Since kefir is an acidic-alcoholic drink, many people wonder whether it’s a good idea to drink it with heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or acid reflux. After all, if you already have a stomach that is over-producing acid, it doesn’t sound like a great idea to add another acid on top of it.
Kefir is actually good for people with acid reflux disease because it is full of probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that help to balance the flora in the gut and reduce the triggers behind excess acid production. Science has shown the probiotics in kefir to have a positive impact on acid reflux symptoms.
The secret to how kefir helps with acid reflux lies in the bacteria that cause this milky drink to ferment. Keep reading to learn more about kefir and why it’s helpful to those with acid reflux.
What is Kefir?
Kefir is a fermented milk drink with the consistency of watery yogurt and a distinctly sour, tangy flavor. Kefir can be made with either cow’s milk or goat’s milk, and different forms of kefir are favored in different parts of the world.
Kefir is created by adding colonies of beneficial bacteria—namely lactic acid bacteria and yeast—to milk, causing the milk to sour and ferment.
Once the kefir grains have fermented the kefir, they are removed and used again as a starter in another batch of kefir. The word kefir comes from the Turkish word keyif or “feeling good after eating.” The name alone goes to show you that kefir has enjoyed a reputation for being a healthy drink for hundreds of years.
Benefits of Kefir
There are many health benefits of drinking kefir. Here are some of the advantages of including it in your diet:
- Much more potent source of probiotics than yogurt: Yogurt is one of the foods that is best known in the world for its probiotic advantages, but kefir has a much higher number of probiotics than yogurt does.
- Antibacterial properties: Lactobacillus bacteria found in kefir has properties that inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria, which can help prevent bacterial illness if the kefir is drunk regularly.
- Reduce inflammation: The same probiotics that inhibit bacterial growth in the body when consumed in kefir also help to reduce inflammation across the body. Inflammation is linked with a variety of different chronic health disorders, including heart disease and cancer.
- May improve allergy symptoms: Inflammatory responses in the immune system cause allergic reactions, and kefir helps to reduce inflammation throughout the body. This can help reduce the severity of asthma and allergy attacks. (Source: Healthline)
- Can help build strong bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis: Kefir is a strong source of calcium and other minerals that help keep bones strong. This means that kefir is an especially good dietary supplement for the elderly and for children who are still growing.
- Blood sugar control: Kefir has been shown to have strong effects on fasting blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. (Source: Medical News Today)
- Lower cholesterol: Kefir contains enzymes and minerals that have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels in laboratory animals. (Source: WebMD)
- Good source of nutrients: Kefir provides a good source of vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, kefiran, and tryptophan.
- A source of dairy for people who are lactose intolerant: The bacteria in kefir breaks down most of the lactose that’s present in the drink, which makes it safe for those who are lactose intolerant to drink. Kefir also helps to reduce flatulence related to lactose ingestion.
Can Kefir Cure Acid Reflux?
While it would be a little bit of an exaggeration to call kefir an acid reflux cure, studies have shown that the probiotics found in kefir can have significant positive effects in reducing the symptoms related to GERD and acid reflux disease. In 2014, a study done on babies exhibiting acid reflux disease showed a drastic reduction in symptoms after being treated with probiotics. (Source: Cultured Food)
That means while kefir may not cure acid reflux disease, it can help control some of the following symptoms of acid reflux:
- Weight loss
- Sore Throat
- Bloody stools or vomiting
- A burning sensation in the chest (heartburn) that grows worse at night or when lying down
- Difficulty swallowing or having the sensation of food caught in the back of the throat
Since some of these symptoms, such as bloody vomiting, can also be symptoms of much more severe illnesses than acid reflux, it’s crucial that if you exhibit any of the above symptoms that you see a medical professional and have the problem assessed.
Kefir may be able to help reduce the symptoms of acid reflux, but you don’t want to assume that you have acid reflux when you might have a more serious medical issue.
How to Drink Kefir for Acid Reflux
So, if you decide to start supplementing your diet with kefir to help reduce the symptoms of acid reflux, how do you eat it? There are a few different ways that you can prepare kefir for eating.
Here are some common ways to consume kefir:
- Drink it straight up. Many people drink a small glass of kefir in the morning as a dietary supplement. While the taste is somewhat tangy and sour, it is not especially offensive, and many people don’t mind drinking it on its own.
- Make smoothies with it. Kefir can easily take the place of yogurt or milk in a smoothie recipe, and for those who don’t prefer kefir’s tangy fermented flavor, the flavor of fruit in a smoothie can help mask it.
- Make a parfait. Kefir makes a good replacement for yogurt in fruit parfaits, and its tangy flavor plays nicely against fresh berries.
- Make some homemade salad dressing. The creamy, tangy flavor of kefir makes a great base for salad dressing, such as homemade ranch.
- Add it to pancake or muffin batter. Kefir adds a creamy texture to baked goods and also adds extra protein for a stronger nutritional profile.
- Mix it into potato salad. Kefir makes a great substitute for either sour cream or yogurt in a potato salad recipe since it has the same general flavor profile with a much better nutritional one.
- Freeze it in ice cream. Kefir can add a tangy flavor to homemade ice cream, especially ice creams in which it can be paired with fruit.
Even if you don’t like the taste of raw kefir, there are plenty of ways to sneak it into your diet to enjoy the health benefits of drinking it without having to taste it.
Should You Eat Kefir on an Empty Stomach?
It doesn’t matter whether you eat kefir on an empty stomach or a full one. The effectiveness of the probiotics in the kefir is not affected either way. (Source: Jeanette Hyde Nutritional Therapy) That means that if you’re trying to incorporate more kefir into your diet, you can drink it at any point in the day that suits you best.
Kefir is Great for Acid Reflux
Often, when a person develops acid reflux, their doctor’s first recommendation is to address their diet, exercise, and sleep patterns before attempting to start taking medication for it. Taking kefir as a dietary supplement is one of the best things you can do to try to control your acid reflux naturally. Not only does kefir work well to help drastically reduce the symptoms of acid reflux, but it also provides many other health benefits, too.