In the sober world, there is a lot of back and forth about things like kombucha, kava, CBD, etc. When it comes to these “gray area” substances, the fundamental question is whether or not they violate a person’s sobriety.
We’re going to specifically address the kombucha question. Is it okay to drink?
What is kombucha?
Let’s start with what kombucha is.
Kombucha is a fermented tea that most likely originated around 220 BC in China. These days, it comes in a variety of flavors, but inherent in all of them is the sweet and sour, vinegary taste.
How do you make kombucha?
Kombucha is made from sweetened green or black tea that is fermented with a kind of tea fungus called SCOBY, which stands for “symbiotic culture of acetic acid bacteria and yeast”. The ingredients are combined and left to sit in warm temperatures to ferment.
The yeast and bacteria feed on the sugar and release carbon dioxide which gives kombucha its fizzy properties. The entire fermentation process typically takes 1-2 weeks.
The fermentation process is what makes kombucha a slippery slope for some people who struggle with alcohol use disorder.
Because that’s how you make alcohol.
Does kombucha contain alcohol?
The fermentation process can cause the drink to become “alcoholic”.
Bottled kombucha in stores contains 0.5% alcohol or less – not nearly enough to get you drunk.
Home-brewed kombucha often has a higher alcohol content, around 3%, which is generally not suitable for someone in sobriety.
Sometimes breweries and bars will offer kombucha on tap. Before ordering kombucha from any restaurant or bar, ask about the alcohol content. If it’s higher than commercial kombucha, don’t drink it.
Is kombucha safe for alcoholics?
Generally speaking, the answer is yes. You cannot get drunk on commercial kombucha drinks and the alcohol content of bottled kombucha is minuscule, at best.
However, for some people, any amount of alcohol is a deal-breaker. If you are committed to 100% abstaining from alcohol whether for personal or religious reasons, then kombucha should be avoided.
What if you’re unsure?
If you aren’t sure if kombucha is okay for you as a sober person, test it out! Buy a bottled brand of kombucha and try a little. Do you notice any effects? Does it trigger any alcohol cravings?
If the answer is yes, then you should not drink kombucha.
I’ve had people tell me that they felt a mild buzz after drinking a bottle of kombucha and that was enough to turn them off it completely. I can drink it with no problems or noticeable side effects.
Everyone is different.
Who cannot drink kombucha?
Kombucha should be avoided by people who:
- Do not wish to consume any alcohol, even at small percentages
- Avoid alcohol for religious reasons
- Pregnant women
- People with allergies to kombucha’s ingredients, like yeast.
Take special precautions before consuming kombucha if you have any of the following:
- IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
- Weakened Immune System
What are the health benefits of kombucha?
Why does everyone rage about kombucha?
The healthy bacteria in kombucha and other fermented foods can also help with our mood, stress levels, weight, and food cravings.
For people who quit drinking, kombucha can be a good replacement beverage. It has a strong flavor and intense carbonation level. This is especially helpful for beer and cider drinkers looking for a non-alcoholic alternative.
Just be careful of the sugar content. Some commercial kombuchas can be high in sugar. It’s not uncommon for people who quit drinking to replace alcohol with sugary drinks, so check your labels.
Deciding whether to drink kombucha if you’re sober.
On its face, commercial kombucha is completely fine for sober alcoholics, healthy even! But it’s important to make an informed personal choice.
Remember, some people in recovery find the low alcohol content triggering. If that’s you, then you should avoid it.
The slippery slope comes into play when we talk about kombucha that has 1-2% alcohol content.
At those levels, it is possible for a sober person to feel some of those old familiar tingles. Will it get you drunk? No.
Will it knock you off your sobriety game? Maybe.
It’s a personal choice.
You should do whatever keeps you sober. If your sobriety is defined by total abstention from alcohol, in any quantity, then don’t drink kombucha. But if you like it and it works for you, drink up!
FAQs about Kombucha and Alcoholics
Does kombucha show up on an alcohol test?
Maybe. The alcohol content in kombucha is very low, around 0.5% in commercial, bottled brands. It is possible, however, for trace amounts of alcohol to throw off BAC readings.
This is more a function of the breathalyzer being inaccurate than it is a bottle of kombucha your BAC level.
Another way kombucha might appear on an alcohol test is if you drink a homebrewed version with alcohol content over 1% or consume excessive amounts of kombucha in one sitting.
As a rough guide, to reach a BrAC of 0.02%, a 70 kg man would need to drink 8 to 12 cans of kombucha in one sitting (the equivalent of one full-strength beer (350 ml)).
What percent of alcohol is in kombucha?
Bottled kombuchas like you find in the store have an alcohol content of 0.5% or less. Homebrewed versions can have higher alcohol content ranging from 1% – 3%.
There are also alcoholic versions of kombucha sold in the alcoholic beverage section, so always check your labels when buying kombucha.
Is kombucha breaking sobriety?
That depends entirely on how you define your sobriety.
If sobriety means consuming no alcohol, including trace amounts found that naturally occur in products like vanilla extract or fermented foods and beverages, then yes, kombucha breaks sobriety. That is because it has trace amounts of alcohol in it due to the fermentation process.
However, kombucha cannot get you drunk, and, for most people, there are no noticeable effects from the small percentage of naturally occurring alcohol in these beverages. If breaking sobriety is defined as drinking an alcoholic beverage or getting drunk, kombucha does not qualify.
Can kombucha hurt your liver?
Some animal studies indicate that consuming kombucha can be beneficial for the liver. A 2015 study showed that rats who consumed kombucha daily actually reduced their liver toxicity. The study also showed that kombucha reduced inflammation and fibrosis in mice.
Will these benefits show up in humans? That remains to be seen.
Related Post:How Long Does Your Liver Take To Heal In Sobriety?