This post is about a home made probiotic drink I have everyday. It’s called Kefir.
After reading this article about the 7 key health benefits of kefir, I hope that you consider including it into your effective health regime.
What is Kefir?
Kefir is a unique cultured dairy product that is one of the most probiotic rich foods on the planet and has incredible health benefits.
Kefir is a fermented milk product (cow, goat or sheep milk) that tastes like a drinkable yogurt.
Its name comes from the Turkish work “keyif”, which means “good feeling”. For centuries, it has been used in European and Asian folk medicine due to the wide variety of conditions it has been known to cure.
Why take Kefir?
Kefir contains high levels of vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium, vitamin K2, biotin, folate, enzymes and probiotics. Because kefir does not have a standardised nutrition content, the content values can vary based on the cows, cultures, and region where it is produced. Yet even with the range in values, kefir has superior nutrition.
Because of kefir’s unique set of nutrients it has been show to benefit the body in 7 main ways:
- Boost immunity
- Heal inflammatory bowel disease
- Build bone density
- Fight allergies
- Improve lactose digestion
- Kill candida
- Support detoxification
These are just a few of the benefits of consuming kefir daily.
Research has proven time and time again that the age-old practice of fermentation is good medicine because of the “healthy bacteria” that are contained within these foods.
A list of the more common probiotics that we regularly see in fermented foods include:
- Bifidobacteria species
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus caucasus
- Lactobacillus bulgaricus
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
- Acetobacter species
Kefir is one of the highest probiotic foods you can eat with several important probiotic strains.
Your body’s microbiome—colonies of various microbes that reside in your gut and elsewhere in and on your body—is as unique to you as your fingerprint, and can be rapidly altered based on factors such as diet, lifestyle, and exposure to toxins and antibiotics.
You have approximately 1,000 different species of bacteria living in your body, and these bacteria actually outnumber your body’s cells by 10 to 1. But that’s not all. You also harbour viruses (bacteriophages), and they in turn outnumber bacteria 10 to 1.
So not only is your body the home of 100 trillion bacteria, you also house about one quadrillion viruses. All of these organisms perform a multitude of functions, and need to be properly balanced and cared for in order to maintain good health.
This army of organisms also makes up 70 percent of your immune system, “talking” directly to your body’s natural killer T-cells so that they can tell apart your “friendlies” from dangerous invaders. Your microbiome also helps control how your genes express themselves. So by optimising your native flora, you are actually controlling your genes.
Studies have linked everything from autism to the most chronic diseases to leaky gut syndrome and improper digestion. Bottom line is that if you can’t absorb the nutrients in your food because you don’t have the proper bacteria balance in your gut, your body will never run on all cylinders because it lacks the fuel.
Benefits of taking Kefir
Your gut bacteria controls the health of your entire body. Therefore underperforming gut bacteria significantly affects your health. Consuming fermented foods such as kefir can help redress any gut bacteria deficiencies and as a result improve your overall health. Below are 7 areas where taking kefir can have a positive affect.
- Supports Detoxification – “Mutagens” are various agents that can literally alter your DNA and can be found everywhere in our environment. Aflatoxins, for example, are food-born toxins created by mold and can be found in many ground nuts (which is why peanut butter causes allergies and immune reactions), crude vegetable oils (like canola, soybean, and cottonseed), and grains (wheat, soy, and corn).
Being rich in lactic acid bacteria, kefir can literally bind (kill) aflatoxins and other funguses, which helps preserve healthy genetic expression.
- Boosts Immunity – Next time you get sick, think twice about taking an antibiotic and drink kefir instead. A study out of University College Cork in Ireland compared Lactobacillus probiotic preparations, and compared them to conventional antibiotics in three animal models that are similar to humans. They discovered that, “In all three animal diseases we observed a positive effect in that the animals were significantly protected against infection.”
In fact, the researchers discovered that probiotics worked as well as or even better than antibiotic therapy in not only eliminating the infectious agent, but in resolving symptoms!
- Builds Bone Density – A 2014 study published in the journal of Osteoporosis International found that consuming kefir benefits bone density and can reduce the risk of osteoporosis. The researchers found kefir works by increasing the absorption of bone building minerals of calcium and magnesium.
The probiotics in kefir improve nutrient absorption and the dairy itself contains all of the most important nutrients for improving bone density including phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K2.
- Heals IBS and IBD – Because of the high doses of probiotics including the strains of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium kefir is also an effective natural treatment for irritable bowel syndrome. A study published in a Canadian medical journal found that probiotic rich foods, including yogurt and kefir, can help heal IBS and reduce bowel inflammation.
- Allergies and Asthma – In a recent study published in the Journal of Immunology, kefir was found to have both positive effects on allergies and asthma. In the study, kefir significantly suppressed inflammatory markers of interleukin-4, T-helper cells and IgE immunoglobulins. The researchers stated that kefir has strong anti-inflammatory properties that could prove useful in the prevention of asthma.
- Improves Lactose Intolerance – It may sound crazy, but yes fermented milk products like kefir can help people with milk-related lactose intolerance. To get your brain around this, you have to keep in mind that fermentation changes the chemical make-up of foods and, as in the case of fermented milk, kefir is relatively low in lactose.
Additionally, if you struggle with lactose problems, you may want to try adding kefir to your diet in small amounts because a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed that, “Kefir improves lactose digestion and tolerance in adults with lactose malabsorption.”
As with any food or diet, make sure to listen to your body.
NOTE: If you have had an allergic reaction with any dairy, then I would seek advice from your doctor or natural health practitioner on how to test your allergies without ingesting the kefir.
Making Kefir is easy
First described by tribes in Russia, “kefir grains” are actually not grains at all, but are a delicate balance of yeast and bacteria. These are added to milk.
Over a period of 24 hours or so, the microorganisms in the kefir grains multiply and ferment the sugars in the milk, turning it into kefir. The lactic acid bacteria turn the lactose in the milk into lactic acid. Kefir tastes sour like yogurt, but has a thinner consistency.
Then the grains are removed from the liquid, and can be used again.
- Kefir grains can be bought online and are relatively cheap considering they are reusable. In the UK I bought from http://www.kefirshop.co.uk.
- Use organic milk; semi skimmed is ok but for beneficial fats use full fat milk.
- The process take approximately 24 hours and the fermentation happens outside the fridge. Stir from time to time.
- Don’t use metal utensils or containers as metal reacts with kefir.
- Buy yourself a plastic sieve for the same reason above.
- Once sieved restart the process. The sieved kefir milk can then be stored in the fridge until you are ready to drink it (it will thicken).
- If you are going to be away from home for more than a couple of days you can pause the process. Cover the kefir with just enough milk to cover the grains. Cover the container and put it in the fridge. (I’ve done this for a 2 week period and the grains were fine).
- The grains will multiply and you will have to discard the excess from time to time. What you could do is give the excess to family and friends so they can benefit from kefir too.
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