Its unique name comes from the Turkish work “keif”, 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. When made correctly, it is one of my favorite drinks and, after reading this article, I hope that you consider including it into your regular natural health regimen.
Kefir Benefits and Nutrition Profile
Kefir is a fermented milk product (cow, goat or sheep milk) that tastes like a drinkable yogurt.
Kefir contains high levels of vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium, vitamin K2, biotin, folate, enzymes and probiotics.
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
And these are just a few of the benefits of consuming kefir daily.
Since the beginning of time, every culture has pickled and fermented foods primarily to preserve them. Unknowingly, they were magnificently creating Superfoods jam-packed with healthy microorganisms (also known as “probiotics”) and regularly enjoyed healthy, long lives because of them.
In his Theory of Longevity, Nobel Laureate Elie Metchnikoff pioneered research suggesting that fermented milk has significant health benefits back in the early 20th century.
Since then, 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
At this point you may be wondering: Why would we want to eat foods with bacteria in them? Don’t people take antibiotics to kill the bacteria so that they can feel better?
Living in the American “antibacterial” culture, where hand sanitizer is only an arm’s length away, it may seem like suicide for people to knowingly eat foods or drink beverages filled with microorganisms. However, nothing could be further from the truth! The key to understanding this is to learn a little bit about your gut.
Symbiosis of your MicroBiome
Did you know that over 75% of your immune system is housed in your digestive system? Essentially, trillions upon trillions of “good” bacteria and fungus kill the “bad” microorganisms, which keeps you alive and well.
So what happens when you take antibiotics or regularly use antibacterial lotions and soaps?
You literally kill the good bacteria and the bad ones take over. This, in turn, disturbs the symbiosis (balance) of your microbiome which will lead to digestive issues and immune reactions.
Studies have linked everything from autism to 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.
Kefir Grains and Research
First described by tribes in Russia, “kefir grains” are actually not grains at all, but are a delicate balance of yeast and bacteria.
Able to ferment milk in around 24 hours, kefir grains can transform raw milk into a Superfood probiotic drink (kefir), a naturally-carbonated, refreshing beverage that has several key medicinal benefits.
Rich in Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum, kefir also provides significant amounts of lactic acid bacteria and beneficial yeast. In fact, the cocktail of beneficial microbiota within kefir makes it one of the most powerful probiotic foods on the planet!
Fights Cancer – Consumption of fermented foods has been shown to kill several different types of cancerous tumors in animal studies. The Journal of Dairy Science, for example, published a study that evaluated the immune cells in mice and discovered that regular kefir consumption help stop breast cancer growth.
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 groundnuts (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.
Immune Boosting – Next time you get sick, think twice about taking an antibiotic and drinking kefir instead. A study out of University College Cork, Ireland compared Lactobacillus probiotic preparations, compared them to conventional antibiotics in three animal models that are similar to humans and 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!
Lactose Intolerance Improvement – It may sound crazy, but yes fermented milk products like kefir can help people with milk-related lactose intolerance. To grip your brain around this, you have to keep in mind that fermentation changes the chemical make-up of foods and, in the case of fermented milk, kefir is relative 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 a disclaimer: although I have found most people do very well with goat’s milk kefir a small percent of people may still have issues with dairy. My advice is try it for yourself and make sure to listen to your body.
Do you drink kefir or yogurt? What health benefits have you experienced from it?
- Guzel-Seydim ZB, et al. Review: functional properties of kefir. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2011 Mar; 51(3):261-8.
- St-Onge MP, et al. Kefir consumption does not alter plasma lipid levels or cholesterol fractional synthesis rates relative to milk in hyperlipidemic men: a randomized controlled trial BMC Complement Altern Med. 2002;2:1. Epub 2002 Jan 22.
- de Moreno de Leblanc A, et al. Study of immune cells involved in the antitumor effect of kefir in a murine breast cancer model. J Dairy Sci 2007; 90(4):1920-8.
- Guzel-Seydim ZB, Kok-Tas T, Greene AK, Seydim AC. Review: functional properties of kefir. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2011; 51(3):261-8.
- Hertzler SR, Clancy SM. Kefir improves lactose digestion and tolerance in adults with lactose maldigestion. J Am Diet Assoc 2003; 103(5):582-7.
- Lopitz-Otsoa F, et al. Kefir: a symbiotic yeasts-bacteria community with alleged healthy capabilities. Rev Iberoam Micol 2006; 23(2):67-74.
- Liu JR, et al. Hypocholesterolaemic effects of milk-kefir and soyamilk-kefir in cholesterol-fed hamsters. Br J Nutr 2006; 95(5):939-46.
- Vinderola CG, et al. Immunomodulating capacity of kefir. J Dairy Rez 2005; 72(2):195-202.
- Lopitz-Otsoa F, et al. Kefir: A symbiotic yeasts-bacteria community with alleged healthy capabilities. Rev Iberoam Micol 2006; 23:67-74.
- Society for General Microbiology. “How Probiotics Can Prevent Disease.” ScienceDaily. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090401200433.htm (accessed April 12, 2014).