health benefits of kefir, probiotics, recover from an infection

Have you been looking for a way to boost your immune system? Especially during the season when colds and flu are rampant, many people would like to know how to recover from an infection more readily. One reader suggests that drinking kefir could help, and there is a little scientific research that suggests she might be right.

What Could Help a Person Recover from an Infection?

Q. Many years ago, one of my customers told me that her doctor suggested that she begin drinking kefir daily if she wanted to stop getting sick. Not having any idea what the heck kefir was, I nodded and said that was interesting. Then I promptly forgot about it.

A couple of years later, I had a tough time with a respiratory infection. I noticed kefir in the natural section of our grocery store. I remembered what she’d said and bought some. Long story short: it worked.

I haven’t been sick for more than two years. I now make my own water-based kefir so I can drink it every day. Certainly, other things help too: sensible hand washing, along with more home-cooked meals with lots of veggies and leafy greens.

My husband thinks I am nuts brewing kefir, but he drinks it when he gets sick. He finds it helpful to recover from his infection quickly, but he has to drink some every day.

The healthy bacteria living in the kefir apparently diversify your gut bacteria, helping you protect yourself from germs. From my experience, this works best as a preventative or consumed as soon as you know you are getting sick. You don’t have to drink the entire carton all at once, just a few sips throughout your day.

What Is Kefir?

A. Kefir (ku-FEER) is fermented milk. People use specific bacteria (a starter, in the case of kefir, in the form of kefir “grains”) to create this slightly sour-tasting beverage. If you want to increase your intake of probiotic foods, kefir is a good place to start.

How Does Kefir Affect the Immune System?

Most of the research on its effects on health and infection has apparently focused on its ability to help people ward off nasty intestinal bacteria such as Salmonella or E. coli (Iraporda et al, Journal of Dairy Research, Aug. 2017). The lactic and acetic acids (and possibly other compounds) produced by the kefir-fermenting microbes inhibit the growth of many pathogenic bacteria.

Components of this fermented milk product activate human immune cells in tissue culture (Ghoneum et al, International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, Dec. 2015).  The investigators suggest that this might mean kefir consumption could help in fighting viral infections.

Should You Drink Kefir?

We don’t know for sure that this will help you recover from an infection more quickly, but it is worth a try. You don’t have to make your own kefir unless you want to. This once exotic-seeming product is now available in grocery store dairy cases around the country.

If you acquire a taste for kefir, you may reap additional health benefits. Studies suggest that it can promote better cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, more rapid wound healing and less susceptibility to allergies and asthma (Bourrie, Willing & Cotter, Frontiers in Microbiology, May 4, 2016). If you buy it in the supermarket, look for kefir that has not been highly sweetened.

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  1. Patricia N.

    That’s great! I do make my own homemade yogurt w/ raw milk; will try and make Kefir!!!

  2. Walt
    Concord N.C.

    Like some of comments above, but no answer. I too have allergy to dairy products, taking Kefir, wondering how it would affect my Lactose intolerance.

  3. Sandy
    Anacortes Wa

    My experience with kefir.
    I started drinking it because of reports that it might help with IBS. I had been tested for just about anything the med. profession could think of that might be causing the devastating bouts with diarrhea.
    I was taking so much Immodium that it caused a blockage so severe and so painful, that it caused a trip to the ER…..and a High Colonic Enema!!
    After that harrowing experiance….i went “natural”
    I’m presently using prebiotics, probiotics, enzymes and yogurt plus kefir.
    Things aren’t perfect…but better.
    A “side effect” of kefir….is when I experience heartburn, I go swallow a few sips, and relief is immediate.
    I don’t drink glasses full of kefir, I just swallow a bit all during the day.
    My tummy and colon thanks me….plus I’ve grown to like the stuff.
    Hope this helps others to find any small relief.

    • Felicity

      Does anyone know if eating plain organic yoghurt would have the same beneficial properties as kefir?

      • Terry Graedon

        Felicity, it would probably not be exactly the same, but it should be somewhat similar.

  4. Rita

    I am allergic to dairy.
    Could I make keifer with oat milk

  5. Sandy
    New York

    I am going to try this. I went to my doctor yesterday and I told him that I have been suffering with acid reflux. He wanted me to start with a prescription for it but I think I may try this first before taking any additional medicines. The next time I go shopping, I’ll look for it.

  6. S. MAN
    Lagos state

    I don’t really have anything to say because I have not tasted it before, so, where can I get cefir from I mean a better place to get a better one because I need it, since am looking for a Solutions to give up with tramadol and its side effects. Please help me out.. THE PEOPLE PHARMACY I NEED YOUR HELP, THANKS.

  7. Tom

    After her third bout of diverticulitis in 2 years, every surgeon who checked on a good friend in the hospital recommended the bowel resection operation. As did her GP and a non-surgeon GI doctor she consulted.

    But there were 3 curious things we learned: the CAT scan of the last attack showed “a 5cm area of infection”; one of the surgeons said, “the problem with that standard model of a swollen, impacted diverticulus is that I’ve never opened anyone up and found that”; when asked about the chart on his wall illustrating that standard impacted diverticulus, the GI doctor admitted, “No, that’s not right”.

    So … since it all seems to point more toward infection in the microbiome than a “seed stuck in a pocket”, she started drinking one DanActive almost every day. Not exactly a Kefir, but close, she chose that because it had been proven to be beneficial for IBS (though that was not her problem).

    That was 2 years ago that she had her last attack (“You’ll be back in here within 6 months” was what she had been told then). Oh yeah, she’s a true believer on the benefits of good probiotic drinks.

  8. Ron

    I used to get 1 or 2 colds every year and sometimes the flu. Since I started Kefir about 2 and a half years ago, I haven’t had a cold or flu. I just take a swallow of it everyday. Ron

  9. JBG

    Lifeway is the kefir brand I see in local stores. Lifeway’s PLAIN kefir is low in added sugar; all the flavored ones have gobs of added sugar. Including vanilla. You want PLAIN.

  10. Viv

    How does Kefer compare to buttermilk? Would it work the same?

  11. Jolnk
    Central Florida

    I drink a 16 ounce container of Kombucha every day, another fermented (tea) raw. It’s low in sugar and loaded with probiotics. I haven’t been sick for quite some time, and it’s so great for digestion. I try to consume lots of green & colored vegetables too. As a vegan, this works better than the milk-based kefir for me. It is, like kefir, an acquired taste, and may take some getting used to.

  12. daisy
    Pumpkin Center, NC

    Water kefir changed my boy’s life. After years of chronic constipation (many children on the autism spectrum deal with this), his bathroom habits have improved. Believe me when I tell you we tried every safe thing we could. Doctors only recommended Mirax (which I wouldn’t give to my worst enemy). He drinks a quart of kefir a day for the most part, and it has made such a difference in the quality of his life. We are so grateful for discovering this magic elixer.

  13. carol
    New Orleans

    I started kefir several years ago, and last year a dear friend turned me on to the grains. Now I make my own – 2 minutes a day is well worth it! I have had the best year ever (since I was in my 20’s, and now I’m 64) for my asthma and for shortening the flu I had only once. My digestion is much better with the grains over the grocery kefir. I had post-intestinal resection surgery after a nasty small bowel obstruction. My immunity is definitely stronger. I use the dairy with whole milk but would love to try the goat milk, but I am really very fond of the whole milk kefir. I have been lessening my fodmap diet since the introduction of the home made kefir and am more tolerant of small portions of trigger foods that seem to aid IBS-C and D symptoms. I am a believer! I hereby thank my friend Leslie for introducing me to the grains!

    • larry

      I am not familiar with grains. what do you mean by it?


  14. Shari

    I make water kefir too! I love it and have to say I haven’t been sick in a long long time!!! I credit it to the kefir!!!!!

  15. Linda

    Kefir has long been a key ingredient in my morning smoothie – and Trader Joe’s has a whole milk mango variety that is really delicious!
    While others traveling in Mexico with me last month were felled by intestinal upset, I sailed through without a problem.

  16. Marian

    What is the difference between yogurt and keffir in terms of adding to the micro-biome,fighting infections, etc.?

  17. Jude V.
    Atlanta, GA

    I am allergic to milk. Can you share the water-based homemade kefir recipe? Thanks.

  18. Dianne L C

    I had GERD, and it was affecting my singing voice so my doctor said no eating anything 3 hours before bedtime and no drinking anything either, even water. Plus he put me on prilosec.

    Well I did all of this and then researched making my own kefir and did it, instead of the 3 hour ritual. Sometimes I could not eat earlier than 7, and I go to bed at 9 (still working – a music teacher, and I get up at 4:30). The kefir is easy to make once you have your starter and free to keep making – without sugar. Store kefir is loaded with sugar, so watch out for this. It has totally cleared up my GERD, and my singing voice is better than it has been for the last 5-7 years! I highly recommend it. Oh, I also eat a very clean diet now, and my gut bacteria is great – but I owe it to the kefir. It is sour, so you have to get used to this.

  19. Cindy Black

    Kefir is a great supplier of probiotics! I drink a smoothie every day with a big double-handful of berries, kefir, and a bit of Greek yogurt. That not only gives me calcium but also excellent probiotics for the gut. I couldn’t go without my kefir and have no idea why everyone doesn’t drink it.

  20. eric nagel

    I have had a lot of digestive problems over the past 20 years. I believe it started with antibiotics the dentist gave me. I started on kefir from the grocery store and liked it better than yogurt. I then found a friend who raises goats and she makes goats’ milk kefir and that has fixed my digestive problems and now I am able to eat everything I was not able to tolerate. I also believe it has helped me overcome chronic sinusitis along with some home remedy treatments for that.

    • Frances

      Hi Eric
      Thanks for your thoughts about Kefir helping your digestive problems and chronic sinusitis.
      I’m so curious what other home remedies work best for your chronic sinusitis?

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