Kefir is probiotic milk that has similar health benefits as yogurt. Kefir is made from cow’s milk and contains lactose, but some of the lactose is naturally digested by the live cultures used to produce it. If you have a minor to moderate case of lactose intolerance, you may be able to drink kefir without developing any symptoms.
Lactose intolerance is a common digestive condition. Nearly 30 million Americans develop some degree of intolerance toward lactose by the age of 20, according to the website MedlinePlus. Lactose is a sugar found in milk that must be broken down by enzymes before it can be absorbed into the blood stream. If you’re lactose intolerant, you don't have enough lactase, the enzyme that digests lactose.
To know if drinking kefir is causing lactose intolerant symptoms, you need to be able to identify them. If you experience abdominal discomfort, cramping or intestinal gas up to two hours after eating dairy foods, you may be lactose intolerant. Other common symptoms include bloating, nausea, diarrhea and foul-smelling stools. Symptoms will subside once your body expels the lactose.
Kefir is milk that contains live and active cultures, also called probiotics. Like yogurt, kefir is considered a low-lactose product because its live cultures partially digest the lactose before you ingest it. While it may not generally cause symptoms to develop in those with a mild intolerance, drinking large quantities in one sitting may cause more severe digestive upset. If you’ve been diagnosed with lactose intolerance, ask your doctor if you can include kefir in your diet.
You can implement an elimination diet to determine how much kefir you can drink in one sitting without developing symptoms. Remove all lactose foods from your diet for several days. At the completion of the elimination process, drink 1/2 cup of kefir to see if you develop any symptoms. Every day after, increase the amount of kefir you ingest by 1/2 cup until you experience symptoms.
Even if you're severely lactose intolerant, you can still drink kefir milk if you take a lactase enzyme beforehand. A lactase enzyme will provide your digestive system with the needed amount of lactase to completely digest the lactose. Discuss the use of this supplement with your doctor before using it.
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