woman in fieldKefir is a beverage made from fermented milk. Since kefir is rich in probiotics, many people consume kefir for health purposes.

Uses for Kefir

Proponents claim that kefir can help stimulate the immune system and improve digestive health. In addition, kefir is touted as a natural remedy for many health conditions, including:

  • acne
  • allergies
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • depression
  • diabetes
  • eczema
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • insomnia
  • irritable bowel syndrome

Benefits of Kefir

Although a number of studies show that probiotics may offer certain health benefits, research on the specific health effects of kefir is fairly limited (and most research is more than five years old). However, there's some preliminary evidence that kefir may help enhance immunity, reduce inflammation and fight bacterial infections.

Here's a look at some key findings from other research on kefir's potential health benefits:

1) Kefir and Lactose Intolerance

Kefir may help some individuals overcome lactose intolerance, suggests a small study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 2003. For the study, 15 healthy adults with lactose intolerance were fed a series of meals that contained milk and either kefir or yogurt. Results revealed that kefir helped improve lactose digestion and tolerance. In addition, both kefir and yogurt appeared to reduce abdominal pain and diarrhea among participants.

2) Kefir and Antibiotic Side Effects

Although kefir is often recommended for certain side effects associated with the use of antibiotics, a 2009 study from the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine indicates that kefir may fail to fight antibiotic-related diarrhea. In tests on 125 children receiving the drugs, researchers found that kefir was no more effective than a placebo in preventing diarrhea.

3) Kefir and Cholesterol

Kefir may help keep cholesterol in check, according to preliminary research in the British Journal of Nutrition. In tests on hamsters, the authors of a 2006 study found animals fed a soy-milk-based kefir for eight weeks experienced a significant reduction in total cholesterol.

4) Kefir and Breast Cancer

Kefir shows promise as a natural means of strengthening your defense against breast cancer, a 2007 study from the Journal of Dairy Science suggests. In tests on mice injected with breast tumor cells, researchers found that consumption of kefir helped delay tumor growth.

Since scientists have yet to explore whether kefir consumption can help fight breast cancer in humans, it's too soon to recommend kefir for breast cancer prevention.

Kefir Side Effects

Although kefir is generally considered safe when consumed in moderation, it may cause certain side effects (such as constipation and intestinal cramping).

Should You Use Kefir for Health Purposes?

While adding kefir to your diet may offer some health benefits, it's too soon to recommend kefir for any specific health problem. If you're interested in using probiotics for health purposes, talk to your doctor about which form of probiotics is right for you.

It's important to note that using kefir to self-treat a chronic condition and avoiding standard care may have serious consequences.

Article courtesy of Altmedicine.About.com, written by Cathy Wong, found here with its sources.

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