Benefits of Kefir: N=1

A year and a half ago, Charles Richardson was given antibiotics for an ulcer. He writes:

When they put me on the course of antibiotics for the ulcer, my digestion absolutely went south. Stools became runny and smelly and irregularly timed. Even though I took a lot of supposedly high-end probiotic capsules, that went on for months after the antibiotics.

Six months ago — a year after the antibiotics — he started drinking kefir because of this blog. “After about a month [of kefir], I was back to normal,” he writes. He got the starter culture from (where they cost $20 cash).

More recently he has seen further improvements:

I had a number of food allergies, particularly wheat. If I ate any wheat, I’d get hemorrhoids immediately, and sometimes what looked like a herpes outbreak.

I’ve had that for 30 years or so, but it appears to have gone away in the last month. I had to eat some pasta at a formal dinner, and was expecting a reaction, but had none. I was shocked. I also have a similar reaction to chicken, and had the some non-experience with some of that recently.

I don’t know to what I can attribute that change. The kefir could have helped,and possibly the Vitamin D [about 4000 units/day]. I also started take an amino acid dipeptide of L-glutamine/L-alanine. [about 10 g/day]

This is informative for several reasons.

First, the bad effects of the antibiotics lasted a really long time (a year). This indicates how bacteria-poor a normal American diet is. Richardson probably ate healthier than normal given that he once owned a health-food store.

Second, expensive probiotics didn’t help. This is why I make kombucha and yogurt, to have more quality control. And yogurt is surely closer to what our ancient ancestors ate to get bacteria than probiotic capsules.

Third, the kefir took about a month to solve the problem. This gives an idea of the time it takes to repopulate your intestine with bacteria. And thus how long you should try this or that solution before giving up.

8 Replies to “Benefits of Kefir: N=1”

  1. I started making Kefir, bought from the same source, and have been surprised at how easy it is to make (easier than yogurt, which is saying something). I just mix a cup of powdered milk with two cups of water in a mason jar, add some of the kefir “grains” from the previous night, shake it up, and let it sit for 24 hours on a counter. Every week or so I have to harvest some of the keffir grains and eat them separately or else the milk turns to whey, but it’s been remarkably easy to do.

    I think perhaps Kefir is actually “yogurt for dummies”

  2. I can’t get my autism kids to drink kefir. I tried even. I’m actually getting to like it myself and I’ve seen that allergy reduction effect on myself. But for autism kids, the mouth is a temple for popcorn, green beans, and hot dogs, at least that’s the case for mine.

    I can get them to take a slurry of pretty much any foul thing if I can fit it into a pharmacy oral syringe. Kefir isn’t quite “dense” enough. A serving of Kefir that works for me is several ounces. The syringes we have only hold 2 tsp.

    However, with a ‘scrip, you can get “vsl #3.” And you can get your medical benefits to cover the cost. $80-$100 ish dollars for what might last the better part of a month.

    Most store probiotics contain 5 to 20 billion “units” of bacteria. I’ve seen one that was 50 billion.

    The pharmacist told me that VSL #3 has 450 (not a typo or marketing trick, really 450) billion units of bacteria per packet. Furthermore, that is the measurement for expiration time. It’s higher when it’s new. Suffice it to say, that stuff actually does work. We cleared up an annoying bowel problem in the kids, then ran out for a few days, and the problem came right back. The store stuff wouldn’t work.

    So don’t bash the off the shelf stuff too much. It can work, but you need a lot, and good stuff does exist.

    Also, props for Kefir. I have persistent annoying (not debilitating) pollen allergies. For a week or so I drank several ounces of the homemade stuff from made raw milk twice a day. I experienced a weird feeling of, I’m going to call it Not Congested(tm), that I could not recall ever feeling before.

    Also, it has a reputation of being really hard to ferment wrong. I’d guess milk is a less competitive environment, (good bacteria win over unwelcome easily) compared to the sugar water that kombucha starts in.

    You can poke around on internet boards for people making Kombucha and see that it’s probably not your best first choice. One conversation went something like this:

    “I tried making a batch and it tasted a little strange. I drank it all anyway. [ok, problem there, but it was drinkable] After that I had this weird feeling of being outside my body for a while. I felt weird for awhile after it ended.”

    “Dude, that’s called getting high.”


    Which leads me to believe that Kefir is a better starting point. I screwed up a kefir batch once, and there was no way on earth I’d ever drink what was in that jar.

  3. Walter, in my experience the flushing doesn’t involve antibiotics. So I imagine that bacteria in the appendix help repopulate the gut. Closer to a week than to a day or a month is my guess. It would surely depend on how much fermented food you eat.

    Darrin, that’s all very interesting. If stuff with >450 billion units actually works, it becomes clearer why stuff with 10 billion units doesn’t work. And in other cultures I’m pretty sure kids drink kefir so how do they do it?

  4. Beats me how they do it. I’d be curious too.

    I’d guess that early exposure to refined sugar etc. warps kids’ taste buds away from stuff that’s actually good for you. Just a guess though.

  5. Hi,

    I made my first batch of kefir tonight with some grains given to me by a friend. Unfortunately, I misunderstood her instructions about how to do it. I poured the kefir into a bowl through a strainer and mashed all of the grains and now I have nothing left. My question is this, did I ruin the kefir by mashing all of the grains up? Is the kefir any good now and is it safe to drink? I’m kinda of slow at learning stuff like this but I saw a video demonstration *after* I made the kefir and realized how I messed up. Too bad I didn’t see it prior to making it. Anyway, is the kefir ruined now or is it still edible?



  6. I’ve been doing kefir for about a month – I was given the grains from a woman who had been diagnosed with breast cancer that had metastasized to the bones in 1999 (most women with that diagnosis in ’99 aren’t around 10 years later) and this is the same diagnosis I got Oct 2008, when I when I went into the hospital severely dehydrated & with an inflamed stomach.

    I’ve had quite a struggle in the months since then. Two days after starting the kefir I noticed that I wasn’t as cold as I’ve been most of the time since the hospital (last winter I kept my thermostat between 81 and 84 degrees, now it’s betwee 72 & 75 degrees). It’s also helping my stomach to reach another level of healing, and I’m weaning myself off the omeprazole.

    I generally let my kefir ferment for 24 hours, sometimes more depending on my schedule. So it’s pretty tangy – adding some agave nectar balances the sourness enough without becoming too sweet. Try blending it up with honey & fruit for kids as a way to get them to try it. I’ve also started experimenting with making kefir cheese. Plus I strain it and use it instead of sour cream on potatoes.

    Given what I’ve read online, many of the commercial kefirs sold are not made by fermentation with the grains, but have developed shortcuts that result in not having all the same nutrients and health benefits as traditionally made kefir. However, it’s so easy to make at home, that I’ve now decided to never buy yogurt or sour cream again.

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