing people say they started drinking it, then became pregnant and didn’t know whether to continue drinking it. The same thing happened to me. I could not become pregnant until I started drinking Kombucha, then two weeks later I was pregnant! They do say that a lack of b-vitamins can hinder conception. Something to think about if you want to start a family.

  27. Dr. Jean Logan
    July 4, 2013 | 6:10 pm

    I have been making kombucha for at least 15 years and as doctor of nutrition I find many of the concerns are unfounded and exaggerated. Drinking it in moderation during pregnancy is not a problem. Common sense should prevail. I have not been sick with so much as case of the sniffles in as many years as kombucha and a fresh organic vegetarian diet keep me fit. I also exercise regularly and get adequate sunshine. Scare stories put out by medical organizations that are killing people with drugs should give you a good indication of their motivation. Only once did my culture developer mold and it was obvious. One would have to be pretty stupid not to recognize mold when they see it. My blessings to all.

  28. Beth
    November 23, 2013 | 8:01 pm

    Hi, had a question. I just found out that I am pg, just as my very first kombutcha tea is ready!!! I’ve read what you had to say about it, but I tend to be anxious about new things, and so I had a question about side effects. I read about kombutcha causing serious side effects, and I didn’t know if there were other factors these individuals may have been facing that would cause such a severe reaction. Any thoughts or advise?

  29. Brenda
    February 7, 2014 | 2:54 pm

    Another thing to caution readers about before considering to include kombucha in their pregnancy and breastfeeding diet is: Do you have a family history of alcoholism?

    In general, kombucha is low in alcohol, about 0.5% for store bought and homebrew can be up to 1.5%. The 0.5% to 1.5% range is lower than anything sold as alcohol on the market. However, an unborn child experiences alcohol at around double the blood alcohol level of the mother. So, .5% is experienced at around 1% by the fetus, 1.5% is experienced at around 3%, which is the same as some beers. This is because alcohol stays in the fetus’ system for twice as long as the mother’s.

    While that may not be a big deal to some, for those of us with a genetic predisposition towards alcoholism it could be setting our children up to be even more prone to a life of addiction.

    Alcoholism is the addiction to the dopamine response in the brain when it is exposed to alcohol (in specific, it looks like a defect in the D2 dopamine receptor may be responsible). Alcohol does not create a dopamine response thoughout the brain, but rather only in the “reward pathways.”

    In other words, when exposed to alcohol (especially those of us with a genetic predisposition)the brain produces dopamine in the part of the brain that says, “Yay, that was good behavior, let’s create a chemical response to reinforce and encourage that behavior!” This happens in the developing fetus’ brain as well.

    While no one is going to have a baby with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome from drinking kombucha, those of us with a genetic predisposition towards alcoholism should think carefully about exposing our child’s developing dopamine response system to even minute amounts of alcohol on a daily basis for 9 months. Alcoholism usually develops over years, and mothers with a personal and/or family history of drug and alcohol abuse should carefully consider if they want to start conditioning their child’s dopamine reward system with alcohol this early. This could increase their chances of developing an addiction to alcohol or other substances later in life.

    For further reading on the brain and alcohol: http://www.hamsnetwork.org/dopamine.pdf

    There really is very little conclusive literature on the effects of minimal alcohol exposure during pregnancy. Some studies find no effects, some studies find minimal, some find negative effects on behavior and mental health later in life. The reason for this is that it is a complicated issue that depends on the mother’s life style, her specific genetics, the fetus’s specific genetics, and so many other things there is no way to control for in many studies. But what is known is that alcohol does produce a dopamine response in a fetus; the same way it does in alcoholics.

    While I love kombucha and it’s benefits, because of my family history of addiction (which I have worked my life to avoid. Woohoo! for breaking the cycle), kombucha is not a pregnancy or breastfeeding food for me. I’ll just suck it up and eat more kraut.

    And before people jump all over me, I am not saying women who drink kombucha during pregnancy are bad people or are making a bad choice; I am simply pointing out an additional consideration for people with a personal or family history of addiction.

  30. K
    February 20, 2014 | 6:50 pm

    Hi,
    Thanks for this helpful post. I’m totally new to this (3.5 weeks pregnant, and have never had Kombucha). Last night I was looking for a healthy ginger drink at my natural foods store, to calm my tummy, and found a bottle of ginger pear Kombucha by ‘Kombucha Wonder Drink.’ I bought it because I’ve heard amazing things about kombucha, and it had good looking ingredients…and then I started to wonder if there might be any reason to avoid it, being newly pregnant; since I barely know what’s on the ‘danger list.’
    So I just wanted to ask if a store-bought, bottled kombucha drink would be any different or have the same effects, and if I ought to just give it to my husband, or maybe sip it over a few days.
    Here’s the info on the drink:
    http://www.wonderdrink.com/product/asian-pear-ginger/
    Thanks so much for any help!

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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