Is Kombucha Gluten-Free? The Celiac’s Guide – Grow Your Pantry

Is Kombucha Gluten-Free? The Celiac’s Guide

by Susan Grey on November 20, 2019
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Most home-brewed kombucha beverages are gluten-free and suitable for those suffering from celiac disease. It must be stressed that kombucha is a blanket term for fermented tea made using a SCOBY, and therefore, thousands of recipes and variations exist. Therefore if you suffer from celiac disease or are on a gluten-free diet, check the specific brand that you are going to consume. If you’re concerned with home-brewed kombucha, then pick a gluten-free recipe.
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Is All Kombucha Gluten-Free?

Most recipes and virtually every brand state that they’re gluten-free. However, it can’t be claimed that all kombucha can be 100% gluten-free. Some home-brewed variations could use grains that contain gluten or infuse them with flavorings that contain gluten.

What Is Kombucha, Gluten And Celiacs?

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What Is Kombucha?  Kombucha is a fermented tea drink. It is produced by steeping tea in hot water before mixing sugar in, then leaving it to ferment with a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria And Yeast). After 7-14 days, a lightly efflorescent sour tea is produced: kombucha. 
What Is Gluten? Gluten comes from the Latin “gluten,” meaning “glue.” It is a protein found in many grains that causes bread to form its shape, gluten gives bread that soft texture and taste.
What Is Celiac’s Disease? “Coeliac disease is a common digestive condition where the small intestine becomes inflamed and unable to absorb nutrients.” NHS.uk. Sufferers of coeliac disease suffer from symptoms such as: bloating, constipation, abdominal pain, to name a few. As coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease, it mistakenly causes the body to fight healthy tissue. This is caused by consuming food that contains gluten. 
If you suspect that you may suffer from celiac disease, it’s suggested that you go to see your physician who can help diagnose and advise you, it’s thought that around 1% - 2% of the population suffers from coeliac disease. Currently, there is no cure for coeliac disease. Instead, it’s essential to cut all gluten from your diet to help combat the symptoms.

What Is A Gluten-Free Diet?

In recent years it has become more and more popular to have a gluten-free diet. Other popular diet names that don’t contain gluten are paleo and grain-free. A gluten-free diet is a restrictive type of diet where you refrain from eating all gluten products. This would include all grains, cereals, and oats. 
Most people that have a gluten-free diet either suffer from celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or refrain from eating for health concerns. People on a gluten-free diet report improvement on their gluten-related symptoms and reduced discomfort.
It’s essential that you eat a balanced and healthy diet, so by removing gluten from your diet, you will need to think more about where your carbohydrates are coming from.

FDA Gluten And Gluten-Free

The regulation that governs claims made on food products is the FDA. The FDA state that “gluten-free,” “free from gluten,” and “not containing gluten” are voluntary claims that manufacturers can add to their product. Although it is against the law to use in a misleading way, the strictness of the rules and enforcement is not as strict as other regulations, such as those governing alcohol.
 To claim the status of not containing gluten, then it must contain less than 20ppm gluten in the product. This is thought to be such a small amount that it will not affect a celiac. However, the food must not contain any gluten-containing ingredients such as wheat or barley.
The addition of a company saying that it does or doesn’t contain gluten is up to that manufacturer, which can make it more difficult for celiacs to know if the product contains gluten. 

Kombucha, And Gluten By Ingredient

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SCOBY - Most SCOBYs are gluten-free, although it does get a little confusing the deeper you dive. If you are on a gluten-free diet, the best advice is to check with the manufacturer of the SCOBY. A SCOBY is a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. It feeds on sugars in the brew causing the tea to ferment. 
Is Yeast Gluten-Free?
SCOBYs are where a lot of confusion lies, as laboratories can alter yeast and bacteria to come up with their strains to create a new brand of SCOBY. It is conceivable that a yeast strain has been propagated using barley, wheat, or other gluten-containing grains. Therefore making it not gluten-free.
Tea - In most cases, tea leaves are gluten-free. Single strains of tea are almost always gluten-free. Again it is possible to have been cross-contaminated or mixed with strains of gluten-containing grains. To be certain, you’re drinking gluten-free tea, check the label to confirm the strain of tea plant it has come from.
Sugar - Pure sugar is 100% gluten-free. Sources of sugar such as cane, palm trees, coconut, etc. are all gluten-free sources. Moreover, many sugar manufacturers run sugar, only processing plants to reduce further the risk of sugar being contaminated with the gluten protein. 
Water - Pure water is gluten-free. Water in most western countries has very high standards for testing, processing, and consuming water, ensuring that there is not any contamination for people that have gluten sensitivity.

Gluten By Kombucha Brand

We’ve reviewed and researched most major brands to see their claims to whether or not they contain gluten. The table below summarizes our findings in a quick to review way.
Brand Name
Gluten-Free?
KeVita
Yes
GT’s
Yes
Dr. Brew
Yes
BOOCHCRAFT
Yes
NEXBA
Yes
Health-Ade
Yes
What The Main Kombucha Brands Are Saying: 
KeVita - KeVita is owned by Pepsi, on the Pepsi website it states: “all KeVita drinks are USDA Certified Organic, non-GMO Project Verified, gluten-free and vegan.”
GT’s - Yes, they’re gluten-free.
Dr. Brew - “unequivocally say that Brew Dr. Kombucha is 100 percent gluten-free” - Source Dr. Brew
BOOCHCRAFT Hard Kombucha - “ The short answer: Yes, yes, yes!” 
NEXBA - Yes, “All Nexba products are gluten-free, vegan, and most of our products are Kosher.” 
Health-Ade - Although we can’t see any claims on their website, it looks like they post the gluten-free certificate on their website and their bottles, as shown here: Grape Vibes Flavor. They are indicating that some flavors are gluten-free.

What Flavors And Brands Are Not Gluten-Free?

After searching for the claims from major kombucha brands, we were unable to find a brand that either didn’t explicitly state that they were gluten-free or say that they were not gluten-free. They are making it easier for those on gluten-sensitive diets.

How To Tell If A Brand Is Gluten-Free Or Not

Check The Packaging - Often, brands will place a badge, sticker, or text that indicated a beverage being gluten-free - commonly visible near the ingredients section. Conversely, near the ingredients section, it could contain an “allergy” section, which states if gluten is contained or could have been cross-contaminated during production.
Contact - Most packaging that kombucha is contained within will contain either a phone number, email address, or address. By contacting them, they will be able to give you a more definitive answer as they may share their bottling facility with a gluten-containing beverage, for example.

Is Kombucha Good For Celiacs?

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There have been many health-related claims to do with digestion, candida, and other internal bacteria causing health problems. Unfortunately, we can’t find any studies that show kombucha to be specifically beneficial for those that have celiac disease. 
However, there have been studies that show to improve gut health and candida - more can be found in this article talking about… the health benefits of drinking kombucha.

Common Questions

Is Kombucha Dairy Free?
Yes, kombucha is dairy-free. Kombucha contains no animal products or byproducts, nor does it use any during production - making it both vegan and dairy-free. 
Is Alcoholic Kombucha Gluten-Free?
Again, this will depend on the brand and recipe followed; most kombucha will be gluten-free. It is advisable that if you’re gluten-sensitive to review the packaging before consuming.
Is Alcohol Gluten-Free?
Alcohol is the common name for the chemical “ethanol.” Although ethanol is different from gluten, it’s common that grains are used during the production of alcoholic beverages - such as malt or barley. Therefore it’s 100% necessary to review the alcoholic beverage to see if that specific drink is gluten-free.
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