Healthy living is a trend that’ll never go out of style—especially during pregnancy. Of course, you want to nourish your growing baby, but you also want to enjoy what you eat or drink. There’s no shortage of pregnancy-safe drinks like matcha or coffee alternatives to fuel the day, but what about sour-sweet kombucha tea? Is it safe to drink kombucha while pregnant? A dietician weighs in.
Can pregnant women drink kombucha?
Kombucha may be on-trend, but it’s a controversial tea drink. Thanks to the fermentation process with SCOBY—a jello-like cellulose pad that houses active lactic acid, acetic acid, and yeast. SCOBY is edible, but anything fermented during pregnancy could be an issue.
“It’s meant to be an unfiltered, unprocessed, raw beverage that provides some gut-friendly bacteria, but drinking kombucha during pregnancy: it’s a no,” says Nishta Saxena, Dietitian and owner of Vibrant Nutrition. “The safety risks are high for pregnant women due to their compromised immune system, meaning they can easily develop an infection from bacteria, mould, or contamination. Kombucha can be contaminated by mould during processing, and because it is raw, it may not be destroyed in the final beverage.”
Can kombucha help with pregnancy nausea?
There are many myths about pregnancy nausea cures, but Saxena suggests choosing kombucha alternatives that are safer.
“Sugars, caffeine, herbs, and many other components (flowers, herbs, essences) are used to create flavor profiles for kombucha, but nausea can be managed in many ways by using gingerroot, fennel or peppermint teas and consuming smaller meals, or snacks,” says Saxena.
Other ways to manage nausea include not drinking fluids at mealtimes and eating food cold.
“Even flat ginger ale is safer and potentially helpful,” Saxena adds. “Kombucha provides no special relief or benefit and adds risk if consumed during pregnancy.”
Are fermented foods safe during pregnancy?
Though kombucha may not be the safest, Saxena says you don’t have to cut out all fermented foods.
“Soybean, bean curd, yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and tempeh, can be considered safe during pregnancy,” Saxena adds. “It’s important that they are not homemade versions of these foods.”
Saxena recommends quality-tested foods from a certified food handling facility to avoid contamination.
“They should also be kept at cold temperatures, below four degrees Celsius (kefir) or completely cooked (e.g., tempeh). Histamines within fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut can be problematic, so pregnant women must avoid excessive amounts of these foods. Women who have developed hypertension, gestational diabetes, or high risk of preeclampsia should avoid these high-histamine, high-sodium, fermented foods.”
“In Addition, fermentation can produce alcohol content in kombucha, so this must be avoided. Finally, many have high levels of caffeine and added sugars to promote fermentation. Kombucha is best left to the non-pregnant. There are no benefits that outweigh the risk to a pregnant woman.”
Consuming alcohol, even in small amounts, during pregnancy should be avoided.
How does kombucha ferment?
A SCOBY goes into sweetened tea at room temperature for a few weeks to ferment. After that, the product is typically transferred into bottles or other containers to ferment and carbonate for another couple of weeks. This is the point when the finished kombucha is refrigerated.
Are there any health benefits to kombucha outside of pregnancy?
Much like green tea, kombucha does have health benefits for those who are not pregnant. The finished product contains antioxidants and probiotics and can help with gut health. But if made improperly (skip the home-brewed kombucha), it can over-ferment or become contaminated, which puts pregnant women at risk of becoming ill.
If you want to consume kombucha, the only safe time is after you’ve given birth. Anything before that could result in infection or sickness. If you’re looking to aid in pregnancy nausea, give gingerroot, fennel, or peppermint teas a try and consume smaller meals, or snacks.
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