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Can Recovering Alcoholics Drink Kombucha?

picture of fresh fruit and pitchers filled with fruit juice and tea posing the question can recovering alcoholics drink kombucha

The sun was just setting over the trees, and my friend Courtney and I pulled into the little roadside market on our way back from a hike. We were both thirsty and craving a snack. I grabbed a juice and a bag of pretzels while Courtney handed a bag of raw nuts and a bottle of tea over to the cashier. He scanned her items and then asked for her ID.

Courtney and I looked at each other and laughed. “You’re carding me? It’s tea. What do you need my ID for?” she asked. He smiled and turned the bottle around so Courtney could read the label. We both stood there with our mouths open. Her kombucha tea contained alcohol. Alcohol in tea? She shrugged and showed her ID to the cashier. “You’d better let me drive,” I teased as we returned to the car.

Finding out there’s a bit of alcohol in your favorite beverage might seem amusing to some people. Still, the issue is no laughing matter for those recovering from an alcohol use disorder. With so many recovering people struggling to stay sober, does drinking kombucha put them at risk for relapse? Find more about the risks of recovering alcoholics. Michael’s House provides an alcohol addiction treatment program to help recovered individuals stay on track and help them overcome their addiction. Reach out to us at 760.548.4032 to learn more about the risks of kombucha on a person’s recovery.

What Is Kombucha?

So what is kombucha? And why is it so popular in the United States right now? According to Kombucha Brewers International, kombucha is a fermented tea beverage that’s made by adding a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) to a solution of tea and sugar. Although many call the culture produced on the top of the solution a mushroom, it’s an unrelated fungus. Combining a SCOBY with tea and sugar once it completes the fermentation process is a naturally carbonated beverage full of healthy components like B vitamins, antioxidants, good bacteria, and yeast.

Some say drinking tea gives them increased energy, aids digestion, and supports different systems in the body. Availability and sales have recently skyrocketed in the U.S., with estimated sales of around $600 million in 2017. Based on this information, kombucha might sound like an intelligent alternative to soda and a way to support a healthy lifestyle naturally. But recovering alcoholics need to be cautious with kombucha and any other alcohol-containing beverage, as it may put them at risk for a relapse.

Does Kombucha Have Alcohol?

Kombucha has become a popular health drink in recent years, but there needs to be more clarity about whether or not it contains alcohol. The answer is complicated. Kombucha is made by fermenting sweet tea with a culture of yeast and bacteria. This process creates ethanol, which the bacteria then converts into acetic acid. However, the amount of alcohol in the final product is minimal—typically less than 0.5%.

In most cases, this amount is insufficient to produce noticeable effects. However, the alcohol content can be higher if the kombucha is not properly fermented. Therefore, it’s essential to be cautious when consuming kombucha, especially if you avoid alcohol.

Risks of Kombucha for People in Recovery

For recovering alcoholics, one of the most significant risks of kombucha is that it may contain enough alcohol to cause a relapse. If you are recovering from an alcohol use disorder and you allow yourself to be exposed to any amount of alcohol, this can trigger a binge drinking session or other negative behaviors. In addition, recovering drinkers may overreact if they consume kombucha and experience side effects like mild sedation or an upset stomach.

So if you are recovering from alcohol addiction, is it okay to drink kombucha? The answer is that it depends on your situation. Some recovering alcoholics may be able to safely consume small amounts of kombucha without putting themselves at risk for a relapse, while others may need to avoid it altogether.

Here are a few things to know about the alcohol content in kombucha:

  • Alcohol in kombucha is created when the yeast consumes the sugar, fermenting it into carbon dioxide and ethanol.
  • It’s hard to predict precisely how much alcohol will be present in a particular bottle of kombucha.
  • Kombucha can also continue to ferment on the shelf, so that the alcohol content may increase unpredictably.
  • Some kombucha breweries may intentionally increase the alcohol content, and you may have no idea if you aren’t reading your label correctly.
  • There can be anywhere from 0.5 percent to 2.5 percent alcohol by volume in one bottle.
  • Kombucha that sits too long could be significantly higher in alcohol content, even though the label may state there are only trace amounts.
  • The FDA suggests that kombucha be pasteurized, which would help to standardize the alcohol content. So far, the kombucha industry has yet to agree with this approach.

Many people in recovery seek out ways to live healthier lifestyles. At first glance, kombucha would fit into that approach, except for the alcohol content.

Learn More About the Risks for Alcoholics and Kombucha Beverages at Michael’s House

So is it safe for recovering alcoholics to drink kombucha? This subject can hit that grey area since the amount of alcohol in kombucha may be low. However, drinking kombucha could be a slippery slope because it’s challenging to measure alcohol content. For people in recovery with vastly varied experiences and reactions to alcohol, even 0.5% can be the beginning of a road they don’t want to travel.

The thought that even one kombucha drink could lead to more alcohol consumption isn’t worth the risk. So ultimately, it’s a good idea to play it safe and avoid all alcohol, including kombucha.

Michael’s House is an alcohol and drug addiction treatment center in sunny Southern California. We offer comprehensive programs that address the needs of recovering alcoholics and others struggling with substance use issues. To talk with one of our admissions coordinators about starting your recovery journey or staying sober, please contact us at 760.548.4032.