Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Crazy About Kefir?

I have been drinking kefir occasionally for a few years, but now I am interested in making my own so I can drink it regularly. Is kefir as healthy as they say? What are you thoughts on using it everyday?

Answer (Published 8/16/2006)

Kefir, an ancient drink from the Caucasus Mountains that resembles liquid yogurt, is made by adding a live culture - called kefir "grains" - from a previous batch of kefir to room-temperature milk (usually from a cow, goat or sheep, though soymilk can be used). The cultures are a combination of bacteria and yeasts, usually lactobacillus acidophilus and Saccharomyces kefir.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor for Your Whole Body - Foods, herbs and drugs can all interact, sometimes in unexpected ways. Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor takes known interactions into account when developing nutritional supplement recommendations, to help safeguard against adverse effects. Learn more, and get your free, personalized Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor recommendation today.

Traditional kefir is tart - even sour - and contains a bit of carbonation and some alcohol from the fermentation. However, much of the kefir sold commercially in the United States is neither carbonated nor alcoholic.

I think kefir is great. It is a probiotic, which means it contains "friendly" bacteria that can stabilize the digestive tract, and when it is well made, it is delicious. Kefir also provides you with calcium and protein, and may have some additional benefits for the immune system. You can certainly use it every day. A small study published in the May, 2003, Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed that drinking kefir eliminated - or, at least, dramatically reduced - symptoms of lactose intolerance in 15 adult participants. Researchers at Ohio State University tested plain kefir, raspberry-flavored kefir, plain yogurt, raspberry-flavored yogurt and two-percent milk in this group after a 12-hour fast. The participants recorded any symptoms of lactose intolerance after consuming each food. They reported few or no symptoms after ingesting both types of kefir and both types of yogurt.

The researcher who conducted the study, Steven Hertzler, an assistant professor of medical dietetics at Ohio State University, said that kefir might be a better option than yogurt for some lactose-intolerant people because it contains a wider array of microorganisms believed to break down lactose in the digestive tract. In addition, Hertzler suggested that kefir microorganisms may be able to colonize the intestines and protect against disease-causing bacteria.

The one caution I would give you is that commercial kefir often is overly sweetened and full of additives. Read labels carefully. I would buy plain varieties and add your own sweetener and flavoring if you like. And making your own kefir isn't difficult, with starter kits widely available. You'll have to experiment a bit to produce kefir that bests suits your taste. In general, the longer the fermentation time, the more sour the finished product. Enjoy!

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here