Drinking kombucha in recovery is somewhat of a gray area decision, because of the alcohol content versus the health benefits. Many substances exist that sit somewhere along the line that separates what’s “okay” or what’s “not okay” for someone to use in addiction recovery. These substances include: kratom, kava, Khat, gabapentin (prescription medication), other “technically legal” mood altering substances and kombucha. Drinking kombucha in recovery isn’t exactly a topic with a definitive consensus, so we thought we would explore the pros and cons of kombucha to help you decide.
In this article, we’re going to focus on kombucha, and talk about the benefits of drinking kombucha versus our perspective on drinking kombucha in recovery.
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented drink created from tea, sugar, yeast, and bacteria. The mixture of bacteria and yeast used in kombucha is known as SCOBY— “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”. Anything fermented contains some amount of alcohol. In terms of kombucha’s alcohol content, the amount of alcohol in kombucha is usually trace amounts. Trace amounts of alcohol is defined as less than 0.5% alcohol by volume. This percentage of alcohol content only represents the majority of commercially-made and sold kombucha, like the kombucha you would buy at a health food store or supermarket.
Kombucha is made using a base ingredient of either green tea or black tea. Sugar, yeast, and specific strains of bacteria are added to the tea, and then the mixture is set up to ferment for about a week or longer.
Kombucha is originally from China, known as the “tea of immortality” during the Tsin Dynasty in 221 BC (Drug Abuse). This beverage is considered to be a healthy, probiotic drink that introduces healthy bacterias into the body.
Health Benefits of Kombucha
Kombucha is known to have benefits for your health, it claims to keep the body and its processes healthy. The main benefit kombucha alleges is its’ probiotic properties, which is a claim that has not yet been supported by any evidence. Kombucha also is thought to have antimicrobial effects that can suppress the growth of bad bacteria and yeasts in the body, without disrupting the good bacterias and yeasts.
Claimed benefits of kombucha include:
- improved digestion
- weight loss
- hormone regulation
- healthy skin
- boosts immunity
- improved mental health
- improves inflammation
- source of antioxidants
- antibacterial properties
In addition, studies with rats found “…that drinking kombucha regularly reduces liver toxicity caused by toxic chemicals, in some cases by at least 70%” (Leech). This study of course cannot predict the same effects on humans. Most of the benefits of kombucha are adopted from the benefits of green tea and black tea, which is the base ingredient of kombucha. It is important to note that almost every claimed health benefit from drinking kombucha relies on no real evidence or medical studies.
Kombucha’s Alcohol Content
Regulated kombucha, which was commercially-made and sold, usually contains only trace amounts of alcohol, like less than 0.5% of alcohol. This is a relative figure, as commercial kombucha actually goes through the fermentation process after it’s bottled, so kombucha sold at the health food store could have yielded a much higher alcohol content than what’s labeled.
Kombucha can also be made at-home, which can yield seriously dangerous results if not done correctly; “Contaminated or over-fermented kombucha can cause serious health problems and even death. Homemade kombucha may also contain up to 3% alcohol” (Leech). Because homemade kombucha can have up to 3% alcohol, which is close to the range of alcohol content found in wine coolers and beer. For example, many beers weigh in at 4% alcohol by volume.
Dangers of Kombucha
Brewing kombucha at home can result in a beverage that is dangerous for your health, aside from having a higher alcohol content. At-home brewing of kombucha creates the perfect environment for all types of microorganisms to grow and thrive in, including harmful microorganisms. Making kombucha at home is easy to contaminate, and becomes a home to microorganisms and mold that you never would want to be putting into your body. It is also easy to over-ferment your kombucha, which happens when you leave the mixture out to ferment for too long of a time.
Despite a lack of research on the effects of kombucha, there have been some case studies which show a connection between drinking kombucha and serious health problems. In one “several case studies involving regular kombucha consumption have also been linked to lead poisoning, liver damage, cutaneous anthrax, and metabolic acidosis” (Lee).
The Recovery Perspective on Kombucha: Can I drink Kombucha in Recovery?
Can kombucha get you drunk? No.
Alternatively, can kombucha provide any actual, proven health benefits? No.
So why would you drink kombucha in the first place? As far as drinking kombucha in recovery from drugs or alcohol, we don’t see an issue. We don’t think drinking kombucha counts as a relapse; the alcohol content in kombucha is minimal and will not cause any such feelings of intoxication. We also don’t understand why anyone would want to drink kombucha, the beverage has no health benefits backed by evidence. All of the health benefits claimed by kombucha are unsupported, and have no factual basis.
Kombucha in Recovery
So, can you drink kombucha if you’re in recovery? Sure.
Beware of any alcohol or drug-seeking behavior, like drinking copious amounts of kombucha every day, or brewing batches of kombucha to see if you can get the alcohol content up. This behavior is obviously problematic. Having an addictive personality can put you at a greater risk for abusing substances— which includes legal substances also, this is just something to keep in mind. Drinking kombucha in recovery is completely up to you, we are just here to present some facts to help you in your decision-making.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, please reach out to us at (877)-RECOVERY or (877)-732-6837. Our team of addiction specialists make themselves available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Because We Care.
Drug Abuse. “Has Kombucha Gotten a Bad Rap?” DrugAbuse.com, American Addiction Centers, 15 Dec. 2017, drugabuse.com/has-kombucha-gotten-a-bad-rap/
Lee, Stephanie. “The Health Risks of Brewing Kombucha, and How to Do It Safely.” Vitals, Gizmodo Media Group, 9 Dec. 2016, vitals.lifehacker.com/the-health-risks-of-brewing-kombucha-and-how-to-do-it-1789891831
Leech, Joe. “8 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Kombucha Tea.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 29 Aug. 2018, www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-benefits-of-kombucha-tea#section3