Frequently Asked Questions

All of Lifeway's products are gluten free and 99% lactose free.

  • What is Kefir?

    Kefir is a cultured probiotic beverage similar in taste and texture to drinkable yogurt, and made from milk fermented with kefir cultures. Originating over 2000 years ago in the Caucasus Mountains – where many people live well over 100 years of age – kefir has been associated with a long list of health benefits.

  • How long does Lifeway Kefir stay fresh for after opening?

    Lifeway kefir should be consumed prior to the expiration date printed on the bottle, regardless if it has been opened or not.

  • What are probiotics?

    Probiotics, which literally mean “beneficial to life,” are live cultures that provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition. Most probiotics include the live active cultures often added to foods like yogurt. Researchers have studied bacteria extensively and considerable evidence indicates that there are several strains of essential good-for-you bacteria that have an ability to promote healthy gastrointestinal functions. Lifeway kefir contains seven to ten billion CFUs of 12 strains of bacteria in each cup to produce a wide array of health benefits.

  • What kinds of bacteria (probiotics) are in Lifeway kefir?

    All Lifeway products contain seven to ten billion CFUs of the following 12 live and active kefir cultures per cup:

    • Lactobacillus Lactis
    • Lactobacillus  Rhamnosus
    • Streptococcus Diacetylactis
    • Lactobacillus Plantarum
    • Lactobacillus Casei
    • Saccharomyces Florentinus
    • Leuconostoc Cremoris
    • Bifidobacterium Longum
    • Bifidobacterium Breve
    • Lactobacillus Acidophilus
    • Bifidobacterium Lactis
    • Lactobacillus Reuteri
  • Are Lifeway Kefir Products Gluten Free?

    All of Lifeway’s products are naturally gluten-free.

  • Why should I add probiotics to my diet?

    The bacteria in the digestive system plays a very important role in our health and can easily be thrown out of balance by everyday lifestyle stressors. Factors that can offset this precious balance include: antibiotics (which sometimes kill both “good” and “bad” bacteria), infections (bacterial, viral and fungal), alcohol consumption, chronic diarrhea, travel, a highly processed low fiber diet and stress. Probiotics are the easiest way to help combat these factors, keeping harmful bacteria in check.

  • How do probiotics work?

    Imagine the path that food takes through the digestive system. Food is passed through the mouth, enters the very acidic stomach and goes into the small intestine where the breakdown of bacteria continues. It is in these last two digestive processes that most bacteria is found. Depending on the balance of “good” and “bad” strains, bacteria can stay in the intestines for quite some time, taking up a significant amount of intestinal wall room and growing surpluses of harmful pathogens like Candida (an overgrowing of yeast). Each time you consume probiotics, they compete for this space and push the harmful bacteria out. For example, bacteria that can turn lactose (milk sugar) into lactic acid can lower the pH of the colon, thereby inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria.

  • How can I identify a probiotic?

    A probiotic must contain live and active cultures. Typically, probiotics can be taken in supplemental form or added to products able to ferment such as yogurt, which is a common source of beneficial bacteria. However, different brands of yogurt can vary greatly in their bacterial composition and potency. Some (particularly frozen) yogurts do not contain any live bacteria. Similarly, through processing and other disruptive factors, supplements can contain probiotics that have long since died and are no longer useable and beneficial to the body. To ensure that you are getting the best form of probiotics, they should be active and traceable to their original bacterial strains, such as kefir – a bundle of seven to ten billion CFUs of twelve live and active cultures.

  • What kinds of Lifeway kefir are available?

    Lifeway Foods makes kefir from original bacteria strains and is the only authentic manufacturer of kefir in the U.S., also offering an organic variety to accommodate all lifestyle needs and tastes.

  • What can I expect when I try it?

    Kefir is similar in consistency to a smoothie and tastes like yogurt. You might think of a drinkable yogurt the first time you taste it, but remember the difference: kefir has more than twice as many live and active cultures as yogurt!

  • Why is Kefir sometimes either too tangy, carbonated, acidic, bubbly, or has a ‘bite’, that tingles on the tongue?

    Since Lifeway kefir contains live and active cultures, there should be a small, varying degree of effervescence, or “fizz.” Kefir contains one strain in particular that creates carbon dioxide as it works. This is what makes Lifeway kefir unique and healthier than most yogurts or similar products. Sometimes this strain can be more active than other times and therefore will create this fizz or bubbly sensation. In addition, the products consistency can vary depending on the amount of time passed after it was produced. All this means is that the probiotic kefir cultures are ACTIVE AND WORKING. This does not mean the product is spoiled or harmful in any way. Spoiled kefir will actually be bitter, and is very rare due to the unique production process. The vast majority of the time, the product should be similar, however, things like temperature have an effect on the amount of probiotic activity. When the bottle is exposed to warmer temps, there is more probiotic activity, and the activity of these cultures speeds up. This higher temperature range generally occurs in the summer, when it is most common for the product to be stored in warmer temperatures either in the truck after leaving our warehouse, at the store level where someone might leave the product out of the cooler for a while, or at some point in this delivery process. You can see this out by leaving a closed bottle out at room temp and see the bottle expand. In any event, and as with any product, if you do not like the taste, for whatever reason, you should be able to return the bottle to the store for a refund.

  • What is the difference between kefir and yogurt?

    Kefir is a creamy probiotic dairy beverage similar to but distinct from Yogurt. Lifeway kefir has significantly more live and active cultures. Each cup contains seven to ten billion CFU’s of 12 strains of bacteria. Lifeway kefir is cultured for 14 to 16 hours, whereas most yogurts are cultured for just two to three hours. It’s that extra time that gives kefir its high probiotic activity count and its delicious, effervescent taste. Yogurt typically has fewer probiotics, and some (particularly frozen) yogurts do not contain any live bacteria. These bacteria could have died because of processing and other disruptive factors. To be sure, always check the label. If the label doesn’t provide enough information, contact the company directly.

  • Where can I find the probiotic Lifeway kefir?

    Lifeway Foods has become the largest supplier of kefir in the country and the only company making real kefir in North America. Lifeway kefir is available nationwide in major supermarkets and health food stores. If you can’t find it at your local store, ask your grocer to carry it, and we will be sure to supply it.

  • How many bacteria should be in a probiotic to be beneficial to our health?

    A probiotic may have only one strain of bacteria targeted to produce a particular health benefit, but Lifeway Kefir has twelve different live and active cultures that help promote myriad health benefits. These cultures multiply in large numbers throughout the fermentation process, and increase what is known as the bacteria count. This bacteria count is measured in “CFU,” which stands for colony forming unit and allows you to know how many good bacteria you are getting. Lifeway kefir contains seven to ten billion CFU’s per serving, depending on certain factors such as the number of days from the expiration date.

  • Where does the milk in non organic Kefir come from?

    Lifeway Foods ONLY uses milk that is rBGH free (Bovine Growth Hormones). The milk also comes from farms that take great care for the cows, treating them in a humane way.

  • Does Lifeway Kefir contain any alcohol?

    No. We have formulated our kefir to NOT contain any alcohol, so it is safe for the whole family, kids, pregnant women, etc.

  • Do probiotics survive when frozen?

    Live probiotics, like those in the Lifeway kefir products, survive when they’re frozen. When frozen, they “go to sleep” or lay dormant. Once you consume them, they become active and may provide all the benefits of cultures in refrigerated kefir.

  • What is the difference between Lifeway Frozen Kefir and if I freeze the drinkable kefir products myself?

    When making our Frozen Kefir, we begin the process with our drinkable kefir product but it’s formulated with a method similar to ice cream. This ensures the consistency and quality of the product.

    If you freeze your own drinkable kefir, it will freeze like ice and cannot be thawed. If it were to thaw, the liquids and solids would separate and it would lose its consistency. If you want to freeze your drinkable kefir, don’t freeze it in its bottle – use an ice tray or an ice cream container instead.

  • Where is the expiration date on a bottle of Lifeway Kefir?

    The easiest way to find the expiration date on your bottle of Lifeway kefir is to turn it sideways like a ship in a bottle. Notice how the bottle has rounded corners? The expiration date will be printed along or near one of those corners. See the photo below for an example:


  • Why is Lifeway Kefir sometimes lumpy?

    Our milk is non-homogenized and free from chemical stabilizers, so some of those lumps might be bits of fat and cream from the milk that have stuck together as result of the culturing process. It will also be a bit thicker and lumpier in winter months or when the bottle has been kept very cold. For a thinner texture, simply leave it out of the refrigerator for five or 10 minutes and give it a good shake!

  • Where can I find Lifeway and Helios kefir?

    You can purchase our kefir in many fine grocers throughout the U.S. Our Store Locator is a very useful tool to help find our products near you. Still can’t find a particular flavor or variety nearby? Take our handy product list to the customer service desk of your favorite retailer!

  • Can I give kefir to my child?

    Yes! Lifeway kefir is gluten free and lactose free, so it’s gentle on kids’ tummies. Plus, research shows that drinking kefir may support immunity and digestive systems in young children. Check out our ProBugs, Frozen Kefir products just for kids!

  • Is kefir safe for pregnant/nursing women?

    Lifeway Kefir is specially formulated to be alcohol-free, so it’s safe for pregnant and nursing women, as well as for children. Additionally, the probiotic bacteria in our kefir is perfectly safe for pregnant and nursing women.

  • Can I cook or bake with kefir?

    Lifeway Plain Kefir makes an idea substitute for buttermilk, sour cream, yogurt or mayonnaise in dips, dressings, baked goods and more. While many of the probiotic bacteria won’t survive being cooked (but do hold up in raw applications like dips and dressings), kefir is a low-fat, low-calorie way to add lots of flavor to any recipe. Visit our Recipe page for inspiration.

Don’t See Your Question?

We’ll be happy to help you out! Head on over to our Contact Us page.


Find Lifeway in a Store Near You

Visit our handy locator to find retailers carrying Lifeway in your area.