Not hip to this latest beverage trend? Here’s the skinny. Kombucha is sweetened, black tea that’s been fermented based on a starter bacteria and yeast called a SCOBY, or “the mother.” (Have you ever passed around the yeast for sourdough or Amish friendship bread? It’s like that … only you drink it.) Cut off the SCOBY, start the tea with sugar, seal it up nice and tight, and in a few weeks you’re sipping homemade kombucha. Or, for about $4 per 16-ounce bottle, you can buy the stuff ready to drink.
Kombucha is lauded for being quite the little health proponent, offering this class of tea drinkers better gut health, digestion, energy, and staving off disease. It’s been giving bodies a heavy dose of vitamins, enzymes and immunities for some 2,000 years.
It’s high in acidity and has trace amounts of alcohol (because it has less than .5 percent by volume, it doesn’t have to be labeled). For overall health, kombucha seems to attract more loyal sippers every day. If you’re pregnant, nursing, or at risk of breast cancer, make sure to read some kombucha fine print first.
Kristen Michaelis drank it throughout her pregnancy, but warns first timers to start slow. Some people have undesirable reactions to kombucha, which could only exacerbate any symptoms you’re already dealing with. Because it can regulate bowel movements, it may offer a relief for pregnancy constipation. It also offers a natural energy boost without any caffeine.
Now, the jury is quite hung on whether or not you can nurse while kombucha’ing. Some, like Michaelis, have no downsides to report. Although she does warn that the effects you feel from the drink can pass along to your infant, like loose stools and extra energy. Other sources report that kombucha is contraindicated, the highest risk for nursing mothers. It gets an L5, a safety classification for medications and herbs taken during breastfeeding. The bottom line if you’re nursing? Talk to your doctor and together you can determine what’s best for you and your baby.
Naturalists sing high praise for kombucha, suggesting it can help patients fight cancer. In the ancient areas in Asia and Russia where kombucha hails from, the people live in virtually cancer-free zones. Of course, Western medicine does not endorse kombucha for treatment at all. The American Cancer Society says there is no scientific evidence to support such claims. Memorial Sloan Kettering warns immunosuppressed and chemotherapy patients against drinking kombucha.