If you’re a kombucha fan like myself, you may have wondered if your kids can enjoy this tasty drink and all of its health benefits alongside you.
Because kombucha contains small amounts of caffeine, alcohol, and bacteria, young children (under 12) should probably avoid the drink altogether. Older children should be able to enjoy the drink and its probiotic benefits safely, as long as they don’t drink more than 12oz a day.
Every kid’s body is different of course, and at the end of the day the decision of whether or not to serve your kid kombucha will be made based on your child’s unique situation. Lets go over some of the things that will help you make that decision for your child!
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a probiotic drink made from fermented tea that has become quite popular in recent years due to its great taste and many health benefits such as improved digestion and gut health, detoxification, and immune system strengthening.
The drink is made by combining sweet tea and a living bacteria culture known as a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast.) The SCOBY sits in the sweet tea for a week or two, eating the sugar and producing ethanol (alcohol) as a byproduct. And then after enough sugar has been eaten by the SCOBY and the kombucha is acidic enough, it’s bottled, carbonated, flavored, and shipped to your local grocery store.
Health Benefits of Kombucha
You may be wondering, “If there’s a chance kombucha can cause health problems for my children, why even think about serving it to them?” The reason that many people want to serve their kids kombucha is that it has a lot of probiotic and antioxidant benefits. Such as:
Can Kids Drink Kombucha?
There are three ingredients in kombucha that could possibly put a child’s health in danger: caffeine, alcohol, and bacteria. Let’s take a look at each one of these individually to see if they’re safe and who they’re safe for.
Because kombucha is made from tea, it has caffeine in it. While the amount of caffeine in home brewed booch can vary depending on what type of tea that is used, most store bought kombucha doesn’t contain more than 15mg of caffeine.
For reference, the average cup of coffee contains about 100mg of caffeine, and some energy drinks have as much as 300mg.
So kombucha only has a small amount of caffeine, but is that small amount safe for kids? Well, it depends on their age. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that all children under the age of 12 should not drink any caffeine, while children over the age of 12 should not drink more than 100mg.
Children that consume too much caffeine can experience jitteriness, nervousness, upset stomach, problems sleeping and concentrating, while more severe symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, extreme restlessness, a flushed face, frequent urination, “scatterbrain” thoughts and actions, a high heart rate and an irregular heartbeat.
There are even instances where children have overdosed on caffeine leading to seizures and cardiac arrest.
Although these symptoms can sound scary, a child over twelve would have to drink 7 kombuchas in a day to go over their safe daily caffeine limit! So while children under 12 should probably avoid kombucha with caffeine in it altogether, those that are older can drink it safely without ever going over their daily caffeine amount.
Because alcohol is a natural by-product of fermentation, kombucha does contain a small amount. Actually, many fermented foods and even ripe fruit and fruit juice contain trace amounts of alcohol due to the same process.
All store bought kombucha has under 0.5% alcohol content because under federal law, products over 0.5% alcohol by volume must be regulated and marketed as an alcoholic beverage. Since kombucha is below this benchmark it can be marketed and sold to minors.
To put into perspective the amount of alcohol in booch, most beers contain 4.5% alcohol. So in order to get the same amount of alcohol as a beer by drinking kombucha, you would have to drink nine kombuchas! Talk about a stomach ache.
In fact, the amount of alcohol in a kombucha is about the same amount in a really ripe banana! So as long as your kids drink no more than the recommended 12oz a day, they should be fine.
The third and final concern that parents may have when deciding whether or not their kids can drink kombucha is the bacteria in it.
Kombucha begins as sweet tea, what ferments it from sweet tea into the tasty sweet and sour drink that I and so many others love is a living culture of bacteria.
Although bacteria generally is seen as a bad thing, there are actually trillions of good bacteria in our body that we need to survive. These good bacteria are known as “probiotics” and are the type of bacteria found in kombucha.
For most adults and children, probiotics are healthy to eat and drink, and may improve your gut health and digestion. But, if you or your child has an impaired immune system or any immune disease, you should probably consult a doctor before drinking kombucha.
If you want the probiotic effects of kombucha for your children but without the caffeine and alcohol, there are many other foods your child can eat to get probiotics into their diet such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, some cheeses, and miso.
One last thing to keep in mind is that although kombucha is generally low in sugar, some brands have as much as 20 grams of sugar per bottle (a can of coke has about 40 grams).
Some kombucha brands such as Health-Aide and GT’s are more health focused and have a lower sugar content, while others like Kevita are more taste focused and higher in sugar.
In moderation the sugar shouldn’t be a problem, and I’d much rather have my kid drinking a bottle of kombuchar than a can of soda, but it is something to keep in mind with how much sugar is in kid’s diets these days.
If you want to completely avoid the sugar in kombucha, check out my article on sugar free kombucha to learn about other options here.
A Few Safety Tips
If you do decide to give your kids kombucha, there are a few things you can do to make sure that they’ll be safe.
The first is to make sure that you’re storing the kombucha correctly. This means keeping it refrigerated when not drinking it.
Another is that if you’re unsure about how your kid’s body will react to kombucha, you can try serving it to them in small quantities, or diluting it with water. If their body reacts positively to a little amount then you can serve them more next time. If not not then you know that they might need to mature a little more before they can drink it.
Lastly, I would recommend only serving your kids store bought kombucha rather than home brewed. The reason for this is that if you brew kombucha at home there is a much greater risk of it being contaminated than store bought tea. Home brewed booch also has higher alcohol content, sometimes reaching up to 3%.
The kids will likely be fine drinking home brew, but if you want to be extra careful I'd only serve them store bought kombucha.
Because kombucha contains small amounts of caffeine, alcohol, and bacteria, young children (under 12) should probably avoid the drink altogether. Older children should be able to enjoy the drink and its probiotic benefits safely as long as they don’t drink more than 12 oz a day.
Remember that even if you are uncomfortable with your kids drinking kombucha, they can still get probiotic benefits through other foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, some cheeses, and miso.
Here's a funny video of kids trying kombucha. It’s not really educational but it definitely is entertaining! https://youtu.be/wCUBbvYnBEs
If you want to learn more about kombucha, how it relates to your health, and even how to brew it yourself, check out the rest of my website!