Can Fermented Water Kefir Help IBS?

Water kefir is the newest trend going around in my partner’s family. Usually, I stay far away from their health-related obsessions. One of them consisted of basically poisoning oneself and spending days on the toilet just to lose some weight – no, thanks. But water kefir supposedly improves digestion, so it intrigued me.

I asked my mother-in-law for some kefir grains and the recipe, and we decided to give it a go.

What is water kefir?

Water kefir is a fermented and carbonated beverage that is made using kefir grains, fruit, and sugar. Kefir grains look like little white balls and consist of bacteria and yeast. As you feed them with sugar and use them to ferment your kefir, they multiply. Then you pass some of them on to someone else who wants to try their hand at making water kefir.

How we make our water kefir

To make water kefir, we use a 2-step fermentation process. First, we put the grains in a big jar of water and add half a lemon, dried figs, and sugar. After one or 2 days, when the figs start to float, we transfer the kefir into glass bottles and let it sit for another day until it’s fizzy. Then, we drink it and start a new batch using the same grains.

The presumed benefits of kefir

If you Google: "kefir," you’ll find that it’s supposed to have many health benefits. However, my in-laws use it to improve digestion, and that’s why my partner and I decided to try it, too. Kefir contains probiotics, so drinking it daily is similar to the idea of taking a probiotic supplement.

The advantage of kefir over a supplement is that kefir grains contain more cultures of good bacteria. Or so says the Internet, anyway. In addition, making kefir is much cheaper than buying probiotics at the pharmacy. But does it work as well?

My first experience with water kefir

First of all, I want to specify that I haven’t been taking probiotics in the past year, so I can’t really compare the direct results of one over the other. However, I did notice an effect almost right away. As soon as I started drinking kefir, I didn’t need to use the bathroom as often anymore. As someone who suffers from IBS-D, that’s a major win!

I started off drinking half a glass in the morning and half a glass in the afternoon, which seems to work quite well for me.

In addition, I love having another way of hydrating my body, as I’m notoriously bad at drinking water.

Long-term effects

Now, when I started writing this article, I was hoping to share some new, breakthrough way to help with IBS symptoms. Unfortunately, it’s never that simple. After drinking water kefir for several months, I still have IBS. And since my IBS is mostly caused but stress and anxiety, no probiotic can help with that.

Drinking water kefir feels similar to taking a probiotic for me. The improvement is slight, but I do feel okay most days, so I guess that it’s doing something. It’s really good, too, which is why I continue drinking it every day. And while I usually absolutely cannot have carbonated beverages, the fizziness of water kefir doesn’t seem to bother me.

Benefits for the whole family

Another advantage I see in kefir is that it can be used for the whole family. My partner refuses to take any supplements, but he loves his kefir. And so does my toddler (although we do mix it with orange juice for him). While they thankfully don’t suffer from IBS, it’s still nice to give them something beneficial for their health.

So, can water kefir help IBS?

As always, the answer has to be "yes and no." Yes, in the same sense that probiotics can help your IBS, and maybe even more so. But I don’t think that it will necessarily work for everyone. And if there’s something else causing your flares, then it might not help at all.

It’s also important to make sure that you’re making it correctly. We’re always very careful to ensure that our figs float and the kefir becomes fizzy before consuming it. We once made the mistake of leaving our kefir grains in the fridge without feeding them for too long and let’s just say, that particular batch of kefir went straight down the drain.

Have you ever tried water kefir? Did you see any effects on your IBS?

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