About a year and a half ago I learned about kefir. A cultured milk product that is full of probiotics (nearly double than that found in yogurt) and healthy gut bacteria. It is a great way to begin adding probiotics to your diet without going too far down a “weird fermented food” rabbit hole.
For a time I was drinking kefir every day, and even went so far as to purchase my own kefir grains so I could make my own. But I was a terrible kefir-maker. I regularly forgot about it and ended up killing my kefir grains. Oops. Once I wrote that idea off as a failure, I never really got back into the swing of buying pre-made kefir and eventually it became one of those things I forgot all about.
Adding Probiotics to Your Diet with Kefir
Benefits of Kefir:
- Kefir is cultured for 12 hours, compared to the 2-8 hours most yogurts are cultured. It’s those extra hours that give kefir their high probiotic count.
- It originated over 2000 years ago in the Caucasus Mountains, where many people lived to be well over 100 years old!
- Kefir is associated with a long list of health benefits including boosting immunity, healing IBS, building bone density, fighting allergies, improving digestion, clearing acne, and much more.
If you’ve never heard of or tried kefir before, my suggestion would be to start with a flavoured one. Kefir is runnier than yogurt (so you drink it versus eating it with a spoon), and is tangier.
I’ve heard some people describe it as tasting like a milk soda, or like a float. I’m not sure I would go that far, but given a drinkable yogurt and kefir to compare, you would certainly know which was the yogurt and which was not.
Plain kefir takes some getting used to, and while I don’t mind drinking plain kefir, I do prefer the flavoured.
A cautionary note…
I’ve already mentioned that kefir has staggeringly higher probiotic counts than yogurt, and because of this, it’s important to start off slow. Meaning when you are first looking to incorporate kefir into your diet, start by consuming just 1-2 Tbsp/day so you can gradually increase your good gut bacteria.
Why does it matter? Because if you overwhelm your system with healthy bacteria/probiotics, you can experience some unpleasantness due to the die-off effect (which happens when the toxins from the dying bad bacteria overwhelm your body’s ability to clear them out).
Symptoms you can experience from a die-off include fever, chills, muscle aches, headaches, skin rashes, excess mucus and GI problems (gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation).
If you start slowly, you will be a-ok, but if you decide to just start drinking a full cup of kefir on day one, there is a good chance you’ll find yourself with some of those symptoms.
I should know, I’ve been there and done exactly what I’ve told you not to do. It was not fun. So avoid it altogether by starting slow, and then beginning to increase your intake after a week or two. Once you’ve got a steady stream of active probiotics going into your system you should be able to drink as much of it as you like, it’s just the first going off that you need to be careful.
I haven’t found kefir to be entirely life-changing, but I can certainly feel it when I have been taking it for a while. I have fewer (seasonal) allergies, and more importantly (for me) my digestive system and IBS are much more well behaved.
If you are someone who struggles with digestive issues, or any of the other medical conditions I listed above, it might be work checking out kefir and seeing if it helps. Adding probiotics to your diet is a pretty simple step and may make all the difference!