Is Kombucha Safe For Kids?
For the health-conscious, kombucha is a household name. This healthy soda alternative is currently making waves in the US. A 2015 market analysis report even projects that kombucha sales will soar to $1.8 billion by 2020.
But whether or not its safe for small children remains a rather controversial topic, particularly among mothers. Some are all for it while others remain skeptic mainly because of its alcohol content. Several elementary schools have even started banning their students from drinking kombucha.
So, is kombucha safe for kids? To date, there had been no conclusive study that proves kombucha is not safe for kids. But no studies have been able to prove the contrary either. So giving kombucha to your kids is a matter of personal choice. Just make sure that the alcohol level isn’t enough to cause them harm.
What is Kombucha?
Also known as “mushroom tea”, kombucha had long been enjoyed in other parts of the world. Though it tastes great, its claim to fame is its health benefits.
It is made by fermenting green, black or oolong tea in a cultured colony of bacteria and yeast. In the kombucha brewing world, this culture which looks like a flat rubbery fungus is known as “the mother”. After a week of fermentation, the tea and bacteria mixture will yield a fizzy amber liquid with a funky sweet-sour taste as well as a high count of organic acids.
Apart from acetic acid, lactate and ethyl acetate, kombucha also contains B vitamins and traces of alcohol. The different processes of brewing kombucha often result in varying levels of alcohol. Some commercially-brewed kombucha teas were recently found to have higher alcohol content than what their labels claim.
Probiotics in Kombucha
Like most fermented foods, kombucha is an excellent source of probiotics – the live microorganisms that live within our body.
Also known as the “good bacteria”, probiotics prevent its harmful counterparts from taking over. A healthy balance of both good and bad bacteria brings about various health benefits. Since most of these bacteria reside in our guts, our digestive system is the first to benefit from it. Regular intake of probiotic supplements helps treat and prevent digestive diseases like diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome.
- promote mental health
- reduce blood pressure
- boost immunity
- prevent skin diseases like eczema
- stabilize blood sugar level
- decrease the risk of heart disease
- prevents common cold, throat and mouth diseases
In children, probiotics also play a key role in improving their body’s digestive function. A 2011 medical review explained its potential in treating inflammatory bowel disease in children. It also prevents and lessens the duration of upper respiratory tract infections. When given to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, it may also help in reducing the risk for eczema and skin diseases in infants.
If you’re not sure about giving a probiotic supplement to your precious little one, a glass of kombucha can be a good starting point.
Health Benefits of Kombucha in Children
Apart from its probiotic content, kombucha is also rich in various vitamins and minerals. Here are other health benefits children can gain from drinking kombucha tea.
Improves Mental Health
Kombucha is a great source of vitamins B1, B6, and B12 which helps increase mental clarity in children and improve their concentration abilities. It also has a mood-stabilizing effect which is beneficial for children suffering from anxiety and depression.
The glucaric acid in kombucha is a powerful antioxidant that promotes cellular regeneration by fighting free radicals. It also boosts your kid’s immunity and decreases the risk of cancer.
Natural Energy Booster
Is your child always tired? A few sips of kombucha might help. Just like soda, kombucha can boost your child’s energy but minus the sugar. This helps curb your child’s sugar cravings thus making weight management easier.
Promotes Nerve Health
The B vitamins, amino acids, methylxanthine and alkaloids in kombucha help promote healthy nerve function in children. So kids suffering from epilepsy, stroke and nervous disorders can benefit from a regular sip of this fizzy drink.
Anti-microbial and Anti-inflammatory
Kombucha also contains high amounts of acetic acids and bacteriocins which have anti-microbial properties. It helps protect your child against harmful bacterias like salmonella and e-coli. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that help cure most infections.
Moms who enjoy kombucha have differing opinions about sharing the drink to their kids. Some claimed to have given their kids a taste of kombucha as early as five months old with no observed adverse effects. While others are strongly against the idea as the drink’s alcohol and caffeine content can be harmful.
For mothers who swear by kombucha, it’s alcohol content is nothing to worry about. Store-bought kombucha has only about 0.5 to 1.0% alcohol which is too insignificant to cause any sort of intoxication.
But anti-kombucha moms argue that commercial brands don’t always put the right amount of alcohol content on their labels. The recent government crackdown has brought to light that some kombucha brands contain as much as 3% alcohol. Furthermore, its alcohol content increases as the drink ages. So it’s possible that it can cause intoxication in children if the parent is not careful.
Like its alcohol content, the caffeine doesn’t bother pro-kombucha moms. But for those advocating against kombucha to children, the caffeine content (though tolerable for adults) might be harmful to kids. Some kombucha brands have caffeine equivalent to that of an average-sized coffee.
In the end, it all boils down to your instinct, common sense and personal choice as a parent. Remember that every kid has their own needs and what works for others might not work for your child. Consult a medical professional just to be on the safe side.