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Kefir, Alcohol, Chocolate and Candida

This post answers a couple of questions from blog visitors, concerning the alcohol content of kefir, the consumption of chocolate and their impact on Candida overgrowth.

Q. Dear Cynthia,

I have systemic candida and I’m following a diet and taking antifungals and probiotics.

I have also been making water kefir as I understand it is very helpful in treating candida due to the beneficial bacteria it contains.

However, I am finding that by the time it has fermented long enough to lose most of its sweetness, it is actually quite alcoholic and I feel drunk after it! Which is surely not the best idea.

I was wondering if you had any experience or advice regarding this?

Thank you! Julia

A. Hi Julia,

Yes, it is true that all kefir (not just water kefir) contains, what I consider to be, a substantial amount of naturally occurring alcohol. The amount present will vary from batch to batch, depending on a variety of factors like length of fermentation, temperature of room and tightness of the lid. My research indicates that the alcohol content may range anywhere from .08% to as much as 3%. A standard beer contains between 3 and 10 percent. You can actually make kefir beer if you ferment long enough.

I know that many people praise kefir’s many health benefits, however, I have never been an advocate due to its alcohol content. So it is not something I recommend. This is true of all fermented foods, not just kefir.

I am a recovered alcoholic, so I am not willing to consume any kefir or similar product.

I would not recommend that anyone who has been, or is trying to recover from, an addiction of any kind to use kefir. That includes alcohol, drugs, sugar, carbs, nicotine, caffeine, and chocolate addiction, as the alcohol could trigger cravings for the substance of choice and result in relapse. For anyone in recovery for an addiction, it does matter if it is only a small amount; even minute amounts of alcohol can result in relapse.

In some people, the alcohol content could also have a negative effect on the recovery of many other conditions like insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, adrenal fatigue, depression, anxiety or any other mental health condition, hypoglycemia, insomnia, chemical sensitivity, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, cancer,  and especially liver diseases like cirrhosis or hepatitis.

Furthermore, alcohol will feed Candida and SIBO, so it doesn’t make sense to me that people would use kefir with candida overgrowth. Maybe it’s possible that the high numbers of friendly bacteria present in kefir would outnumber the risks as many people claim, and individuals without any of the aforementioned conditions may not have an issue with kefir, but I personally think it is wiser to go with some other form of probiotic like a supplement.

Cultured vegetables have a little naturally occurring alcohol in them as well. I discovered this when I bought some cultured vegetables and after the first serving, I craved them like an alcoholic drink. I wanted to eat the whole jar at once. I couldn’t wait for meal time so I could eat some more and I was thinking about them all the time. After a little research, I discovered that they do contain a small amount of alcohol, which explained my experience. Some other addicted individuals have reported that cultured veggies have led to relapse. So, some people with a history of addiction may want to exercise caution here as well. I have 25 years of sobriety, so it did not trigger a desire for me to have a drink. However, I would not be willing to put myself at risk like that again.

If you are feeling drunk after drinking your kefir, then clearly the alcohol content is too high. In my view, this cannot be a good thing. Yes, I have heard similar experiences from a few other people.

Additionally, all fermented and cultured foods are high in glutamate and histamine, which can be highly counterproductive for the individual who is in excess of these neurotransmitters. People with Candida frequently have elevated levels of glutamate and/or histamine, because the organism increases them.

If you have SIBO and your overgrowth involves healthy bacteria and/or D-lactate producing bacteria, fermented and cultured foods can exacerbate both of these conditions.

Q. Hi Cynthia

I am fairly new to all of this. I think I am struggling with candida problems and a chocolate addiction – normally I only have 1 square of 85% cocoa chocolate a night, but this can quickly creep up to three or four a day. I love it! I read with interest your article on raw chocolate and carob and wondered if there was anything you could recommend that could be enjoyed after an evening meal with a cup of peppermint tea that would not feed candida or create leaky gut problems?

Thanks
Andrea

A. Hi Andrea,

Unfortunately, no, there is not anything that can simulate the chocolate experience other than carob. There would be no harm in an occasional indulgence of carob with peppermint tea. However, as mentioned in the carob article, carob is a legume and it is fairly high in sugar, so it needs to be reserved only for special occasions, not something you eat every night.

If one is in the early stages of recovery for a sugar or carb addiction or anxiety and depression, carob could trigger a binge, because of its sugar content, so caution must be exercised here as well.

A small serving of fruit smothered in rich creamy macadamia or almond butter could be enjoyed once in a while, but not every night. This too could trigger a binge in some people in the early stages of recovery from sugar or carb addiction.

Yes, indeed it does sound like you have a chocolate addiction, and if you have a chocolate addiction, you most likely have a sugar addiction as well. Chocolate addiction and sugar addiction often occur in conjunction with a Candida problem, for a couple of reasons. One, because it contains sugar, which will feed the Candida; and, two, Candida disrupts neurotransmitters in the brain. Chocolate and sugar have a similar impact on the brain as alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and heroin, so it will temporarily and artificially boost the neurotransmitters that Candida impairs. However, in the long run, chocolate and sugar depletes the neurotransmitters even further, and one becomes addicted to them in order to artificially stimulate the depleted neurotransmitters.

Part of overcoming an addiction is changing habits that are associated with the addiction. So, I think it would be in your best interest to stop drinking the cup of peppermint tea after each meal, for at least a period of time. Because, your peppermint tea time is associated with your chocolate consumption, and will trigger your longing for the chocolate. I suggest you do something else after dinner to replace that activity like listen to music, meditate, take a walk, soak in the tub, deep breathing exercises, commune with nature, or read a book.

If you need help overcoming your addictions, you can find more information in Break Your Sugar Addiction Today.

Best Regards,

Cynthia

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Julia Brownlow August 23, 2013, 7:23 pm

    Dear Cynthia,

    Wow, thank you for answering my question with such care, it was a lovely surprise to come across it here :)

    More recently I have been making coconut water kefir as this is supposed to be safer for people with candida. However I still sometimes experience the “drunk” symptoms from it. Could this be a “die-off” effect from the probiotics causing the candida to die? Or is it more likely to be the effect of the alcohol? Or perhaps it isn’t possible to know :-)

    Thank you so much!

  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins August 26, 2013, 7:37 pm

    Hi Julia,

    You’re welcome. Well, alcohol is one of the toxins that Candida creates in the body when it ferments sugar. So it is possible that it could be a die off symptom, but in the case of kefir, I would tend to believe it is more a result of the alcohol content. Candida typically creates alcohol when it is given a lot of sugar to eat. So, in the case of ingesting alcohol, that would make the yeast create even more alcohol.

    Best
    Cynthia

  • Heather November 28, 2013, 2:58 am

    Thank you for so clearly answering a concern I, too, had before beginning to use Kefir. I was advised to use this for my heart, as well as give it to my children and husband, by a homeopathic healer.

    I have been sober 19 years and it is definitely not going to help this family if mom begins drinking any amount of alcohol on a daily basis!

    So I have tried to get a straight answer for the past few hours by researching, and your answer finally convinced me. There is no “safe” amount of alcohol for me to experiment with–ever.

    I’m sort of sorry to miss out because the benefits of Kefir sound amazing. Then again, a relapse would far outweigh any benefits of a probiotic!

    Thanks again.

  • New Years Eve Michael Kors December 14, 2013, 9:58 pm

    I could not refrain from commenting. Very well written!

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