Barley During Pregnancy: Safety, Health Benefits And Risks

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Barley is one of the oldest cereal grains consumed around the globe in the form of bread, stews, malt, or soups. It is safe to consume barley during pregnancy in moderation. Anecdotal evidence suggests the use of barley water to reduce common pregnancy symptoms. However, excess consumption may make you sick, and in some women, it may also trigger gluten intolerance. Women with known gluten allergies and celiac disease should avoid barley and try gluten-free grains. Read on to know the benefits and possible risks of consuming barley when pregnant and how much amount is safe for consumption.

Is Barley Safe To Consume During Pregnancy?

Like most other foods, barley is safe to take in moderate amounts. Having it in excessive amounts might make you fall sick, especially if you have a weak immune system or gluten allergy.

Barley water or barley kanji is a common health drink that you can have in pregnancy. The nutty-flavored water might help ease indigestion (1), prevent water retention, and regulate blood sugar levels (2).

Why Do Women Take Barley During Pregnancy?

A few studies have tried to understand the benefits this wholegrain can offer to pregnant women. Consuming barley is believed to be beneficial in the following ways:

  1. Gastrointestinal problems: Being rich in dietary fiber, barley is believed to ease bowel movements, and help with constipation (3) and hemorrhoids (1).
  1. Neural tube defects: Folic acid is necessary for pregnant women to reduce the occurrence of neural tube defects in babies. 100g of barley has nearly 200mcg of folic acid (4).
  1. Excess fluids: Researchers believe that the diuretic property of barley water could flush out the excess fluids from the body (5) thus helping you get relief from water retention in the legs, face etc., during pregnancy.
  1. Inflammation: In a research study done in China, barley grass was found to have anti-inflammatory properties that could provide relief from burning sensation in the stomach, and flush out toxins from the body (6).
  1. Cardiovascular diseases: The soluble fiber in barley was found to decrease blood cholesterol levels, and thus reduce the risk of heart diseases (7).
  1. Blood sugar levels: Barley falls under low glycemic foods (8), and therefore, can be taken moderate amounts even if you have gestational diabetes (2).

In spite of its benefits, barley in any form should be consumed in moderation to avoid any possible side effects.

Are There Any Side Effects Of Consuming Barley During Pregnancy?

Barley, in any form including the barley water, rarely has any side effects. But having it in high quantities might cause abdominal cramping, bloating, and gas.

As it contains gluten, it is good to avoid barley if you have gluten intolerance or wheat allergy. Also, avoid eating raw or sprouted barley if you have a weak immune system.

How To Make Barley Water?

Barley water can be made at home. To make a glass of barley water, you will need one-fourth cup barley grains, three cups water, and a little salt or sugar for enhancing its taste.

  • Wash barley thoroughly and soak in some water for at least four hours.
  • Strain the water, and add three cups of fresh water.
  • Cook the grains until they become soft, and water turns translucent.
  • Strain the liquid, and add salt or sugar.
  • You may also add some honey or lemon juice for an added flavor.
  • Drink it warm.

Note: You can also use the cooked barley in salads or roast them with vegetables. They add fiber to your diet.

Next, we answer some common queries that might help you to know more about barley consumption during pregnancy.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can you take barley grass during pregnancy?

Barley grass is a good source of B complex and K vitamins (6), all of which are essential during pregnancy. It is available in the form of a powder that can be dissolved in water and consumed. Go for a natural and organic variety. But before that, talk to your doctor about it.

2. Can barley cause miscarriage?

There is no known direct threat from barley to your pregnancy. However, studies have found that women having celiac disease (triggered by gluten) have a history of miscarriage (9). Therefore, if you are sensitive to the gluten protein, then it is good to avoid barley as it contains gluten.

If you are looking for nutritional and healthy ways to cope with pregnancy’s side effects, such as constipation, water retention, or inflammation, consuming barley during pregnancy can help you. However, be careful not to exceed the recommended amount in order to avoid any adverse reactions. Before consuming barley, you may consult your ob/gyn to learn about recommended consumption and include it in your meals or drink it as barley water to start your healthy pregnancy journey.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Maternal health and nutrition; The Official State of Missouri
2. Diabetes diet – gestational; NIH
3. Fiber; Linus Pauling Institute | Oregon State University
4. Folic acid; University of Rochester Medical Center
5. Barley-water a powerful diuretic; Am J Dent Sci (1845)
6. Yawen Zeng et al.; Preventive and therapeutic role of functional ingredients of barley grass for chronic diseases in human beings; Oxid Med Cell Longev (2018)
7. Behall KM et al.; Lipids significantly reduced by diets containing barley in moderately hypercholesterolemic men; J Am Coll Nutr (2004)
8. Glycemic index and glycemic load; Linus Pauling Institute | Oregon State University
9. Tursi A, Giorgetti G, Brandimarte G, Elisei W; Effect of gluten-free diet on pregnancy outcome in celiac disease patients with recurrent miscarriages; Digestive Diseases and Sciences (2008)
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Rebecca Malachi

Rebecca is a pregnancy writer and editor with a passion for delivering research-based and engaging content in areas of fertility, pregnancy, birth, and post-pregnancy. She did her graduation in Biotechnology and Genetics from Loyola Academy, Osmania University and obtained a certification in ‘Nutrition and Lifestyle in Pregnancy’ from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU). She has been into health and... more

Jyoti Benjamin

Jyoti Benjamin has 25 years of experience as a clinical dietitian and currently works in Seattle. She focuses on teaching people the value of good nutrition and helping them lead healthy lives by natural means. Benjamin has a masters in Foods and Nutrition, and has been a longtime member and Fellow of AND (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) and the... more