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4 Surprising Ways Kefir Improves Your Health

Last Updated: December 24, 2023

Key Takeaways
  • Kefir is a nutrient-rich, fermented drink loaded with diverse probiotics that enhance gut health, support digestion, and strengthen the immune system.
  • Kefir contributes to overall wellbeing, including potential roles in mental health improvement, infection resistance, and cancer prevention, particularly colorectal cancer.
  • Kefir is easily made at home with kefir grains and milk. Alternatively, it can be made with sweetened water, almond milk, or soy milk.

Kefir is a powerful and cost-effective addition to your diet.

Kefir, originating from the Middle East and Caucasus, is a fermented drink with compelling health benefits. Resembling tangy yogurt, it’s made by fermenting milk with kefir grains. Its diverse probiotic content aids digestion, fights pathogens, and potentially protects against cancer, among other benefits. While traditional kefir uses dairy, some people prefer using sweetened water, almond milk, or soy milk—a viable alternative for strict vegans. Kefir grains, the mother culture used for making kefir at home, can be easily sourced online or locally for around $20.

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Kefir delivers a wide range of health benefits.

Scientists are just beginning to understand the complex and powerful benefits that kefir delivers.

Kefir promotes gut health.

Milk kefir plays a crucial role in promoting gut health and, consequently, overall longevity. Rich in probiotics, kefir contains a diverse array of bacteria and yeasts, primarily Lactobacillus, Lactococcus, Streptococcus, and Leuconostoc, which are essential in maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. This vibrant microbial community helps in balancing the intestinal flora, leading to improved digestion and enhanced immune function.

Regular consumption of kefir can modify the gut microbiota, potentially reducing the prevalence of harmful bacteria and fostering the growth of beneficial microbes.

This symbiotic relationship within the gut is key to a well-functioning digestive system, a cornerstone of overall health and longevity. By supporting the gut ecosystem, kefir indirectly impacts various aspects of health, from nutrient absorption to immune defense, playing a significant role in promoting a long and healthy life [1].

Most kefir bacteria survive the stomach’s acidity.

Kefir demonstrates the ability to convey beneficial bacteria through the acidic environment of the stomach to the intestines. Despite the stomach’s harsh conditions, a significant portion of these bacteria survive, thanks to kefir’s protective matrix and the bacteria’s innate resistance. This survival is crucial for kefir’s probiotic benefits, ensuring that enough live bacteria reach the gut to exert their health-promoting effects [2].

Kefir complements Akkermansia.

Kefir not only serves as a rich source of probiotics but also appears to support the increase of Akkermansia muciniphila (AKK) in the gut.

AKK is gaining significant attention as a next-generation probiotic due to its involvement in numerous health aspects.

This intestinal bacterium plays a crucial role in metabolic disorders and extends its influence beyond intestinal diseases, impacting aging and cognition. Its presence in the gut has been linked to reduced risks of conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and even neurological disorders such as autism and Alzheimer’s disease [3].

While kefir appears to contain little if any AKK, AKK levels appear to increase in people who drink kefir. This phenomenon is potentially due to the probiotic properties of kefir, which may create a favorable environment in the gut for the growth of beneficial bacteria like AKK, underscoring kefir’s broader impact on gut microbiota and overall health [4].

Kefir helps the body fight infections.

Kefir has demonstrated potential in fighting viral infections, including COVID-19. Its antiviral mechanisms primarily involve modulating the immune system. Kefir enhances the production of macrophages and proinflammatory cytokines like IL-2, IL-12, and interferon gamma, which are crucial for an effective immune response against viruses.

Additionally, kefir exhibits anti-inflammatory properties by inhibiting proinflammatory cytokines such as IL-1β, TNF-α, and IL-6, which may be particularly beneficial in managing the ‘cytokine storm’ associated with severe COVID-19 cases. The probiotics in kefir can also disrupt viral adhesion, further contributing to its antiviral capabilities [5].

Furthermore, probiotic fermented dairy products, including kefir, have shown significant promise in preventing respiratory tract infections (RTIs). This protective effect spans across different age groups, from children to the elderly. The underlying mechanism involves the enhancement of the body’s immune responses, facilitated by the probiotics present in these dairy products.

Studies have highlighted a noticeable reduction in the incidence of both upper and lower respiratory tract infections among consumers of these products. This effect is particularly notable in reducing the occurrence of common colds and pneumonia [6].

The consistent consumption of these probiotic-rich foods could be a practical, dietary approach to bolstering the body’s defenses against a range of respiratory pathogens, offering a natural and accessible means to enhance public health [7].

Kefir supports mental health.

Kefir demonstrates potential in enhancing stress resilience. Research indicates that Lactobacillus, a bacteria in kefir, plays a crucial role in maintaining balanced IFNγ levels, a cytokine associated with immune response and stress resilience. Studies utilizing animal models have shown that the absence of Lactobacillus leads to increased stress responses and altered IFNγ levels.

Consequently, the regular consumption of kefir, which introduces beneficial Lactobacillus into the gut microbiome, may aid in stabilizing IFNγ levels, thereby potentially enhancing the body’s resilience to stress and mood disorders. This emerging evidence highlights the significance of gut microbiota in psychological health and the potential therapeutic benefits of probiotic-rich foods like kefir [8].

Kefir shows promising potential in managing anxiety and depression. While direct evidence from human studies is limited, animal models suggest that probiotics, like those found in kefir, can reduce anxiety. Particularly, Lactobacillus (L.) rhamnosus, a species present in kefir, has been identified for its potential in reducing anxiety-like behavior.

It’s therefore plausible that kefir could confer similar benefits to humans. However, the translation of these findings to human cases remains an area for further exploration. The existing research provides a foundation for more detailed studies on kefir’s role in treating anxiety and depression [9].

Kefir fights cancer.

Kefir has garnered attention for its anti-cancer properties. Rich in bioactive compounds like polysaccharides and peptides, it demonstrates a remarkable potential in inhibiting the proliferation of cancer cells and inducing their apoptosis. This has been observed across various types of cancer, including colorectal, breast, and lung cancers, positioning kefir as a notable candidate in the realm of dietary cancer prevention and treatment strategies [10].

Furthermore, kefir shows promising results in preventing specific intestinal cancers like colorectal adenocarcinoma. In vitro studies demonstrate kefir’s ability to inhibit cell proliferation and induce apoptosis in colorectal cancer (CRC) cells, particularly in Caco-2 and HT-29 lines. Kefir acts by arresting the cell cycle at the G1 phase and triggering programmed cell death. However, it doesn’t significantly affect cell migration and invasion, instead targeting cancer cell growth without influencing metastatic potential. These findings position kefir as a potential dietary intervention in cancer prevention strategies [11].

Kefir’s impact on gut health and cancer prevention is further highlighted in a study focusing on neonatal overfeeding and its long-term effects on rats. The study demonstrates that early-life consumption of kefir can counteract the negative impacts of neonatal overfeeding, such as increased adiposity and inflammation, which are risk factors for colorectal cancer. Kefir consumption modulated the gut microbiota—favoring beneficial strains like Romboutsia—and significantly reduced inflammatory markers and tumor development in adult rats. This suggests kefir’s potential role in early dietary interventions to foster a healthier gut environment and reduce cancer risks later in life [12].

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
— Benjamin Franklin

Getting started with kefir requires a little effort.

Making kefir isn’t complicated but it requires a little effort. These step-by-step instructions will get you started:

1. Procuring Kefir Grains

  • Search online for kefir grains. A Google search of “kefir grains for sale” reveals several e-commerce sites selling the grains for $15-25.
  • Alternatively, find someone locally who makes kefir and can spare some grains.

2. Making Kefir

  • Place the kefir grains in the glass jar.
  • Pour 1-2 cups of milk into the jar, ensuring the grains are completely submerged. The milk-to-grain ratio should be roughly 1 tablespoon of grains to 1 cup of milk.
  • Swirl milk lightly to disperse grains.

3. Fermentation Process

  • Cover the jar loosely with a lid or a clean cloth secured with a rubber band. This allows the mixture to breathe while keeping out contaminants.
  • Place the jar in a dark, room-temperature cupboard. Avoid direct sunlight and extreme temperatures.

4. Fermentation Duration

  • Leave the mixture to ferment for 12 hours to a week. The exact time can vary based on your taste preference, the ambient temperature, and the milk used.
  • When the kefir reaches the consistency of thick soup or stirred yogurt, it’s ready. At this point, it will have a slightly sour or tangy flavor.

5. Straining the Kefir

  • Once fermentation is complete, use a plastic strainer to separate the kefir grains from the liquid kefir.
  • Place the strainer over a bowl and pour the contents of the jar into it.
  • Tap the edge of the strainer with the palm of your hand to help the liquid pass through.

6. Storing the Grains

  • Immediately transfer the strained kefir grains into a clean jar and add fresh milk to start the next batch.
  • If you need a break from making kefir, store the grains in a small amount of milk in the refrigerator. Change the milk every week to keep the grains healthy.

7. Enjoying Your Kefir

  • The liquid kefir can be consumed immediately or stored in the refrigerator.
  • Allowing it to settle in the refrigerator for a few hours generally yields the best results.

8. Maintaining Kefir Grains

  • As your kefir grains acclimate and grow, you can increase the amount of milk or start a new batch with the excess grains.
  • Properly maintained grains will survive indefinitely.
  • Share excess grains with friends, eat them, sell them online, or feed them to your dog.


Kefir is an affordable and powerful tool that deserves serious consideration as a regular part of your diet and health regimen. Scientists are just beginning to understand its health benefits due to the complexity of the gut biome. And unraveling the relationships between diet, gut flora, and their byproducts is the target of large investments by both academic institutions and private-sector companies seeking to capitalize on their potential. In the meantime, all signs point to kefir being a safe and potent asset for people serious about their health and longevity. Its ability to improve the health of your gut biome and contribute to your long-term health is a situation where folk wisdom outpaces science.