Does Kefir Cause Diarrhea?

Kefir milk contains live and active cultures. It's much like yogurt, but drinkable. Kefir will not cause diarrhea in healthy adults, but can cause diarrhea if you're lactose intolerant or allergic to milk. Kefir may be used to treat occasional bouts of diarrhea, because the cultures in the milk help maintain a healthy digestive system. If you develop severe diarrhea after drinking kefir, call your doctor for further assessment. Do not continue drinking kefir if it causes diarrhea.

Kefir is a cultured milk beverage. (Image: livcool/iStock/Getty Images)

Kefir Diarrhea Treatment

Kefir's cultures are also called probiotics. These healthy bacteria live in your gut and help maintain digestive health and regularity. Probiotics can decrease the severity of diarrhea and shorten its duration. Diarrhea is a symptom of various conditions. Do not take kefir or any other food to treat diarrhea without talking to your doctor first. Kefir contains the same probiotics as yogurt, and should be purchased plain for best results.

Diarrhea from Milk Allergy

Kefir is made from milk, so if you are allergic to milk, you should not drink kefir. If you have a milk allergy and drink kefir, you are at risk of a severe allergic reaction. Diarrhea from a milk allergy is not caused by the digestive system, but begins with an immune system reaction. The proteins in milk trigger the immune system to defend the body, because the immune system mistakes them as harmful substances. This reaction causes the body to produce chemicals to protect itself. The chemicals cause inflammation and irritation in your digestive system, respiratory system and skin.

Diarrhea from Lactose Intolerance

Kefir contains the milk sugar lactose, and can cause diarrhea in some individuals. Not all dairy products contain the same amount of lactose. Kefir contains relatively little lactose. The live cultures in the beverage produce some lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose. This reduces the amount of lactose in kefir. If you are moderately lactose intolerant, you may be able to drink kefir without developing lactose intolerance symptoms. Lactose intolerance will causes diarrhea, gas, bloating and nausea within the first two hours of drinking the beverage.

Warning

If you develop diarrhea, do not use over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medications, unless directed by your doctor. These medications may cause further complications. If you want the benefits of kefir but you cannot drink milk, purchase probiotic supplements that are dairy-free.

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