What you feed your child can affect their health and development. As a parent or caregiver, you should always ensure that your child’s food is healthy, safe, and nutritious. Kombucha has become a favorite drink for most adults who praise its positive impact on the body. But, can kids drink kombucha? To ensure you don’t put your kids’ health at risk, read on to find out more about what kombucha is, its health benefits and risks, and whether you should be giving it to your child.
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a type of fermented tea. It consists of sugar, black and green tea mixed with symbiotic cultures of yeast and bacteria. While you can make it at home, kombucha is also available in stores and comes in various flavors, including raspberry, ginger, and even lemon. While it is a go-to health drink for most people, the fermented tea contains alcohol and caffeine.
Is Kombucha Safe for Kids?
Despite the nature of the beverage, kombucha in small amounts is generally safe for kids. However, commercially prepared kombucha is a much safer option for children as it contains less than 0.5% of alcohol, which is why anyone can buy it. Home-brewed kombucha can have up to 5% of alcohol which may cause intoxication.
The safety of kombucha doesn’t mean you should offer your child the beverage like you do water. It is advisable to practice moderation when giving your kids kombucha as there are no established serving guidelines for children. Also, not all kids can drink it.
Children with baby teeth should not drink kombucha as the beverage is too acidic, which may ruin the child’s dental health. The yeast and bacteria in the drink also make it unsuitable for children with chronic or autoimmune illnesses.
Note: There’s no scientific evidence to show kombucha is 100% safe. Therefore, consult your doctor before introducing your child to Kombucha.
Why a Teething Baby Shouldn’t Drink Kombucha
You should avoid giving teething babies kombucha due to the high acidic content of the beverage. Kombucha has a PH of around 3, which is almost similar to that of white wine vinegar. The high acidity can erode the developing tooth’s enamel, increase tooth sensitivity and predispose your little one to cavities and tooth decay.
What’s more, commercially-prepared kombucha usually has added sugars for sweetening which is bad for developing teeth. As such, Kombucha is not suitable for a teething baby or kids with baby teeth.
Health Benefits of Kombucha for Kids
Kombucha has grown in popularity as a health drink due to its potential positive impact on the body. Here are some of the health benefits your kids can enjoy by drinking kombucha.
1. It is a Source of Probiotics
Any food that undergoes fermentation gains natural probiotics, which encourage the growth of good bacteria in the body. Kombucha contains lactobacillus, a common probiotic that boosts gut health. Not only do probiotics help children with digestion, but they also lessen inflammation and reduce gut infections.
Kombucha can reduce constipation, relieve irritable bowel syndrome, and prevent bloating. It also helps break down nutrients into digestible elements and boosts the absorption of minerals like magnesium, iron, and phosphorus, thus aiding digestion.
2. Weight Regulation
Children have a liking for sugary drinks like sodas and juices. The high amounts of sugar may eventually lead to weight gain and obesity. Kombucha contains fewer sugars than popular fizzy drinks, making it a low-calorie and low-sugar alternative for your child.
It also regulates your child’s sugar cravings and boosts their energy levels. Therefore, it can help your child maintain a healthy weight, preventing health complications that accompany obesity.
3. Fights Depression
Probiotics have been linked to better mental health and shown to reduce depression. Note that depression is associated with inflammation. Since kombucha contains probiotics, it can help with mental health issues like anxiety and depression due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Kombucha also has vitamin B1, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12, known to fight depression by stabilizing mood and enhancing concentration.
Besides B vitamins, the Vitamin C present in kombucha lowers cortisol levels, a stress hormone, by suppressing its release. Cortisol is among the culprits contributing to depression, among other conditions like high blood pressure and lack of mental clarity. The vitamins in kombucha are bioavailable, meaning they are readily available for your child’s body to absorb and utilize.
4. Boosts Immunity
About 70% of the body’s immunity is in the gut. According to the John Hopkins Hospital, the lining of the intestines creates most of the antibodies that protect the body. Kombucha for kids promotes the growth of good bacteria in the gut and can boost your child’s immunity in the long term.
Vitamin C also enables your child to fight off inflammatory illnesses and cell damage. Kids who drink kombucha may be less vulnerable to diseases and take less time to recover in case of sickness.
5. Anti-Microbial Properties
Children are prone to infections. Fortunately, kombucha is packed with anti-microbial properties that help fight numerous types of pathogens, including E Coli and Salmonella. The acetic and organic acids, proteins, and bacteriocins present in the beverage enable your child to fight infections and enjoy good health.
6. It Is a Natural Detoxifier
Kombucha is a natural detoxifier. It contains glucuronic acid that binds to the body’s toxins and facilitates a smooth excretion through the kidney or the intestines. By helping with detoxification, it reduces the liver’s work, promoting its health.
7. Fights Cancer
Studies show that kombucha may help prevent some types of cancer and fight existing tumors without the need for radioactivity. The antioxidants found in the drink help fight off free radicals and toxic substances that contribute to the growth of cancerous cells. Some compounds that give kombucha its cancer-fighting abilities include glucuronic acid, gluconic acid, polyphenols, lactic acid, and vitamin C.
8. Treats Anemia
If your child is suffering from anemia, drinking kombucha can lead them towards recovery. The organic acids in kombucha can convert plant iron compounds into divalent iron ions readily absorbed by humans.
Your child can, therefore, utilize iron from plant sources. The significant amounts of vitamin C also improve iron absorption. By giving your child kombucha regularly, you can increase their hemoglobin levels and alleviate symptoms of anemia such as dizziness and fatigue.
Kombucha can also prevent joint problems by stimulating the production of synovial hyaluronic acid. Synovial hyaluronic acid promotes the preservation of cartilage and joint collagen and alleviates pain. With the numerous benefits of kombucha for kids, the drink can be a valuable alternative to unhealthy drinks like sodas.
Health Risks Associated with Kombucha for Kids
Despite the numerous health kombucha for kids, the beverage comes with side effects that may affect your kids’ health. Here are some of the health risks you should be aware of before giving your little one kombucha.
(i) Alcohol and Caffeine Content
Homemade Kombucha contains significant alcohol content, which is not safe for kids as it may cause intoxication. Also, drinking too much kombucha can lead to excess consumption of caffeine. The effects include fatigue, sleeping problems, dehydration, and headaches.
(ii) Bacterial Contamination
Since Kombucha is fermented with yeast and bacteria, there are high chances of wild and harmful bacteria growing in the drink. This is especially true for unpasteurized home-brewed kombucha. The harmful bacteria may lead to infections and illnesses in children.
(iii) Stomach Problems
While good bacteria and probiotics promote gut health, excess kombucha for kids can result in stomach problems. Giving your child too much kombucha can result in digestive issues like bloating, diarrhea, gas, heartburns, and ulcers.
(iv) Depletion of Calcium
Kombucha components bind themselves to essential minerals in the body, which may cause calcium depletion in kids. However, you can beat this by increasing your kid’s intake of calcium-rich food such as milk.
(v) Liver Damage
Some kids may experience adverse reactions to kombucha, including liver toxicity or inflammation from consuming the beverage. The effect on the liver may result in serious complications such as jaundice and lactic acidosis.
(vi) Lead Poisoning
Containers used in making kombucha may contain lead which may leach into the drink. By drinking contaminated kombucha, your child may suffer toxicity and lead poisoning.
You should, therefore, be careful when giving your child kombucha to prevent unpleasant side effects.
Safety Tips to Follow When Giving Your Child Kombucha
For your child to enjoy the benefits of kombucha, you need to ensure safety when giving them the beverage. Below are some of the tips you can use to minimize adverse effects when giving your child kombucha.
- Opt for store-bought kombucha as it has low levels of alcohol content. The supervision and management of the fermentation process lower the risk of contamination.
- Dilute kombucha with water to make it less strong for your child
- Start with moderate servings as there are no established safe doses for children
- Always store kombucha as per the instructions on the label
- Do not use kombucha as an alternative to water. Water remains the healthiest drink for your child.
- Ensure your child always has a balanced diet
- Don’t give kombucha to kids below one year as they have underdeveloped r digestive systems.
Can kids drink kombucha? Yes. However, moderation is necessary. With the above information, you can make an informed decision when giving your child kombucha and prevent health risks that may accompany the beverage.
Sources: Science Direct, Downregulation of Signaling Molecules Involved In Angiogenesis Of Prostate Cancer Cell Line (Pc-3) By Kombucha (Lyophilized), Aug 2012, PubMed, Allergy and the Gastrointestinal System, Sept 2008, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, Is Kombucha Safe For Kids? May 2019, and PubMed, Efficacy of Kombucha Obtained from Green, Oolong, and Black Teas on Inhibition of Pathogenic Bacteria, Antioxidation, and Toxicity on Colorectal Cancer Cell Line, Dec 2019.