What is Kefir?

“What is kefir?” You’ve probably asked yourself this before. Pronounced “KEE-fuhr,” kefir is a tangy, slightly fizzy, FANTASTIC fermented milk beverage. It can be made with all kinds of different milks, dairy and non dairy. It looks similar to yogurt, but is far superior.

Click here to learn more on the difference between kefir and yogurt

Kefir finds a place to live in your gut. It builds colonies of good bacteria that perform millions of processes inside you. You already have trillions of colonies of bacteria inside you that perform important tasks every day. When you give them more tools like the good bacteria in kefir, your body can do what it was meant to do, thrive! So can you tell how much I love kefir?

Bacteria in Milk Kefir:

Click to view the types

Kefir History

Kefir has been around since the beginning of recorded history and has exceptional health and curative properties. It is rich in protein, calcium, vitamin B12, niacin, and folic acid. It has been used not only to promote health, but also was the way people preserved milk when there was no refrigeration. Huge amounts of colonies good of bacteria in kefir dominate the milk, thereby suppressing any harmful bacterias, and preserving the milk. These bacterias eat the milk sugars out of the milk, and perform their magic to infuse the milk with healthy qualities. This is why the milk becomes sour. The kefir microbes consume sugars as food to create the perfect environment for good bacteria to thrive. As you consume kefir, it in turn creates an environment inside you that does the same thing and so much more.

Kefir Benefits

  • Kefir has over thirty types of good bacteria – a mere handful in Yogurt
  • Kefir contains 30 – 50  major strains of friendly bacteria not commonly found in yogurt, kefir is a turbo charged energy-anti-biotic-colonic cleanser drink. Yogurt is a mild nutrient rich drink that pre-digests the lactose helping the body better assimilate the good stuff.
  • Digestion – Kefir can help you digest everything. Kefir’s active yeast, good bacteria and excess digestive enzymes provide more nutritive value than yogurt by helping digest the foods you eat. Constipation is a thing of the past. If you drink Kefir at night no acid reflux.
  • Eliminates constipation
  • Reduces or eliminates allergies
  • Reduces or eliminates asthma symptoms
  • Reduces or eliminates cold and flu illnesses
  • Cures acne
  • Treats yeast infections
  • Promotes a natural “good” feeling
  • Effective as the strongest natural antibiotic without side effects
  • Replenishes the body with good bacteria after antibiotic use
  • Treats diarrhea
  • Aids lactose intolerance
  • Promotes deep sleep
  • Heals ulcers

I just finished making a batch of Kefir. I am always appreciative of my  kefir grains ability to make me a fresh batch day after day. Kefir was a Godsend, after the birth of my daughter at the age of 41  I was desperate to feel good and be healthy. I had become a type 2 diabetic.  I can now say that diabetes is a thing of the past. Kefir was a big part in helping me to achieve that and so much more. From my own self experiments on my own body, I have found kefir to be of great benefit to many problems I had. I needed answers when I was sick and I found them in kefir, decades later I have continued to have kefir every day. I have learned so much and want to help you too. Check out the 7 Reasons I Have Kefir Every Day.

Where to Find Kefir

Grocery stores or the health food stores sell many different brands of kefir, but generally speaking they aren’t near as strong as homemade kefir. That’s why I recommend that you get some kefir grains and make it yourself! It’s easy to make, and you’ll get a LOT more benefits from homemade kefir than you would with store bought kefir. Plus it’s cheaper to make it in the long run, because you’ll have an endless supply of kefir by just adding milk.

If you live in the USA, you can purchase my personal Live Kefir Grains from my store. Otherwise, you might try checking one of these websites.

Learn How to Make Kefir

Kefir is fun and easy to make! I put together some easy instructions on making kefir, check it out!

Click to Learn How to Make Kefir

250 Responses to "What is Kefir?"
  1. If Kefir okay to drink if my wife is fighting candida. Her health care clinician told her to stop drinking it because it’s fueling the candida, she also said no kombucha until the candida is gone. She not saying it’s bad, she knows is good, just not while the candida is present. What are your thoughs?

  2. Hi Donna. It’s my first time with Kefir. I put grains in the milk after 24 hours it became sour. Why is that? I wonder if that’s drinkable? I don’t think I can drink when it’s sour. I have no idea what to do with it. I just put in refridge. Please help.

  3. I have a friend who was asking me if she could use her prepared milk kefir as the milk with a yogurt starter and maker kefir/yogurt in her yogurt maker. I said I wouldn’t recommend it, but I wasn’t sure. What are your thoughts? Would the low heat from the yogurt maker harm the probiotics in the kefir? Would it be like a jolt of probiotics, or would it not even work?

  4. Hi Donna,

    I have been drinking store bought goats milk kefir and kombucha for almost 2 months now. I had a few days off and on when I drank to much where I was really tired but once I backed off I felt much better and now 2 months later most of my health concerns (such as chronic fatigue) are much better! I ordered your grains and kombucha starters a few weeks ago and over the past 7 days I switched from store bought kefir to homemade milk kefir (only about a cup a day) and the past 4 days I have been very tired during the day and having a horrible sore throat. I thought I might be getting sick but I didn’t have any other stomach symptoms and I noticed that while I was really tired during the day I was waking up almost 2 hours earlier than usual in the morning and feeling great when I first wake up (whereas usually I really need coffee in the morning, I thought this odd if I was getting sick rather than detoxing) I was reading in your book that homemade kefir has 50+ strains v 10 strains from storebought and I was curious if in your experience other people have had a really strong detox reaction from switching from storebought to homemade, and if you had any suggestions as to where to go from here??

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  6. How long should one wait to eat after drinking kefir and how long should one wait after eating to drink kefir? Thank You Very Much…..Chad Cunningham

  7. Hi
    I can’t seem to find the answer tot his anywhere.. but if I have left my dairy kefir with grains at room temp for over 48 hours is it still drinkable? I left mine for near on a week just out on the side and it smells and tastes like wine and has a slight discolouration on the surface like slightly pale orangey. I strained the milk and it looks fine after that but still not sure whether to drink it or not.

  8. Dear Donna!
    I have for some time now been making probiotic “pop”. I make it in such large quantities, but it doesn’t get consumed as quickly as I’d like. Sometimes, when drinking even a small amount (1/4 c) I get a stomachache shortly after. It’s high up in my gut so literally a stomachache as opposed to the feeling that something’s going to “move” on out the canal if you know what I mean. Anyway, the gut pain doesn’t last long but my concern is if it hurts (not horrendous but uncomfortable), and tastes a little “off”, does that mean it’s gone bad? The questions are then: how long does kefir soda last if bottled correctly and in fridge AND should it taste really sweet and fruity? Sometimes I taste the “dairy” in it which I think is the whey. Sorry if too long a post, but I figure the more details you have the better. Thank you so much!

    • Well it can get really fermented and depending on how much juice you are using can turn slightly alcoholic which should diminish the longer you ferment it. I always dilute the juice with water to keep this from happening.It should not taste sweet at all.

  9. Donna, I’ve been using the Kerfir grains now for a month or so and put them I the refrigerator along with 2 tbs. of grains to 2 cups of whole milk for a week. Today when I went to take them out there weren’t any grains left…only a thick consistence like that of kefir. What do you think happened?

  10. Donna. I ordered the kefir grains and should be receiving them perhaps this Thursday. Once I receive them should I put them in the refrigerator with 1 cup of milk or can I immediately make the kefir and ferment it for the time aloted?

  11. Hi Donna, I’m just wondering how much Kefir I should be drinking each day? and also does second fermenting make the good bugs stronger or more plentiful (or is it just a different taste/texture)?

    • You can drink about a cup a day or more if you’d like. Just go slow in the beginning as your get use to it. Second fermenting does make it stronger and add more probiotics.

      • I started making kefir aprox 6 weeks ago and have been consuming a cup a day. Should we take a break from drinking kefir? I read in an article that you should stop for 10 days once you have been taking for 20. Is this correct and why?

  12. Donna,
    When you store your kefir grains, let’s say when you go on vacation, and you use 1 tablespoon kefir grains to 3 cups of milk (3 weeks vacation) what do you do with the milk once you return home?

  13. I’m getting excited about cultured foods and just made my first batches of kefir from your culture packets. Because I’ll be traveling a lot in the next month or so, I made an initial batch and then when it was cultured, used 1/4 cup in each to start and culture 3 additional quarts so I’d have a supply without having to make it daily this week. Is that an ok way to do it? Will the kefir stay “live” in the refrigerator for a week or 10 days? I plan to buy grains after I’m back from a 3 week trip in September. Looking forward to learning more.

  14. Hi Donna,
    I made kefir with the packets and notice after about 5 days (after the fermentation process,that is) of being in the refrigerator it separated. Whey on the bottom. Can you shake or blend the two together and drink?

  15. This is not directly related to kefir, but I don’t know where else to ask it.
    I came across your recipe for Dill Pickles and really want to put our bounty of cucumbers to use this way. It calls for the Caldwell veggie pack (which I don’t have) or kefir whey. I don’t have kefir whey right now, but I do have yogurt whey. Can I substitute?? Also, my yogurt whey has been in the frig for about a week, I’d say. Does that still work? Thanks! (I have all these cucumbers I need to use now, and no time to order other ingredients.)

  16. In regard to making probiotic “pop” with whey… if whey is only good for a few days after separating out, how long do the benefits last in the pop once it’s fermented? If sealed tight – for weeks or months? If it does last so long, is that because it has the sugars from the juice to eat?

  17. My daughter got her kefir grains thursday (7-17). She immediately followed the instructions and left on the counter to ferment for 24 hours, and started another batch to ferment. Both batches smell horrible, but not necessarily sour. She can’t really figure out the smell. It is very thin and smells very yeastie. She has made the kefir with the powder with no problem, but wanted the benefit of the grains. So she now has 3 batches that are horrible in her words. She says they just don’t smell like kefir. Can you please help shed some light for us. Thank you so much.

  18. Hi Donna, I found your blog and got inspired. I bought a Kefir starter from a health shop and followed their recipe, 500 mls of mild to one sachet. After 24 hours the milk had become like junket – it was thick like yoghurt but it didn’t taste sour it tasted like junket. I read that if it is not sour leave it for longer so left it for another 24 hours. Now it has separated into a hard curd on top that is like cheese and a clear whey underneath which tastes sour. I have put it in the fridge but not sure what I have. Do I have Kefir cheese with whey?? Can I drink the whey and eat the cheese? And why did it feel and taste like junket after 24 hours instead of being a sour slightly thick milk? I’d greatly appreciate your thoughts.

    • It probably needed to ferment longer and yes you can eat it or make cheese with it. Temperature is what determines how fast it ferments and it should taste sour or it isn’t ferment well enough.

  19. hello donna,,,do I need to be a member of your site for my question to be answered?
    just that I left a question but it was taken off your site..roman from Australia..

  20. hello donna,i’m roman from Australia..i just got my grains from someone near by, about a tablespoons worth,i put these in a jar with 2 cups of organic whole milk for 24 hours and then strained them.the milk still had a thin consistency, like normal milk,but had a nice sour taste to it,,how would I make it thicker?.i don’t usually drink milk due to allergies and intolerance,but I heard kefir was ok to drink..thanks a lot..oh one more thing,how much of this do I drink,,i am trying this because I have severe gastritis with some bleeding of the stomach hoping it will help..

  21. I was given a packet of Body Ecology Kefir starter. How do I use this with coconut milk? Do I use the whole packet? and can I reuse it as you do with your grains?

  22. Hi
    Yesterday I mistakenly used my metal sieve to separate my grains instead of my plastic one. Will my grains definitely have been killed? I have put them back in milk, but at the moment nothing seems to be happening. If the milk thickens, does that mean the grains are ok? Thanks.

  23. Hi Donna,

    I have a problem! I was keeping my grains in milk in the refrigerator for a few days, took the jar out this evening, and discovered a chunk of the milk had frozen. I don’t know what’s going on with this fridge. Parts of it clearly are too cold. So, I salvaged some of the grains by straining and running the contents under warm water; now they are fermenting. Do you think they will be okay? How will I know?

    Thank you!



      • I did rinse them with water – at first even hot water, then warm to get them out of the ice/milk. They seemed to work okay, so I guess that means they are okay!

        I’m about to start fermenting vegetables…. I believe you said homemade has way more bacterial strains than store-bought. I must begin.

        Thank you!

  24. Sorry! Another “moldy” question. I washed the dairy grains I received from you per a protocol found on another site. The grains are working well, making lovely juice kefir my girls enjoy. (They won’t drink the dairy). I have been using purple grape, apple, combo pineapple with something I don’t remember. Anyway… I started a batch the other night in organic white grape. Within 12 hours there was WHITE FUZZY STUFF ON GRAINS AND TOP OF KEFIR. Is this the bad stuff? I’ve swirled it around and it just stays in small chunks. haven’t smelled it cuz would rather not take a hit of mold up my nose. What would you do? It does NOT appear to have effervested? sp? As I don’t see any little bubbles. I’m wondering if because the juice was organic, and not acidic enough, perhaps there was already mold spores in the juice? THANKS A MILLION!!

      • I’m using dairy grains that I’ve “prepared” to make JUICE kefir. There are several sites that give a protocol for “washing” converting grains for dairy to juice grains. As I stated, the first few batches turned out fine. This last batch, is moldy looking. I read somewhere on your site that kefir grains require the lactose in milk to live and grow. I have a friend who has had the same grains for a couple of years thriving in only juices. Is there a different grain for dairy and one for juices and water? So if this fine to use my “prepared” grains, should I simply rinse them once more and try a different juice or throw the whole lot out? Thanks once again!

        • I never ever recommend this and there are different grains for milk and water kefir and rinsing the grains can kill them and when you use them to make water kefir it changes the grains and reduces the amount of probiotics they have.

  25. Hi Donna,
    I’ve been making kefir about a year (without really knowing what I was doing). Recently I have been getting the same thing happen as many others – separation/curdled texture. I was given it in a bag, and have always just kept it in there, transferring it about every 24 hours to a new jar of milk. I also never took any of the grains out and always made the amount I use in a day – about 500ml. Then i just did the unspeakable: took it out of the bag and rinsed the grains in tepid water. What should I do now?? They are really precious to me – I was a supplement junky til I started making kefir.

  26. I tried making kefir with raw cow’s milk. Do you recommend this? It’s not as “normal” looking as store-bought, but it makes a delicious cheese which I can’t seem to get from the pastuerized milk. In your opinion… is raw fine to use or would having raw milk sitting on your kitchen counter for a day scare you?

      • Thanks for your reply. It’s been bugging me a bit not knowing for sure – now I can peaceably go raw! Blessings!

      • Dear Donna-
        Your book and blog have helped me so much…THANK U!!! My raw milk gets sour fairly quickly (3~4 days)…sometimes before I can get back to the dairy to buy more. Will it hurt my kefir grains to use raw milk just beginning to go sour for making a batch of kefir? And should I keep the kefir made with this milk?

  27. Hi Donna,
    I received my kefir grains from a friend. I have been making kefir milk for about a week now. At first the grains were big and multiplying like crazy. Now they are very tiny and just look like curdled milk. I think I may have killed my grains. Yesterday I boiled some water and put 2 tablespoons of sugar in the water. Once cooled I rinsed the grains and made another batch. This morning the milk is thick but I don’t see the big grains in it. I just put some more milk in the jar and will check it this afternoon. Can you help me? I may have killed all my grains! 🙁

  28. Hello I have a 4 month old baby with stomach problems she’s on zantac and ar (a thicker formula ) she still spits up is gassy and has stomach pains I give her gas drops to help and a friend recommended kefir but didn’t know how much and often I should put in her formula, do u have any suggestions? ??
    Thank you in advance,

  29. Hi, so very new at this, about 5 days in. So my question is this, my daughter is allergic to dairy (the casein) and I have seen comments about using coconut milk. How would I do this? Would I take the milk grains and rinse them with purified water? She is extremely sensitive and I was to do this right for her. Thank you for all your information! 🙂

  30. I’ve been second fermenting for almost a year now. I sometimes use tart cherry concentrate instead of orange peel or other fruit. Last night I was distracted and put the cherry concentrate into the jar that had the kefir grains in the milk. I let it ferment overnight and it separated into whey and very thick kefir. I stirred the grains to get the thick kefir out and then stirred the whey and kefir together. Should I throw that out or let it second ferment and give it a try? Would having the concentrate in there damage the grains?

  31. Hi Donna,
    Your site is fantastic! Thank you!
    – How long will the kefir last in fridge? 1 month?
    -Can you ferment cream and make kefir?
    – should I warm the refrigerated milk first before adding the grains to start making kefir?
    – why is it that if you add more milk and less grains, you get a creamier kefir? It seems counter-intuitive?


    • It will last many many months. I have had it after 6 months and it was fine. It was super sour but still good.
      Yes you can ferment cream and I have a video on my membership site where i did this.
      You don’t need to warm it just cold from the fridge is perfect.
      Because the grains if many, will ferment it really fast by eating all the milk sugars out and cause it to separate into curds and whey.

  32. Hi Donna,
    I have been doing Kefir for about a month now and just can’t get the nice smooth yogurty texture. I have continuously reduced the grains and increased the milk and am now at 1 Tablespoon grains with 2 Cups of milk. I am watching it a lot and stirring it occasionally but all of a sudden the grains thicken on top and then the mixture goes lumpy. I really want the nice creamy texture. Do I really need to decrease my grains again? I thought I would need at least 1 Tbsp for 2 Cups Milk. I am in Australia so it is quite warm at the moment. I would really appreciate your advice. Thanks.

  33. Hi Donna, I received your kefir grains a little over a week ago. I was really worried that I had killed them (put them into a recently washed warm, not hot, glass jar). I haven’t noticed them growing, but the kefir tastes really good. If all of the steps, 24 hr fermenting and second fermenting, were carried out with dead grains, would it still be turning out well? Am I just drinking sour milk lol?
    Thank you,
    p.s. tastes awesome second fermenting with orange peel and a little vanilla extract

  34. Hi
    I have a few questions about Kefir, first is it necessary to count calories with kefir I feel like I’m gaining weight since I started using it, I love it but just wanted to know your thoughts. I drink about 1 cup a day and sometimes have kefir cheese during the day, I’m also constipated I’ve been drinking kefir for about 2 months now.
    Second, if there is a power outage would the kefir dinks and cheese spoil? How long can it go without being refrigerated?

    • Are you replacing your kefir with other food in your diet or adding it on top of it? I would add some cultured veggies for constipation and kefir will be fine in a power outage.

  35. Hi Donna,
    I am so grateful for all of your knowledge. I have hunted through here and can’t find the answer to my question so I’m hoping you can help me. I acquired some kefir grains through your trade site (thank you for that resource!) She gave them to me in a very small Tupperware container in some raw milk. Since I was picking up my raw milk the next day, I put this container in the refrigerator. Turns out there were a lot of grains in this small amount of milk! (Probably 3-4 tablespoons.) As soon as I got off of work the next day I put two tablespoons of them in two cups on milk covered them and waited 24 hrs. It looked plenty thicker to me at 24 hrs so I proceed to 2nd ferment with some lemon zest another 12 hrs hoping to have my lovely product ready. It didn’t work! It was definitely not kefir-just warm milk. I am afraid that I starved them by leaving them in the refrigerator over night in such a small amount of milk?
    My question for you… I placed them in milk again yesterday after work. Today when I get home, if it has not turned to kefir, should I wait longer? I plan on it anyway since I figure I won’t get a response from you fast enough but how long should I leave my milk with kefir grains in it on the counter before I have to face that I killed them?
    Thank you so much!


      • How long do you think I should wait before I throw in the towel? Now it’s been 48 hrs with the first fermentation. It doesn’t smell sour or like yogurt at all and I’m afraid to taste it! It is thick though!

  36. I just read your blog and discovered why my kefir separates. It looks like I need more milk when I ferment. I actually love the sour, somewhat tangy taste. Does it hurt anything to do it that way? My second ferment is always separated.

  37. I have been making kefir for almost a year now and I rarely get it to the consistency it seems like it should be. My kefir grains look very healthy and have multiplied, so I don’t think there’s a problem there. My kefir stays quite thin, like milk, and then goes straight to curdling. It is minimal at first – only surrounding the grains and floating- then it really separates just a short while later. I rarely get my kefir to be thick (like very thin yogurt) like I see in pics and videos. The few times I manage to get it the consistency I’m hoping for, its when I forgot about it in the fridge for the week. Also, my second ferment has always ended up very separated and curdled. It smells fine, tastes tart but fine, and can be creamed together (mostly) in the blender. I am just using 2% milk from the store. What am I missing?

          • I will use fewer grains for the next batch and see what happens. I think I may have enough grains to test them in several different types of fat percentages too! But yes, its the curdled white (milk solids ?) at the top and nearly clear whey at the bottom and a mix of the two in between. The beverage stays looking like milk until it starts to curdle. It never is creamy but it does get effervescent. On the next batch I guess I’ll make it cheese! I really do appreciate your thoughts.

  38. Can I add fruit, fruit juice and Stevia to my kefir for a smoothie? Will Stevia react with it or cause harm to the drink?

  39. Hi there, I started with Kefir about a week ago. I am noticing that I am becoming constipated and bloated. Can Kefir cause this or is this the body starting to work out the bad stuff? Should I continue with it? Any advice is welcome!

  40. I have been drinking lifeway kefir and love it. So, I bought kefir grains online and have been making kefir for a week now. The grains seem to be healthy and are multiplying. I use whole milk each time. The problem is that my kefir has this smell/taste that I just do not like. I do enjoy that my kefir is more effervescent but the taste is horrible. The aftertasteis also horrible and lasts a while. I have done a second firment with orange peel and it just doesn’t take care of the taste. I am currently making kefir cheese and I have sampled it and it has that same taste. I have heard that homemade kefir tastes so much better than store bought, so what could I be doing wrong? ( I might mention that my kefir grains have a distinct odor that is definitely the same as the taste of the kefir)

      • I am using whole milk. No cream. I’m fermenting it for about 24 hours. At the end of 24 hours is is thick and lumpy on top and thinner underneath. Once I strain it – it is a little thicker than milk but not as thick as store bought kefir.

  41. Hi Donna, I left a message somewhere on your site but now can’t find it. So this is a duplicate. Sorry about that. I prepared my kefir as usual ~ grains in the jar with whole store milk and left it in its usual spot in a cabinet for 24 hours. This morning the bottom half of the jar was all whey and the top half was like cottage cheese. I had to poke around to find the grains. I have always had beautiful, drinkable kefir before following this procedure. What did I do wrong this time?

  42. Hi Donna,

    Excitedly anticipating the arrival of my grains which you mailed out yesterday. I want to be prepared with the right milk. We normally drink Horizan Organic 2% ultra pasteurized milk. Will that work for the Kefir?

  43. I’m very excited! I am making my first batch of Keizer:-)
    I’m using the body ecology starter you recommended. I see that they recommend 72-80F, but since it’ winter my house is not that warm. It’s around 60-63F in my house.
    Will it still work okay? Do I just need to adjust the timeframe?


  44. Hi! I’ve been making dairy kefir for about 2 weeks and it seems to be working well. My grains were multiplying and fermenting the milk super fast, so I think I’ve gotten a good rythm of about a teaspoon grains to a quart of milk and it thickens up in about 24 hours. So, I am a paranoid person, and I can’t seem to find a straight answer about smells. Is there any good advice you can give of “proper” smells, vs. bad/throw it out smells? Maybe some examples? Seems like everything I can find is so relative, and “if in doubt…” Well, I am always in doubt when it comes to food safety, lol!! 🙂
    It was starting to have a little more strong yeasty smell, so I lessened my grains, and that seemed to mellow it out. But now, I feel like I smell just a hint of unpleasant smell, like vomit. Or it could just be the “sour” smell. I did try water kefir once, and the “vomit” smell became so strong, and it actually tasted horrible, so I quit. I just don’t want that to happen with my dairy kefir!

    • Are you using raw milk with cream in it because this can give off a yeasty smell. Also there is no need to worry about safety because kefir will preserve the milk and there is so much good bacteria that it is the best killer of bad bacteria that is known of. Strong smells like this means over fermentation which isn’t a bad think but just not as appetizing.

  45. Hi Donna,
    Im new to the Kefir brewing process. I wanted to ask (though I think the answer is no) does kefir go ‘off’. I brewed a heap before Christmas and just put it in the fridge whilst we were away (& put my grains to sleep in the fridge with some milk). Will that kefir still be ok to eat – I am guessing since its full of bacteria its fine but wasn’t too sure!

  46. Hi Donna,
    Well first i want to thank you for your wonderful website.
    I have got Kefir grains from a member of my family, she said to me that I should drink it for 20 days, then stop 10 days, and start again for 20 days…
    I mean is is okay to drink it in all the days of the month ?