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Kefir in the Paleo Diet

By Aglaee Jacob ; Updated July 18, 2017

The Paleo diet is based on foods that our ancestor hunter-gatherers used to eat prior to the domestication of cattle and the introduction of agriculture. Dairy, grains, legumes, sugar and processed foods were not part of their diet, which consisted mainly of grass-fed meat, free-range chicken and game meat as well as seasonal vegetables, fruits, nuts and tubers. Kefir is a type of fermented dairy, similar to yogurt, that is not part of the original Paleo diet but that can be included in your diet as a good source of probiotics if you tolerate it well.

Dairy and Paleo

Food sensitivities, or an inability to tolerate certain foods, are quite common, although most people are unaware that these food intolerances are responsible for some of their health issues, according to Paleo diet advocates. Some people do not do well with dairy, either because of lactose intolerance or sensitivity to casein, one of the main proteins found in dairy. Robb Wolf, author of "The Paleo Solution," suggests that you eliminate all dairy, including butter, cream, cheese, milk, yogurt and kefir, during the first 30-day Paleo challenge to assess whether you feel better without it.

30-Day Paleo Challenge

Most people who go on the Paleo diet first do a 30-day Paleo challenge, which consists of eliminating all modern foods, including dairy, grains, legumes, sugar and processed foods. This 30-day challenge is a good way to eliminate your cravings for sugar and grains more quickly and allow you to rapidly see whether the Paleo diet is giving you the results you are after. By following the principles of an elimination diet, the 30-day Paleo challenge removes most of the food that could be contributing to your weight or health problems.

Tolerance to Dairy

The best way to determine whether a food, such as kefir, is causing you problems is to eliminate all dairy for at least 30 days and then reintroduce dairy products back, one at a time, into your diet. If you are not feeling as well once you reintroduce dairy into your Paleo diet, it may be best for you to avoid it. On the other hand, if you don't notice any differences in the way you feel when reintroducing kefir into your diet, it means that you tolerate it well and can keep it in your diet. Wolf recommends that people with autoimmune conditions, such as celiac disease, Hashimoto's thyroiditis and rheumatoid arthritis, not consume dairy at all.

Fermented Foods

The Paleo diet encourages the consumption of fermented foods, such as raw sauerkraut, kombucha and fermented dairy products, because of the gut-friendly bacteria they provide. Kefir contains different strains of healthy bacteria that can help you improve your gut flora. Avoid kefir that is sweetened or flavored or that contains artificial ingredients. Select kefir made from the full-fat milk of a grass-fed cow. Choose plain kefir, or make it yourself. Mix it with fresh fruit or berries if desired.

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