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Antibiotics and Kefir

January 13, 2011 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

You’ve probably been told by family, friends and possibly even a physician or two to eat yogurt to counteract some of the adverse effects of antibiotics. The justification is that probiotics in yogurt replenish many of the healthy bacteria that are wiped out by such medications. But there’s another fermented dairy product on the block that you might also want to consider. Kefir is a drinkable source of probiotics that generally contains a higher proportion and broader range of active cultures than yogurt. This reality forms a strong theoretical basis for considering kefir during and after any antibiotic regimen.

The December 2010 issue of the Journal of Medicinal Foods makes the case for using kefir alongside antibiotics. An antibiotic regimen known as “triple therapy” is commonly employed to eradicate H. pylori in infected patients. This harmful bacterium is associated with intestinal inflammation, stomach cancer and ulcers. A 14-day randomized, double-blind study examined the effects of combining kefir or a placebo (milk) with three powerful antibiotics (amoxicillin, clarithomycin and lansoprazole). The kefir and placebo were given at a dosage of 250 ml or about 8 ounces twice-daily. The participants returned for an examination after 45 days. Questionnaires and a urea breath test were used to assess side effects and treatment success. The patients receiving the kefir-enhanced therapy achieved significantly higher H. pylori eradication – 78.2% vs. 50% in the placebo group. What’s more, those given the probiotic beverage reported “less frequent and less severe” side effects. (1)

Another group of researchers from St. Luke’s Medical Center in Duluth, Minnesota successfully employed kefir in 8 patients with “recurrent episodes of Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea”. Antibiotic therapy using oral metronidazole or vanomycin was combined with daily kefir consumption. The dosage of antibiotics was gradually reduced and ultimately withdrawn. According to the author of the paper, “All eight successfully resolved their infection and did not experience any further diarrhea after completion of treatment”. Clostridium difficile infection or CDI is a leading cause of hospital-acquired, intestinal disease. Its incidence is increasing and so too is the virulence. New strains of C. defficile are leading to “increasing morbidity and mortality” in vulnerable populations. This is all the more reason why safe and effective adjuncts such as kefir need to be considered and employed where indicated. (2,3,4)

“Designer” Probiotics Display Anti-Bacterial Potential

Source: Gut Pathogens 2010, 2:5 (link)

Kefir was the subject of a highly publicized trial that appeared in the August 2009 edition of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The Georgetown University lead study examined the effects of a popular children’s kefir product on antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD). The trial itself was well designed and a most welcome opportunity for kefir to shine. Unfortunately, the findings didn’t reveal statistically significant benefits to kefir with live cultures vs. kefir containing heat-killed microbes. Future interventions using other products may help elucidate whether this finding is specific to kefir used here. Until then, I can tell you that the product in question (Probugs) contains a considerable amount of added sugar. The only type of kefir I recommend and use is the traditional, no-sugar added variety. (5)

Before combining kefir or yogurt with antibiotics, please be aware of the potential for adverse interactions. Many people express worry that taking probiotics in close proximity to antibiotics will nullify the benefits of the probiotics. This is a reasonable concern. However, there’s an even more pressing matter at hand. Dairy products contain a protein known as casein which may negatively affect the activity of select antibiotics. That’s why it’s important to inquire with your pharmacist and/or physician prior to selecting a probiotic food. One can often avoid such problems by consuming dairy a few hours apart from antibiotics or even selecting non-dairy sources of probiotics such as coconut milk kefir. That is also a good strategy to help keep the antibiotics from negating the benefits of the probiotics. (6,7,8)

Be well!

JP

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11 Comments to “Antibiotics and Kefir”

  1. anne h Says:

    Love kefir!

  2. JP Says:

    You and me both, Anne! Deliciously tangy! :)

    Be well!

    JP

  3. Nina K. Says:

    Good morning, JP :-)

    interessting article. A few days ago i read, that green tea works also very powerful against H. pylori and green tea enhances the effectivity of some (not all) antibiotics. looking for the links, will let you know. So maybee matcha green tea can be mixed with kefir :-) a green super weapon ;-) .

    Greetings

    Nina K.

  4. JP Says:

    Thank you, Nina! :)

    A few links about green tea and H. pylori for you:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2694061/?tool=pubmed

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2127227/?tool=pubmed

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ptr.2609/abstract

    Be well!

    JP

  5. Nina K. Says:

    Good morning, JP :-)

    you where faster with the links :-) thx. Some interessting thing come to my mind: we have an golden retriver dog in our family, and the veterinarian told us, that these dogs where very prone to have H.pylori and would infect people with it. In fact my brother-in-law suffers regularly from h. pylori despite medical therapy (antibiotics…) he’s free of it for a few weeks, then it always came back. should we give the dog some green tea with his food? ;-) i recommended him additional to his therapy to eat manuka honey and drink green tea. ;-) hope that isn’t bad at all :-)

    Wish you and your girl a funny sunny and very relaxing weekend. i’m going to buy a lot of veggis today, for a glowy tan, so bad weather here, no sun for almost a week know :-(

    Be well :-)
    Nina K.

  6. JP Says:

    Nina,

    Very interesting (and troubling) information!

    Green tea appears to be a questionable supplement for canines:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21098339

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2687403/?tool=pubmed

    It may be more of an issue of dosage and when it’s given (under fasted or non-fasted conditions).

    Perhaps a safer way to go would be canine-specific probiotics:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20960415

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1748-5827.2009.00853.x/full

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6TD6-4WB3NBJ-3&_user=10&_coverDate=10%2F20%2F2009&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_origin=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=0af2fbe5280d5e38e7b6a36cc16160d7&searchtype=a

    I hope you and your husband have a wonderful weekend as well!

    Be well!

    JP

  7. Missy Says:

    I have chronic bladder infections. I am on a antibiotic at night indefinitely . After 9 in 2 years I am at the end of my rope. A friend suggested the kefir. I have been drinking the milk kefir for 5 days now. I am concerned that the kefir might over power the antibiotic, and it may not work any more for me. I hate the thought of using a antibiotic for years to come. Would the kefir help with the infection?
    Thank you for your help
    MD

  8. JP Says:

    Missy,

    It may help. It depends on which antibiotic you’re using and various other factors – the specific bacteria involved, possible antiobiotic-resistance, etc. Admittedly, there’s not a lot of scientific data on this subject. I’ve described all I could find in the column above.

    If I were you, I’d consider consulting with an integrative or naturopathic physician who may be able to re-direct your treatment plan. There may be an effective and safe way to ween you off of the antibiotics. But it will likely require an individualized approach and monitoring.

    Be well!

    JP

  9. Diana Says:

    Hi, JP.
    I just discovered your blog because you joined me on Twitter. i am delighted about you and your work.
    I don’t do wheat (your article about Italian pasta dishes – I substitute with Rice pasta) and
    I don’t do dairy product….. I take goat yoghurt because here in America they don’t have sheeps’ yoghurt as in Europe.
    Do you know whether or not KEFIR exists here in the US made of sheep or goat milk?
    I would appreciate this very much.
    Belated – Happy New Year to you and yours

  10. Diana Says:

    Hi, there.
    I just read Missy’s horror story. If I may, I would like to share my personal experience. When I was young, 100 years ago, I had chronic bladder infections as well. The doctors stuffed my with antibiotics for 2 years. Every time with stronger and stronger doses. Until I realized they were treating the symptoms and not the cause. The true cause is usually a psychological issue (the soul is trying to tell you something that you do not want to see) which manifested physically. As JP mentioned, a homeopath is much better than a conventional doctor. I went to one, bit my teeth for a week to stand the pain and itching and, was healed. Homeopaths have several very effective substances that restore the balance in the bladder. Good luck to you. You have my full sympathy.

  11. JP Says:

    Diana,

    Thank you for your kind words! I also appreciate you sharing your experience above. Very kind of you. :)

    I’ve seen goat’s milk kefir in the USA. Here’s a link to one option that is sometimes available at select health food stores:

    http://www.redwoodhill.com/kefir-milk

    I’ve even found sheep’s milk yogurt at our local natural food market:

    http://www.bellwetherfarms.com/sheeps-milk-yogurt-/

    Be well and happy new year to you too!

    JP

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