Kefir Is Making Me Sick

Can Kefir Make Me Sick?

Can Kefir Make Me Sick?

I drank a cup of kefir and now I feel sick! 

Is It Normal To Feel Sick After Drinking Kefir?

This is the email I got from a frantic reader who had hoped kefir was going to be the answer to her prayers. The woman had a history of multiple antibiotics as a child and young adult. She has a history of IBS, and depression, as well as many digestive complaints. She started making her own kefir but every time she drinks it, she feels nauseated and gets a really bad headache. She is also complaining about a sensation of blood rushing in her ears. What is happening?

Most likely what this lady is experiencing is a Herxheimer reaction, and no this is not dangerous. It is actually a very good sign! 

A Herxheimer reaction (sometimes called Herx for short) happens when organisms in your body start dying off, and release toxins into your blood stream. It was originally described as a reaction to taking antibiotics for an infection, but it happens much more frequently in the 'natural healing' world, as you cleanse your body of the bad and replace with the good! 

Herx reactions are sometimes described as "die off", "healing crisis". The symptoms are diverse, and can be quite different for everybody. Some people will be terribly ill, and some people will have mild symptoms, or even no symptoms at all. Here are some things that you might feel when experiencing Herx reaction after drinking kefir:

  • Digestive issues- flatulence, foul smelling stools, unusual colored stools, diarrhea or constipation, cramping, heartburn, nausea etc
  • Flu-like symptoms- increase mucous production, low grade fever, sore throat, cough etc
  • Neurologic symptoms- headache, dizziness, 'brain fog', difficulty concentrating, depression or euphoria (drunk feeling), anxiety, extreme tiredness
  • Other- bad breath, achy joints, mild rash etc

All of these things are normal, so what do you do if you experience a Herx reaction? Or what if you are not sure if you are having a Herx reaction, or you are really sick? The answer is simple; Stop drinking kefir until the symptoms subside, and then go at it more slowly! 

Start with a tablespoon. Wait a few hours, and if you feel fine, have another tablespoon. 

The worst possible thing you can do is throw out your kefir and swear to never drink it again. People who have Herx reactions NEED to get rid of the bad bacteria that has taken over your life! You must persevere. Taking it a little at a time can reduce the severity of the symptoms and ensure that you are still getting the benefit of good probiotic bacteria. 




128 thoughts on “Kefir Is Making Me Sick”

  1. I have found that taking a molybdenum supplement helps with the Herxheimer’s reaction. Also if your having extreme die off symptoms, reduce your intake, and slowly work your way up to a higher daily serving. You do not want to overtax you’re liver and kidneys, in ridding your body of the toxins that are being released from the die off.

  2. How do I know whether it’s Herx or just bad kefir? Just today I became very ill and was violently puking, with stomach camps followed by intestinal cramps. What are the symptoms of bad kefir?

    1. Hi Bonita Thanks for your question. If the kefir tastes like kefir, it is unlikely “bad”. And people do get a flu or virus from time to time. However, everyone is different. Stop drinking kefir, and when you are better, reintroduce it to your diet more slowly.
      Kefir Nurse

  3. Have been consuming milk kefir for a year, now around 5 days a week and found last few months my grains are not growing as much and have been getting spots/acne all over my face and body, brain fog, exhaustion, swollen tummy, IBS symptoms like cramps and diaorrhea, and poor memory. For months i thought this was due to lack of sleep and busy working and commuting lifestyle and maybe anaemia so took vitamins and iron 2 months ago. I was still getting some symptoms and realised on the weekends i am a lot sharper amd healthier and that’s when I don’t have kefir. A week ago I switched from having kefir on mornings to an evening and I was very ill with all the symptoms as before but stronger. I guessed having it on an empty stomach made it worse. I’ve not had any for a week now and the symptoms have eased and I feel a lot sharper and healthier. It can’t be for off that caused the symptoms because I had kefir every week for a year. I have been keeping kefir grains in fridge inbetween making batches so not sure if that has affected it. I read up that histamines, alcohol and tryptophan are produced in kefir making so that may have caused my symptoms. The tiredness, exhaustion and brain fog has probably been there for a year but some of the other symptoms have mainly been the last few months. I did have IBS before taking kefir and hoped it would help.

  4. I have been making coconut kefir from packets of powdered kefir starter for a few years and my daughter and I drink some everyday. However for the past 6 weeks I have been drinking much more ( because my daughter is not here to share it with me) and I need to make another liter every 4 days. I have been experiencing fatigue and severe joint pains in my hips and knees and other smaller joints. It is much worse at night and prevents me from getting proper sleep. I do have fibromyalgia and chronic pain, but it has become so intensified recently that it’ s very concerning. It has just occurred to me that there may be a connection between my increased coconut kefir intake and this huge flare up of pain. Is this a common reaction? What is your recommendation?
    Thank you.

  5. I’m sorry but what a load of rubbish, if you feel sick when you eat something then that thing is not good for you, period. I started taking kefir a month ago and started getting “nappy rash” and thrush infections, my tongue was coated white, my bum itched, I had crazy sugar cravings which I never have…. because I had so much faith in kefir I didn’t connect the dots until I had to stop taking it for a week when I stayed with a relative and all the symptoms stopped and then when I resumed taking kefir the candida infections came back immediately, it was undeniable. Don’t listen to people telling you it’s a good thing that you’re bloated and feeling ill, that’s not because of “die off”, oit’s because the kefir is making you sick.

    1. Everything is not for everybody. If you feels ill and want to stop, then stop. Most people find if they can put up with the symptoms of die off, they feel so much better on the other side of it!
      Kefir Nurse

  6. Hi! I started to drink my own brewed water kefir two weeks ago. As from the first day I got a headache, which now already lasts for two weeks. It is a pain that I feel while day, with pressure on my eyes? I also had an eye infection the first days of drinking the kefir. And felt very nauseas. I stopped drinking kefir for some days, and now started again, lower amount. The nausea is gone in the meantime. But I still have headache whole day, and feel tired. And my eye lids inside are still red. Can this be an effect of the kefir? And how long can it take? For your info, I had a lot of sinus problems when I was younger. Do you think it is related?

    Thanks a lot for your help!

  7. I tried kefir for the first time yesterday and pretty much immediately my stomach bloated up, a couple of hours later I started feeling dizzy and nauseous, sweating all over and very flu-like. This lasted for several hours and I still don’t feel all that well today.

    1. Me too! I can normally handle a half bottle on occasion I drink kefir for the probiotics when I have a uti, well yesterday I had the worst headache I got weak, my joints hurt and my intestines felt like they were about to pop after drinking kefir I know it’s not the flu because just from this morning with the puking I feel 80% better

  8. Hello
    I started taking kefir 170ml daily as recommended by the consumer, chuckling goats. Its goats milk kefir which is very strongthey Tell u too take 3 21 day course or more depending on severity of issues. I started on the 31st jan. 2nd course in i felt really ill. Ear ache, pimples on my scalp, lymph node on my neck etc etc. Im 32 and have suffered with mild acne (clogged pores) since 20. I have taken lots of antibioctis for it and for other things over the year. My question is im getting lots of spots of my face like big spots not little clogged plugs. Is this the bacteria balancing out still. I know i had this issue for years so it may take a while but need advice dont want to get fed up and come off it now if it is doing good.. I also been making bone broth as the lady said this will also heal ur gut quicker..

    Thanks x

    1. Hi Kelly Thanks for your message. Yes this could absolutely be bacteria still balancing out. I also get the same issues – The thing is, once you find some balance, these issues should get better. It’s short term pain for long term benefit!
      Kefir Nurse

  9. Had been making my own Milk Kefir for months and then I replaced it with Lifeway Kefir. I stopped the Milk kefir because I think kefir was trigger inflammation in my body, which is supposed to do the opposite. My body was a wreck and the Rhumelologist started me on Otezla. I started taking Otezla 5 weeks ago for Psoriatic Arthritis. Otezla is really rough on the GI tract., but my gut was in good shape after drinking my own kefir for months. My gut sort got used to Otezla and after the second week of Lifeway kefir I started feeling nausea almost the entire day. This morning no kefir and I feel fine.

    1. Hi Bruce Sorry to hear you’ve been sick.
      If you felt the kefir was triggering the inflammation, why wouldn’t you stop the kefir before taking such a side effect causing drug? Lifeway kefir can be compared to store bought yogurt- there are a few live cultures, but not nearly as powerful as making kefir from home. It’s likely the nausea was a coincidence, but there’s no real way to tell. I hope you are on the path to recovery and start feeling much better soon!

      Kefir Nurse

      1. Thanks for the quick reply. I’ve been battling inflammation for years, and it seems like the Otezla is reducing the psoriasis and working. In essence I am getting better and nausea is a common side affect from Otezla. Saw the Rheumatologist this afternoon, and he said if the nausea gets bad skip a dose for a day or two. I think I’ll drop the lifeway, wait 3 months until the medication stabilizes and heals my joints. Then I might go back to making kefir from the grains again. The whole milk kefir did spike my cholesterol, so maybe trying low fat organic milk or switching to coconut milk.

  10. Hi. I been dealing with gut gerd for years and now i have gut fermentatio syndrome. Sacchoromyces cerevsiae basically colonized tthe crap out my gut. Which also created inflammation in some of my airways that were a
    Somehow effected by heartburn. I think im finally omw back to health tho i havent experienced any improvement yet, i think i understand now the common sense. Like not listwning to some doc saying u can get rid ofyeast on a fruit diet. Anyways, ive been ona low carb diet for a few days now and inflammation in my gut is coming down. I made two batches of coconut yogurt with a probiotic with a bunch ofreallygood strains of bacteria. I ate some and my stomach blew up like a baloon. I havent had gas like this since i tried that fruit diet….i was justwindering if thats also a possible herx

    1. Pavel Herx is probably most likely. It sounds like you still have an imbalance. Eating good bacteria is going to cause a war in your gut. Don’t forget on your low carb diet to eat lots of green vegetables preferably raw, every day, to give those probiotics the fuel they need.

      Kefir Nurse

  11. Hi!

    My name is Joy, and I started drinking kefir last week but drank a whole store bought bottle of flavoured milk kefir within a span of three days. I’ve had flu like symptoms for the last 4 days. I am wondering how long it would take to tell if it was kefir based and not actual sickness? And how long the symptoms could last as it has me running to the bathroom after I eat anything 🙁

    1. Hi Joy You’ll know if it’s the kefir if you drink a bottle in 3 days again after you get better and the same thing happens. If it is the kefir, you just need to cut back until the symptoms ease. Try a quarter cup a day or less.

      Kefir Nurse

  12. Hello. I am writing to inquire if anyone has experienced a similar reaction / and or can provide advice. I did not properly research Kefir prior to consumption… I mixed about 2 – 3 ounces of Siggi’s Kefir over my granola for 10 consecutive days. My stools soon became loose followed by “Candida-Strings and Jelly-like Mucus”. On April 7 – my stool lab samples resulted in negative for: bacteria, e-coli, parasites, etc. I stopped drinking Kefir 30 days ago and remain with severe bloating, stomachaches and significant Mucus in my stool.. My diet includes lots of peppermint tea in addition to avocados, steamed broccoli and asparagus, eggs and chicken. At this point I’m tremendously concerned because the candida-strings and candida-globs continue to appear with each bowel movement. Any advice is appreciated (supplements, food, herbs, etc) Thanks!

  13. i don’t think kefir and fermentation is good for me at all. I am zero carb and when i drink coconut kefir water, I feel these herx symptoms and that shouldn’t be the case. I don’t eat carbs or sugar for candida to feed off of. There are a lot of people out there that say fermented foods should be avoided by certain people.

  14. I know Kefir is a balance of good bacteria and yeasts. I recently had to begin taking a very strong antifungal (terbinafine). My concern is: while I take this medication that it will kill the yeasts and let the bacteria over populate. Should I still drink my Kefir or stop? Should I just drink the store bought type because it’s a low concentration probiotic?

    1. Erin I don’t know the answer because I don’t know what kind of fungi your medicine kills… however I would say it’s probably quite safe. If the medicine caused that issue, it would happen to most people since there’s already a high concentration of bacteria in your intestine. But I’ve never heard of anti-fungal medication causing bacterial infections. I’m not a doctor though… if you are not sure- ask the doctor who prescribed it

      Kefir Nurse

  15. hi, my husband is in terrible pain due to back and fibromyagia. He has also been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. I started making milk kefir, kombucha and water kefir. we share one cup with fruit and coconut cream in the blender ever am. We also have one cup of kombucha spiit up during the day and a glass of water kefer. Is this too much. We just recently started the brain grain diet so high fat, no gluten. We started Mar. 1 we went through a few weeks of feeling terrible but seem to be coming out the other side of it. I am making all these products at home with milk kefer grains, water kefer grains and scabies. My milk kefer keeps separating all the time bust tastes fine. I just through it in the blender. Should we decrease our amounts or stop taking some of this. stuff. We really enjoy it but want to be safe.

    1. Hi Stella Thanks for your question. Your body will tell you when you have too much. As long as you feel fine, drink as much as you enjoy. 🙂

      Kefir Nurse

      1. Thank you so much for your reply. My kefir grains seem to not be working any more they look fine though. I put 4 tablespoons into a quart jar with 4 cups of grass fed whole milk and let it sit in a dark room for 24 hours. I did another jar with 3 tablespoons of kefir grains and 3 cups of coconut milk. and it does not seem to be giving the milk that wonderful tangy taste it used to have. Don’t know what I am doing wrong.

    2. I’ve been dabbling in kefir for a few months now. While at the store on Sunday I saw single serving size and bought them. Sunday afternoon I had the entire thing ( which isn’t much more than I normally have) and about 5 hours later I had a full on flu type reaction. Violently ill for about 12 hours. Now that has subsided I have a horrendous headache and am extremely irritable. Also every time I eat my intestines start making a very loud gurgling sound and I feel like I have to go to the bathroom, so I run to go and nothing happens. Just severe cramping and gurgling. Also I drank 2 huge glasses of water and have only gone pee twice?!?! Could this be a herx reaction?

    3. I am experiencing a lot of joint pains and I have recently added kefir to my daily morning foodstuff. Mostly knees, ankles and hands. Is it the excess calcium or proteins from the milk or the toxin shedding? I drink only about 1/2 cup per day at breakfast, then maybe another 3/4 cup later in a smoothie at lunch. I used to drink kefir regularly, but never had this problem before. I have had digestive issues prior to kefir, they seem to have subsided…but the joint pain is pretty extensive…even in areas like my shins…not at a joint site?

  16. Great site! Started Taking store bought milk kefir about 2 weeks ago…a bit here and there in smoothies but not too much. 5 days ago started daily about 4oz. I also have UC, well controlled, and have read lots and tried lots on probiotics. Have had very bad fatigue, bloating, abdomen soreness, slight diarrhea, and increased urination. Much of this could appear to be a UC flare starting so I’m on edge….but some key symptoms of a UC flare are also missing…so I’m not sure what’s happening. Could this be a herx reaction?

    1. Hi Howard It certainly could be a herx reaction. You know your body best though so don’t risk getting sick. If you feel uncomfortable, you can always back off on the kefir a little.

      Kefir Nurse

  17. Hello , some advice please. I have suffered anxiety and IBS and CFS for about 10 years , have tried everything going with no luck.I started kefir 6 days ago , 2 0z 2 days , 4 oz 2 days , 6 oz the last 2 days. For the last 4 days i have been waking up at 3-4 am in morning, normally wake at 7am.Then yesterday feel the worse anxiety for about 3 years , my head feels giddy/dizzy , what do you think ? is it a detox reation ? many thanks for your help 🙂

    1. Hi Steve Thanks for your message. Anxiety and giddiness are very common reactions to kefir. I would back it off and increase more slowly, and see how you feel.

      Kefir Nurse

      1. I am so glad to find this page. My diet has been very clean now for over a year if you can say consuming organic wild chickens is clean, yech, but trying to get it down for the protein. I have had Keifer twice and the first time felt a burning almost chemical reaction in my face and severe anxiety. I had to stop work and do deep breathing for 10 minutes. I stopped Kefir and then tried again 3 weeks later and had the same reaction. I have not had sugar other then that in small amounts of fruit daily in 2 years. I will try doing 1 tablespoon at a time and working my way up. Is it really that beneficial? I normally do not consume any milk products whatsoever and have not for almost my whole life, I thought that was the problem. Thank you for your help. 🙂

        1. Rhonda the anxiety is a classic herx reaction. There are a number of things that could be happening behind the scenes but anxiety and/or panic attacks are very common when bacteria dump toxins because they are threatened and/or dying. There is almost certainly an imbalance here- however- before you try again- do please go get some benadryl to have on hand. It is possible that because of the imbalance and the battle of the bacteria, your body is mounting an over the top immune response. I am not as concerned about the anxiety but the chemical burn thing is disconcerting. Did it LOOK like a burn? Or just feel like one, along with flushing? The first is concerning, but if the feeling was accompanied with flushing but not actually rash, burn, peeling etc then you likely won’t need to take benadryl, but have it on hand any way

          Kefir Nurse

          1. Can you still get amazing benefits drinking less kefir, I done half a pint yesterday of chuckling goats kefir as I had some left over and my god I felt so tired and miserable, is 120ml – 150ml a day adequate?

          2. Hi there, I too have just started taking kefir yoghurt in a bid to ease my ibs, and also have had a burning sensation in my cheeks and around my eyes. Also anxiety has really increased.

        1. Hi There Anxiety is normal. As the bacteria in your gut become threatened by the good organisms, they release chemicals that can cause feelings of anxiety.
          By “back it off” I mean drink less, or divide the amount over the course of the day. You just may need to introduce smaller amounts into your system in the beginning.
          Kefir Nurse

  18. Here’s one I have NEVER seen the answer to. It seems that when I drink more than about 1 c per day, my athletes foot acts up like crazy. Now A–am I crazy or is this really happening? Anyone else have this symptom? B–is this reaction because the sugar in the milk is stimulating my fungus/yeast? Or some kind of die off? Should I drink more? Should I drink less? Help!?

    1. Stephen I have never heard of kefir aggravating athlete’s foot. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. 1cc is not very much though. There not enough sugar in 1cc of kefir to affect anything. Why don’t you try putting some of that good kefir in a warm water bath and doing a foot soak every day. 🙂 Plus definitely try more than 1cc of kefir and see how you do. Try 30cc (1 ounce) a day for a bit and let us know how you make out.

      Kefir Nurse

  19. Hey, I just got Kefir from my neighbor on Sunday. She didn’t tell me anything about dosage so I just drank around 1,5 liter of it a day. I have a very bad headache and feel dizzy. For the posts I can imagine I drank too much of it. The question it what to do to make it better quicker. I have deadlines and presentations, cannot relax in bed this week unfortunately.
    Thank you

  20. I’m so thankful I found this site!
    I just started Kefir, strawberry & blueberry flavors…
    I was literally scared to death! I didn’t know about any of the Herx reactions, or “dying off”…I sure felt like I was dying off lol!
    But seriously I hadn’t heard how to take it, just knew I had bowel issues & couldn’t probably benefit from it.
    I started with 1/2 a cup twice a day & within 2 weeks, 1 cup twice a day….that’s when the feeling of death set in!
    I was a little nauseous after the 1/2 cup regime, but looked over it…now it was bad…my body temperature dropped & kept dropping, I just wanted to sleep & sleep, but woke up tired, had no appetite at all …on & on.
    I am also a 4th stage bone mets patient…& all of this truly gave me a scare, but after reading this page, I think I’ll give it a few days & go slow!
    Again, I’m so thankful I happened upon this page!
    Thank you!

    1. I have been drinking a lot of kefir for the past couple of months. I was getting the feelings of dizziness extreme brain fog and extreme tiredness. I’m guessing that it’s the kiefer that is causing this. Today was the first day that I didn’t drink any in a long time and I felt a little bit better.

    2. This exact same thing happened to me today too. I’ve consumed about 1 litre of kefir in the last 2 days and today I had this panic attack. I didn’t know what was going on because I’d never experienced this be for. At some point I literally thought that I was dieing. I had to lie down and meditate for about half our for the symptoms to pass. This site has helped heaps. Thanks it deffinetly feels like there is a war going on inside me. The wierd thing though was it felt more mental than actual physical. Such a weird experience. Has not detected me at all the super excited to keep pushing through. Thanks again.

  21. I would like to say something to all people, I had a sinusitis in past for over 4-5 years. I had to took lots of antibiotics almost every year or 2 and those antibiotics were powerful of course. I was also eating so much desert as I love them. 2 and half years ago, strange feelings were started, I was having only Nausea and sometimes constipation. But something was wrong with me, I went many doctors and departments, unfortunately not a single doctor here in my country aware about Candida Yeast Infection, many of them tought its a psychological issue and suggested anti-depressant which is wrong. After all those antibiotics for years and eating so much sugar deserts, I realized that I have Candida Yeasts. How I understand this ? When I find out kefir and drunk it for the first time, crampings, un-explained pains, dizziness, drunk feelings, panic and anxiety, nausea and reflux as a bonus started. I didnt know a single thing about die off symptoms of candida until I read google. I had those all issues when I drunk kefir, i was feeling so bad, like feeling dying when I drunk. After using kefir for 2-3 months I was feeling okay and I left drinking it and I was fine for 1 year. Unfortunately 5 months ago I had to take antibiotic again and I was eating deserts again, sadly candida returned back and today I just started to drink kefir again. Again i felt like I’m dying after I drink it, I make a shot of 250ml kefir. The brain fog was a new bonus, I didnt expect that much die off side effects since I drunk kefir in the past. But I see, those side effects are related to how much bad bacteria or candida you have in your bowels and I see I have so much this time, worst then ever. I’m going to drink it slowly and I know i must not eat any sugar for a long time to get rid of this candida. I also do know these bad days and feelings will go off one day soon. I suggest to everyone dont give up, be strong and continue to take kefir and you will be okay.

  22. Thank you so much for your help answering us.
    My dad and me are drinking the water kefir for a month now a drink a day. 5 tbs of sugar plus 1 tsp of molasse
    We are both affected buy pre diabete
    I check once in a while the level of alcohol after 2 days and the level is always<1% so less than a beer
    My question is what is the mecanism that give us everyday that dizziness and to both of us after les than 10 min

    Thank you for your answer

  23. I was taking water Keifir with no side effects for about four months. One glass every morning before breakfast. I then started having a small bowl mixed with fruit yougurt on alternate days. I thought it was great initially as my heartburn seemed to vanish overnight. However in the past three weeks I have had first diarrhoea which just lasted a night, but a week later felt nauseated a lot, especially after eating, extremely exhausted and full of wind with an awful lots of belching and the rest!…and some more diarrhoea.
    I wonder if it’s the kefir causing this nausea (which is the worst side effect and now loosing weight as no appetite much). Could this happen even after being fine with drinking it for so long initially (few months???)
    Thanks very much

    1. Hi Marie It is unlikely to be the cause of illness after a long time unless it has been contaminated with a not so friendly bacteria. The only real way to know if the kefir is causing your illness is to stop drinking it, and try it again once you are feeling better.

      I hope this is helpful.

      Kefir Nurse

  24. HI Am Prashant, last week i took a glass of water ( coconut water) kefir, next day it was badly shivering , and very high temperature of about 103 degree, very high stomach cramps and did not felt to eat any thing, very bad smell gas and stool, then i took the medicines, but same time i continued with the water ( coconut water) kefir a glass about 300 ml, it was quiet strong dose, but after medicines completed, i again got he very high fever about 103 degree, but this time not stomach cramps, it is the Herx effect? shall i continue with the water kefir or stop it, and when can i reintroduce the kefir and how much quantity.

    1. Hello Prashant of course it “could” be herx. it certainly would be a very violent herx reaction. Since this post was written 5 days ago I suspect you now know by now whether you had a flu. If your symptoms have cleared up, start by taking just a tablespoon of kefir. If you are still feeling ok in a few hours try another teaspoon. In this manner increase until you can work up to the full dosage. 🙂 The high fever is very unusual though. I do not understand what you mean by “took the medicines” … what did you take? Do you mean you took something to try to bring the fever down?

  25. Hi, I started drinking water kefir (home-made) a few weeks ago. After a few days of digestive adaption it was fine and I started drinking lots more of it. But now my scalp is itchy like crazy and my tongue is white and I have some discharge, all kinda yeast infection symptoms, or allergic reaction (too much histamine)?
    I remember having had a test years ago that said I react to yeast. Does that mean I should not have kefir?

    1. Hi Caroline Yeast exist in all of us, and the yeast that is in bread is not the same kind of yeast as is in kefir. Having said that, it does sound like yeast and/or histamine. of course there is no real way for me to know for sure. When you start drinking kefir you do have a battle that goes on while your body is trying to establish a “new world order”. The balance is tipped as the bad bacteria dies off and that could theoretically allow for yeast to temporarily get a foot hold, however if that is what is going on, it should tip in favor of the probiotic bacteria as your body adjusts. Histamine release can also happen as the bad bacteria die off and release toxins. These are potential explanations, but again I have no real way of knowing for sure. If it were me, I would cut back again on the amount. May have been too much, too fast.

      1. Hi, I started taking dairy kefir about one month ago, 250mls. I have noticed an increase of symptoms, fuzzy head, dull headache, aches & pains but have also noticed that my breathing is affected. Not too bad, but I do find my chest a bit tight. I would be very mild asthmatic, since childhood so I am guessing this is all part of the die off and healing process. I have been using my inhaler a bit more whereas normally I would not need it at all only if I have a cold.
        Like others in this post, I was going to discontinue with the grains as I thought maybe they were making me sick but I will reduce the dose for a while and see if this improves the symptoms.
        I also noticed that my eyes were very sore, red & grainy, this is improving slightly. I started to have very loose bowel movements also but this has settled down a bit so just think I need to take less maybe as you mentioned a few spoonful’s and take it from there.
        Thank you for your advise and encouragement

        1. It does sound a lot like allergy symptoms, but that imbalance of bacteria can cause a lot of different symptoms. Basically the bad bacteria die off and release toxins into your body. Like I have said before, if you are not allergic to the ingredients that go into the kefir, then the bacteria is stimulating a histamine release to try and make you stop! 🙂

          Kefir Nurse

  26. I just took my first spoonful and immediately felt my throat tighten(like an allergic reaction) Kind of scary. I want to give this a try, but is this normal?

      1. berry flavored coconut water kefir. I sat it out and waited about an hour, and just to be safe I took a bendryl, in case my throat actually was closing up some. It just felt tight. My whole body(an hour and a half after taking the kefir) feels like I took a shot of liquor(that heavy in all your muscles type of feeling). Didn’t expect this?

        1. Hi Julie Did you make it yourself? If it is home made and made with water kefir grains, it is unlikely an allergy. The “shot of liquor” feeling is quite common. There are a number of reasons why but it has to do with chemicals that the bacteria release. This is not a bad thing. Your body is not used to all that good bacteria. Once it balances out, you may still get a good feeling of euphoria, or you may get no reaction before. The “tight in the throat” feeling… well I have not heard of that reaction before but again, in home made water kefir it is unlikely to be an allergy. Again that does not mean it is not. It would be highly unusual is all.

          Kefir Nurse

          1. It was a bottle I bought at Whole Foods. Not home made.Your comments make me feel more assured. I also have celiac, and thought this would be a good thing for it. I have no issues with gluten contamination, so it’s not that.

          2. I would be more concerned about food colorings and/or additives than the kefir bacteria itself. Good call on the celiac… good bacteria could help, certainly with leaky gut, and anti-inflammatory chemicals! Take it slow. 🙂

            Kefir Nurse

  27. I like the taste of frozen Kefir. But I get sick and very, very exhausted every single time I eat it. I don’t think everything can be contributed to die off. I think Kefir just makes some people sick.

    1. Dorrie thank you for your comments. Almost without exception, the articles on this site relate to kefir made at home with authentic kefir grains. Commercial kefir has less bacteria by far. In fact, Lifeway frozen kefir claims to only have “10 probiotic cultures”. It also has Sugar, Tapioca Maltodextrin, Natural Flavors, Stabilizer (Guar Gum, Carob Bean Gum). It is very very rare to have dies off from a single serving of commercial kefir. Kefir made at home has only the ingredients you add, and a huge probiotic yeast and bacterial family. Die off is almost certain to occur. Some will experience a very mild die off, and will barely notice, while others will feel quite ill as a result.

      Having said all that, any food has the potential of causing an allergic or intolerancy reaction. You are absolutely correct … I can not say everyone in the world can tolerate kefir. Still most people who start drinking kefir, made at home with authentic grains will feel better if they persist in drinking it every day. 🙂

      Kefir Nurse

  28. Thanks for a brilliant site! I started making kefir three weeks ago and as I had a bit of reaction using dried kefir (headaches). When a friend gave me some kefir grains, I only took 100 ml a day for about 5 days. I then began to feel ill, high temperature, vomiting, then days of nausea and back pain. In the end I went to the doctors who diagnosed a UTI (I am prone to these and kidney stones). I initially thought I was experiencing ‘die off’, as the symptoms are not all that different. I stopped taking kefir after the vomiting, and as I am now taking an antibiotic I would like to start kefir again. Two questions: Could the UTI be a result of die off? When would you suggest I start again with kefir? (I tried one teaspoon yesterday but after half an hour got bad stomach pains). Jed

    1. Hi Jed Thanks for your message. It is unlikely that the kefir (or the die off) caused the UTI. Having said that, when you are experiencing die off, your immune system is occupied with what is going on in the intestines. Did you know that a HUGE 70% of your immune system is in your gastrointestinal system? So your resistance to infection may have been lower because of the activity. Now, more than ever, you need the kefir because the antibiotics have further compromised your bacterial colonies. Take a little kefir every day. If 1 teaspoon gives you stomach pains, you may have to suffer through the symptoms to try to restore some balance. 

      Kefir Nurse

      1. Thanks! I knew it would not be the kefir but did wonder, as you say, whether my resistance to infection could be lowered. I will get back to my kefir as i am very motivated to take it!

  29. Hi,
    I read store bought kefir is not as strong as homemade. Can you still get a herx from store bought? I started taking 1 tablespoon a day and am feeling ill. I am familiar with herx as I have Lyme disease. Does kefir kill off the Lyme as well? I have diarrhea , cramping, decreased appetite, nauseous, extreme fatigue,and sometimes a sharp pain in my abdomen . Herx? Or do I have the stomach flu?

    1. Hi Kristine If your internal bacterial community is severely compromised, you can indeed experience herx with store bought kefir, but you are right, store bought is not nearly as potent as home made. I haven’t read anything about kefir and Lyme disease (although I have seen lime kefir! lol) As far as herx versus flu… wait a day or two off kefir and then introduce it again. If the symptoms recur, it’s likely herx.

      Kefir Nurse

  30. Hi have just started drinking kefir and am getting the sore throats and nausea. I’ve only used the shop made up version. Is this less potent?

    1. Oh no, it is MUCH more potent. Store bought kefir is no more potent than yogurt. Cut back on the amount you drink, and spread it out over the day. Then slowly increase. Once you are tolerating it well you may want to switch to home made. It sounds like you really need the good bacteria! 

      Kefir Nurse

  31. I’ve doing my water kefir for the last few months and every time I drink it I feel like my arms are falling apart, brain fog and a general feeling of being drunk but this only last a few minutes. I don’t brew it more than 24 hours. Do you have an idea of what could be happening to me? Thanks

    1. Hi Ronnie These healthy bacteria release compounds that your body loves. You get a flood of compounds when you drink a glass full. This happens to a lot of people. My sister says the water kefir “makes her drunk” too, along with an over all sense of well being. This is your brain saying “more of that please”. When the bacteria establish themselves in your body they release of feel good compounds is more gradual, and research now shows that these same compounds combat depression. Pretty cool eh? 

      Kefir Nurse

  32. I have been making whole milk kefir for about six weeks and drink it after it has separated, I like the taste :), In the last 5 weeks I have developed red, dry, itchy sore eyes and they are getting worse. I drink 200-250mls twice a day and have now stopped using it to see if the problem clears up, any ideas or anyone else with this problem?

    1. Hi Elaine I will be interested to see if it was the kefir. I think it unlikely, but since your immune system is closely connected to the bacteria in youe gut, I wouldn’t say it definitely is not! 

      Kefir Nurse

      1. Well I have had a miraculous recovery after not taking the Kefir for 3 days. The redness,itchiness and soreness has all but disappeared round my eyes(started bleeding at one point) and for the first time in 2 months I will be able to wear my contact lenses and, hopefully a little more makeup than just foundation to hide the redness.I can’t believe what a difference there is. I am going to leave it for a few more days and then reintroduce about 100mls a day, to inoculate, and will see what happens. I am a firm believer in fermentation and will now try and find a balance.Will keep you posted and thank you for your reply, much appreciated
        Elaine 🙂

        1. Hi Elaine Thanks so much for reporting back. You know… sometimes the body that reacts the strongest needs it the most! Do you drink whole milk daily without problems? If it is not the milk causing the problem, then I wonder if your body is trying to maintain status quo… sometimes the less helpful bacteria get entrenched and put up a real fuss about being crowded out! That 100 mls… If it were me I would only introduce 30ml… a couple of tablespoons for a few days and gradually increase and see how your body reacts.

          Kefir Nurse

          1. Well my eyes have healed up completely and now I am reintroducing the 30ml as suggested, I will stay with that amount for a while and see if I can build it up a little at a time. thanks for your help 🙂

        2. Sounds like a histamine reaction. i’m not knocking kefir in any way, but i’d suggest reading up on histamine degrading probiotics

  33. Hi, I have at last made a successful kefir taste really good. But did it hit me hard.
    I just did a 24 hr kefir but it only hurt me at nights. Mt eyes are the worst part they would get very gritty and the left eyeball would hurt. This is not unusual for me as I have lots of allergies and my eyes are the first to notice. I understand that there is a nerve connects your stomach to left ear and eyes.
    I don’t understand though if I am allergic to kefir or its fighting a good fight. I would guess though that my system is in a bad way. I have had food poisoning 3 times in my life and also picked up an infection from a train seat that had been used as a urinal……ugh (these are many years ago). Plus many years of loads of coffee and beer.
    I have though been drinking raw milk for the last 3 weeks and getting on ok with it especially as I have not had milk for about 18 years. I can’t drink any of the others as I can’t take coconut/nuts and soya is always in a cardboard carton that is lined with some type of polyester plastic (big no go area for me) as I developed chemical sensitive and last year electrical sensitive.
    I have put my kifer on ice and ordered some water kifer ass it may be a bit more gentle on me and I am getting some probiotics from the raw milk. I have also been doing the potato resistant starch for the last 2 weeks and I dont think that did me any good at all.

  34. Hi there! I started taking Kefir a couple of days ago. Immediately at the end of the first day I had a wave of nausea and then diarrhea. I have what feels the start of a yeast infection too. Would you consider that die off? I will back off the kefir and restart when the symptoms go away. But I thought it was supposed to get rid of candida not make it worse. Thoughts?

    1. Hi Shannon Yes I would imagine that is die off. Kefir does not get rid of candida. Candida is part of the balance of organisms that live in and on you. Kefir helps to restore the balance of helpful bacteria that keeps the Candida Albicans and others yeasts and bacteria in check so they do not dominate. It is not unusual to see a flare up of symptoms. The harmful bacteria and yeast are kicking up a little defense as a turf war is happening in your body battleground! 

      Kefir Nurse

      1. thanks for your quick reply. I actually think it may be a uti not yeast because it came with pain the night before in my left kidney (which I have never had before but read it’s more related to uti). I took some organic coconut oil last night and the symptoms are all gone today, so I’m going to restart the kefir only much more slowly to start.

        1. Hi Shannon Well I am really glad your symptoms cleared up anyway! Let me know how you make out.

          Kefir Nurse

          1. Thanks so much for your support during all that. I am now drinking plain milk Kefir twice/day now and having no problems. All symptoms gone! So I think all of that nonsense was die off.

          2. Hi Shannon I am thrilled that it worked out! I am impressed that you are drinking it plain too! Many people find the taste hard to swallow plain! I am one of those actually! I whir mine with berries! 

            I looked after that other thing you asked as well. :- ) 

            Hey come back and share your experiences after you’ve been taking it a while. I would love to know how you feel your health improving as time goes on! 

            Kefir Nurse

  35. Hi! The water kefir makes me a little dizzy when drinking it. Is it generally safe to drink while pregnant?

    1. Hi Tere Thanks for your note. I am not a doctor, so if you are concerned it may be best to check with him/her but generally if your doctor does not say to avoid yogurt then kefir and fermented foods are quite fine. 

      Kefir Nurse

  36. My coworker pushed me to drink a large glass of kefir on Monday for the first time, and now on Thursday morning I’m still feeling awful. I’ve been nauseous, had the runs and gas, sore throat, dizziness and a terrible headache. I feel like death. How long does this process usually last for people?

    1. Hi Rachel It’s hard to say- everyone is different, but boy you must really have an imbalance! 

      Kefir Nurse

    1. Hi AStaff: Thanks for your question. It is really a matter of preference. Water kefir tastes better, but has a little more sugar. Both have a similar profile of probiotic activity. 

      Keifr Nurse

  37. Thank you for this info. I have many allergies & was disappointed to think I might be allergic to the water kefir. I’m glad that’s not the case. I also wondered if maybe it was too fermented. ..I did feel ever so slightly intoxicated after consumption. It seems that’s not the case either. Then there was concern if there were sugar issues as I’m hypoglycemic. Apparently not. I’ve also experienced sore throat, sinus issues, ears hurting, brain fog. So glad to know it’s all just die off. I’m ok to tough it out & get the bad buggers dead. I must admit that I drink 3 or 4 glasses a day of it. Should I limit it? It’s just so freaking tastey!

  38. Hi: I’ve been enjoying water kefir for about 4 wks now. But the last month I’ve had a bad cold, with coughing, sore throat & fatigue. I was just feeling better and now its coming back and I never get sick as a rule. Could this be from the kefir? I would think after drinking it for a month my body would be accustomed to it.

    1. Hi AStaff: While many people are used to it in a month’s time, everyone is different. It depends totally on your internal bacteria environment! 

      Kefir Nurse

  39. I get some side effects for sure. I have candida pretty bad I think, but I just bite the bullet with the symptoms. I feel euphoric, then sometimes sharp instant pains in my head, body in places. But when I feel good I feel good. And my nose has been running like a mofo.

    1. Nose running!! gee I still have that. My body has a love/hate relationship with my bacteria for sure! 

      Kefir Nurse

  40. Hi and many Thanks for this site / information. Like many of the above I have had terrible nausea as a result of (probably) taking too much Kefir at first. I have followed the instructions carefully, I have to add a litre of milk to mine, sometimes coconut, or almond milk, then I have to put 3 spoons full of kefir in another litre jar to keep the ‘cycle’ going, problem is I have loads of Kefir in the fridge an I am scared of it going off, so I drink at least a large glass a day, mostly at bedtimes, then I get up have breakfast and it comes straight back up.

    making too much Kefir at once is hard not to do, what should I do with it all, and how long will it keep.


    1. Hi Mike Thanks for your email. Well my first thought re: too much kefir is to make less! Take out extra kefir grains and freeze them, give them away or put them in your smoothies. Extra kefir can be used as an ingredient in baked goods (pancakes, breads and muffins etc) and it will keep in the refrigerator for a very long time (months and months). Remember that fermenting was a way to preserve milk before refrigeration. It will continue to sour in the fridge, albeit at a much slower rate. At some point you may be able to drink several glasses of kefir a day. I do now with no problems, although I did have troubles too in the beginning and had to build up to it.

      Kefir Nurse                                                                                        

  41. Hi there, As someone who is allergic to alcohol ( stopped drinking alcohol ten years ago) and also has given up sugar nine months ago ( as it gave me headaches and fatigue amongst other things) I am worried that water kefir is not a good idea for me. Should I stick to milk kefir do you think as thankfully I am not dairy intolerant and love dairy ! 🙂

    1. Hi Phoebe Well water kefir DOES have alcohol in it, albeit a very small amount. It will have more sugar than milk kefir though. You know, some people find they do ok even with a sugar issue. If it were me, I would start with milk kefir and get used to drinking that every day. Then there’s no harm in trying water kefir later. It’s only 23 dolars to try, and I don’t  know about you, but I’ve spent a lot of money over the years trying things that I didn’t care for. I don’t know of any other way to find out what works! 

      Let me know how your experiments go! We are starting to gather quite a lot of community knowledge and experience here. 

      Kefir Nurse

  42. Omg!! I started having all those symptoms as well, cough, dizziness, sore throat I even started taking antibiotics because I had a earache!! Right know my ears are clogged 🙁 I really feel so sick….and it makes sense I started drinking 8 oz of my fresh kefir everyday 3 days ago…..I wont drink it anymore until I get better and then I will follow your advice of drinking small portions.. Thank you for all the information you provided !!

  43. Holy crap! I had a cup two days in a row and was SO SO sick last night! I had 90% of the symptoms you state above…! Had I not found this post, I would have DEFINITELY thrown the Kefir in the bin. Where I was sure it belonged the way I was feeling last night! Even had a 24 hour doctor come over and give me a nausea shot in my but to help! I will have today off and start again tomorrow with a tablespoon each day for a few days, then 2 tablespoons, etc etc…

    1. Hi Eddy I am so sorry to hear that! Some people really do get quite sick! The bacteria that currently reside in your intestines have a happy life, and they don’t want to be evicted! I’m really glad you found this post too! 

      Kefir Nurse

  44. Thank you very much Kefir Nurse for you amazing time spent on educate us, the novice!!
    Is there a risk taking in using the Water keffir that fermented under 24 hours?
    I did that recently, it seem to be ready because fermentation went very strong, I added Coconut palm sugar and a tinny bit of Blackstrap Molasses and after I had 1/2 cup the night before, the next day I experienced nausea and diarrhea. It is not the first time I’m using it, maybe the first time not letting stay over 30 hors or more…

    1. Hi Julia There is np problem with under fermentation, but if the fermentation is strong that is a sign that you need less grains or more sugar water in your mix! 🙂

  45. Hello I have 2 questions.

    1 can you let your kefir water ferment for longer than 48 hours? I have left it for 3 long days is it still ok to drink?
    2 What happens when the grains get large? are they still ok?


    1. Hi Helen You can let kefir water ferment longer, but at some point it will turn vinegary and taste horrible. 

      Large grains are fine. Smaller grains have more surface area and thus work faster, but they inevitably grow. 

      Kefir Nurse

  46. Ah, so that’s what it was. My face suddenly got really hot as I was drinking kefir. At first I thought I was developing a fever but other than feeling flushed I felt fine. Then I thought I was allergic to the stuff but resumed drinking it the next day and was fine.

    Now I’ve been having really bad nausea and anxiety. I just chalked it up to my hypoglycemia and my anxiety getting worse. Didn’t realize it could have been the kefir’s fault.

    1. Yes I’m glad I found this site I also have a lot of the systems but I’m not going to quit now.I’m just going to cut back.I was taking more then a cup for the first 3 days.but now I’m going to only take 1/4 cup for a week or so.and then build it up.

  47. This is very interesting. I get a very dizzy/ whoozy feeling after I drink my water kefir too. I was blaming the alcohol content, as I find it feels exactly like I just had a cup of wine instead of kefir. As I live in the tropics I thought maybe it fermented too much, but then someone send me this link. Is there a way of knowing for sure there is not something wrong with my kefir?

    1. Hello If your grains are fermenting, and it looks and smells like kefir, they are fine, but the only way to know “for sure” is to have them tested in a lab. 

      Kefir Nurse

  48. Wow, thnk you for this information, very few site say about this detox on the begining, they just say it s super and you should feel Super..I am starting drinking and not feeling very well, I was sad and concern of not able to drink kefir. it helped me a lot!!!! gratitude!

  49. My Kefir is doing really great. I have to ask if it is normal that the whey of the milk separates. The kefir has started to get a little thicker, and I usually drink it as a smoothie, or eat my muesli with Kefir. Should I take the grains out when the milk separates or is this the process that it should be going.

    1. Hi Desiree I am SO happy you are enjoying your kefir. Some people like the kefir when it separates. I usually try to catch it before because I don’t like it quite so sour. It’s really a personal preference. You may find this link helpful!

      Keifr Nurse

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