Kefir is a tart-tasting, fermented milk drink with a texture similar to buttermilk. The nutrient-packed beverage is widely available in health stores and some supermarkets around the country. Fans of the beverage boast about the many health benefits that it offers. For instance, some believe that it can help lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and boost gut health. Some also believe that it can be an effective treatment for Candida yeast.
But before you use kefir for a yeast infection, it is helpful to take a look at the science supporting this benefit and different ways that you might be able to incorporate kefir in your diet.
What Is Kefir?
Kefir is a cultured beverage that is made by combining cow's milk or goat's milk with a cluster of kefir grains, which are small white balls that contain a mixture of lactic acid bacteria, acetic acid bacteria, yeasts, and fungi. These microbes have a symbiotic relationship, working together to break down the lactose and other sugars in the milk over 12-24 hours to create a fermented product: kefir. If left to sit for another 24 hours, the kefir will become slightly carbonated.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the final product is rich in nutrients, including protein, calcium, magnesium, healthy fats, and vitamins A and B. Kefir can be mixed with fruits, grains, and nuts to add flavor.
Archeologists discovered evidence of kefir production in a 4,000-year-old tomb in the Xiohe region of China, which suggests that humans have been enjoying the fermented milk product for thousands of years.
What Is Candida?
Candida is a type of fungus (yeast) that lives on the skin and inside the mouth, throat, intestinal tract, and vagina. When Candida grows out of control, it can cause infections, known as yeast infections or candidiasis. A yeast infection may affect the mouth, intestines, or vagina. If left untreated, the Candida infection can spread to other areas of the body, including the blood and internal organs.
People of all ages can get a Candida infection, most commonly in the vagina, mouth, throat, and esophagus. According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, people who are immunocompromised are at a greater risk of the infection spreading to the bloodstream.
Can Kefir Treat Candida?
As with other fermented food products, kefir offers a wide range of health benefits. Research published in the International Journal of Enteric Pathogens suggests that kefir might help inhibit the growth of Candida in a lab setting. The researchers found that kefir has stronger anti-Candida effects than yogurt, and may be used to fight against Candida infections.
It is important, however, to understand how the study was performed. First, no human test subjects were involved and no one was drinking kefir to get any effect. For this study, researchers simply exposed Candida cells to kefir in test tubes. While the researchers did see a positive effect, more research - including studies on humans - need to be done to see if kefir makes any difference in humans. Studies also need to determine how the kefir would be applied. Currently there are no high quality studies suggesting that drinking kefir can cure a yeast infection.
How to Include Kefir in Your Diet
Even though there are no scientific studies supporting the use of kefir for a yeast infection, there are many anecdotal reports that drinking it can help. If you decide to give it a try, there are many options for adding kefir to your diet. Essentially, you can use it any time you would use milk. Keep in mind that if you cook or bake with kefir, it may kill off any beneficial bacteria and yeasts contained in kefir.
If you'd like to use kefir to treat Candida yeast, there are several ways to add it to your diet:
Add it to cereal. Pour it over your favorite breakfast cereal rather than milk.
Drink it. Kefir can be purchased at most grocery stores, or you can make your own kefir with a few simple ingredients.
- Make a smoothie. Use kefir as a replacement for cow's milk, soy milk, or almond milk in your favorite smoothie recipe.
- Turn it into ice cream. Freeze kefir overnight for your own tasty, probiotic treat. Add fruits, nuts, or other natural flavors to make it extra delicious.
- Use it with salad dressing. The creamy texture of kefir makes it a perfect addition to homemade salad dressings.
Along with consuming kefir to treat Candida yeast, be sure to eat a healthy diet. Some people with Candida yeast infections aim to eat a Candida-friendly diet that eliminates sugar, gluten, fats and oils, alcohol, and essentially all processed foods. The diet is strict, and there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that this diet will eliminate Candida yeast infections.
If you eliminate processed foods and start eating whole, nutrient-dense foods, you may begin to feel better. As the Mayo Clinic points out, after weeks of replacing processed food with fresh foods, you may feel better overall.
Evidence-Based Ways to Treat a Yeast Infection
Candida yeast infection is generally treated with prescription antifungal medicines, so you'll want to connect with your healthcare provider to get personalized advice. For candidiasis affecting the mouth or throat, antifungal topical medication (e.g., clotrimazole, miconazole, nystatin) is usually applied for 7-14 days. More severe infections may be treated with a stronger antifungal medication called fluconazole, which is taken by mouth or administered through a vein.
Vaginal or vulvar Candida yeast infections are treated with antifungal medicine by applying it inside the vagina or taking a single dose of fluconazole by mouth. More severe infections may require additional fluconazole treatments or other medicines applied vaginally, such as boric acid, nystatin, or flucytosine.
Make an appointment to see your healthcare provider if:
- This is the first time you've had Candida yeast infection symptoms
- Your symptoms persist or worsen after trying home remedies and/or over-the-counter remedies
- You develop additional symptoms
- You have had 4 or more Candida yeast infections in the past year
Remember, drinking kefir for a yeast infection might help if you find yourself with the condition, but always speak to your healthcare provider if you notice the condition getting worse or not changing at all. Your doctor can give you a proper diagnosis and a treatment tailored specifically for you.