Ask a Nutritionist: On Kefir

The Gut Stuff Reader:

I’ve been taking goats’ kefir for 14 weeks but I’m still getting a bad die off detox. I have been taking kefir to heal the gut after 7 rounds of strong antibiotics. How long would it take to correct bad gut bacteria balance?

Jeanette Answers:

Sorry to hear you have been experiencing die off symptoms.  In my experience these are the symptoms people sometimes feel when a harmful yeast, or parasite infection is being killed off, or crowded out of the gut, so they aren’t the major occupiers any more. Anyone who has experienced a “ die off” will know how that feels – almost like having flu for a couple of days, or simply feeling really tired, and perhaps a little nauseas too. In my experience, a die off should last 2-3 days, a week at the very most. You mention taking goats’ milk kefir to “heal” your gut after antibiotics. As you may know, when we take antibiotics for an infection, they also kill many of the good bugs in our gut which keep us healthy. Most of us have some yeast, and parasites resident in our guts, but most of the time, they aren’t an issue. They live happily in the shadows, while the healthy bugs dominate the scene. After several courses of antibiotics, in my experience, you commonly see yeast or parasitic infections, or even some nasty bugs (which we all have) become dominant and stage a major occupation of the gut. You can see these on stool tests which I use in my clinical practice. You can crowd out nasty bugs, or rampant yeast infections with clever old kefir. This contains good bugs, and good yeasts naturally which you can parachute into the gut and crowd out the nasties. As the occupants of the gut are undergoing a mini battle or restructure of residents, you can feel a little off colour during this time, known as a “die off”.   You ask how long it can take to correct bad bacteria balance. This can vary from person to person, but if you drink a live kefir with 15 billion plus colony forming units of bacteria a day, you should see some improvements in days to a week. Good bacteria and yeast from kefir are passing visitors, so it’s important to include them in your diet for the long term as daily housekeeping for your gut. Not a short course as marketed by some kefir companies, and probiotic supplement brands. It’s also important to rotate around different brands of kefir and probiotics if you take them, as in my experience, they can stop working after a while if you keep taking the same ones. Variety is key to gut health in the long term.

No advice in this column is designed to override any by your medical doctor and should not be relied on as a substitute for specialist dietary advice. If you have any concerns about your health, visit your general practitioner, or medical consultant. 

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