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Sources of Natural Probiotics: Kefir

While there are many ways to get your daily dose of probiotics, natural is always best. Natural probiotics are less easily found in our modern diets than in the ancient eating patterns of our forbears, however. This may well be part of the reason why so many so-called “lifestyle diseases”, such as diabetes and heart disease are on the rise.

Even so, probiotics occur naturally in some of our foods. Foods like yoghurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi are rich sources of the good bacteria that keep our bodies running like clockwork.

However, few sources of natural probiotics pack the nutritional punch of kefir. In fact, even expensive, prepackaged supplements from fancy pharmaceutical stores can’t often match the value of kefir.

What is Kefir?

 

Kefir is a drink made by, essentially, fermenting milk. The resulting beverage is full of enzymes and literally bursting with natural probiotics - and prebiotics, which the probiotics need to survive and grow.

History

Kefir’s origins have been traced to ancient Russia, although alternative religious texts credit the creamy substance with the biblical patriarch Abraham’s longevity and robust good health. Kefir is also known colloquially by a number of different titles, including, “Drink of the Prophet”, “Snow us”, “Tibetan Mushroom”, “Balm of Gilead”, “Yogurt Plant”, “California Bees L ot”, kombucha, tibcos, and “Yogurt Mushroom”.

Kefir starts out as kefir grains. They initially have a faintly crystalline appearance - a bit like coarse grains of salt. But once you start using these grains to ferment your milk, they quickly take on a more cauliflower-like appearance. As The Walking Encyclopedia explains, “These “grains” are actually not grains but is a delicate combination of beneficial yeast and bacteria.”

The history of this health-giving plant is steeped in mystery and folklore. It seems that ancient shepherds discovered that their fizzy, accidentally-fermented milk gave them energy and seemed to protect them from illness. They strained out the cheesey, cauliflower-y substance at the bottom of their milk pouches, and discovered that adding it to fresh milk had the same beneficial effects.

Sources

Kefir can be bought in health shops and organic food shops. The beauty of this active little organism, though, is that it grows fairly fast. This means that if you know someone who has some, pretty soon they should have some to spare. You can easily get a tablespoon of kefir grains from a friend, and use these to start your own kefir production plant.

How does kefir compare to yoghurt?

The website kefir.net is a found of useful information. They describe the differences between yoghurt and kefir:

“Both kefir and yoghurt are cultured milk products but they contain different types of beneficial bacteria. Yoghurt contains transient beneficial bacteria that keep the digestive system clean and provide food for the friendly bacteria that reside there. But kefir can actually colonise the intestinal tract, a feat that yoghurt cannot match.”

While kefir and yoghurt both contain strains of healthy and beneficial natural probiotics, kefir contains a wider variety of strains than yoghurt does. An added benefit of kefir is that it contains healthy yeasts, which can actually penetrate the mucosal linings of the gut which typically house harmful yeasts responsible for candidiasis and leaky gut syndrome, among others, and systematically wipe them out. In the long term, this process makes the gut much more resistant to yeast infections and digestive problems.

Yoghurt has become a very popular food in modern times, with the result that it is usually mass-produced, and often sweetened and flavoured artificially. This can have a serious negative effect on the quality of nutrition the yoghurt offers. Between using low fat milk, high sugar content, and artificial sweeteners, colourants and flavourings, much of what we call “yoghurt” nowadays is little more than slightly sour dessert - not healthful at all! Because kefir is made at home, from organic kefir grains, you can be sure you’re getting the best possible nutrition solution for your body’s specific needs.

What are the benefits of kefir?

Besides the proliferation of natural pre- and probiotics in kefir, it is packed full of nutrients. It contains minerals and essential amino acids that help the body with healing and maintenance functions. Kefir is an excellent source of Tryptophan, an amino acid known for its relaxing properties. This makes it beneficial for the nervous system generally, and helpful in reducing stress.

Kefir delivers good quantities of magnesium and calcium, in a form the body can easily assimilate. This is helpful for people with muscle pain and sleep challenges. Calcium is also vital for strong bones and teeth, and a key line of defence against osteoporosis and certain kinds of heart disease. A common side effect of digestive disorders is various food intolerances. One of the most common of these is lactose intolerance. Cutting out dairy severely impacts one’s ability to get enough calcium, so kefir becomes particularly valuable for people who don’t get enough calcium naturally from their diets.

According to kefir.net,

“Kefir’s ample supply of phosphorus, the second most abundant mineral in our bodies, helps utilize carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for cell growth, maintenance and energy.”

Because kefir is a rich source of vitamin K and the B vitamins, it is an effective energy booster, as well as being helpful in reducing both stress and the body’s default stress response.

How does it work?

How to make it

Making kefir is remarkably simple. Simply place a tablespoon of kefir grains in a clean glass jar. Add a glass of whole milk - raw and organic if you can find a reliable source. Cover the jar with a muslin cloth or anything to keep the bugs and dust out, and store it for 24 hours in a cool, dark place (but not the fridge - too cool, and too dark).

24 hours later, the mixture should have separated, and you will smell the distinctive, sour kefir smell. Pour the mixture through a sieve. If possible, don’t use a metal sieve since there is some evidence that kefir leaches the metals it comes into contact with. The last thing you need is more heavy metals floating around your body. Now drink it. (Warning: it’s an acquired taste!) Some people use kefir in their smoothies to mask the taste a bit. Once you get used to it, it becomes quite palatable and refreshing.

You can reuse the grains in exactly the same way. Because of the nature of the kefir fermentation process, you don’t need to wash the jar more than about once a week.

How it fixes things

As we’ve described already, kefir provides a serious health kick to anyone willing to add it to their daily diet. The vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, and - above all - natural probiotics work together to clear out any bad bacteria in the gut, and recolonise the intestinal tract with healthy bacteria, righting the wrongs of a lifetime of unhealthy food choices along the way.

What does it fix?

Because so many of our modern health challenges start in the gut (most of them, really), and because no two bodies are the same, it’s challenging to write a comprehensive list of all the ailments kefir can possibly solve. Since it heals the gut over time, any diseases that result from allergies, intolerances, hereditary digestive disorders, antibiotic overuse and more can (theoretically) be reversed - or at least stopped in their tracks - through daily kefir intake.

 

Some of the more common conditions treated with this health-giving drink include:

  • ADD
  • Low energy levels
  • Candidiasis
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome and similar autoimmune conditions
  • Food allergies and intolerances
  • Eczema
  • Sleep disorders
  • Stress and stress-related disorders, including adrenal fatigue
  • Herpes
  • Depression
  • Flatulence
  • Low thyroid activity

It is said to

  • Stabilise blood-sugar levels in diabetics
  • Regulate pancreatic function and counteracts pancreatic insufficiency
  • Regulate digestive function and counteract both constipation and diarrhoea

Sufferers of Crohn’s Disease and Colitis talk of healing their conditions by adding kefir to their daily regimens, and even AIDS and cancer patients report amazing health benefits from this small organism.

Kefir is easy to prepare and simple to ingest (if you don’t mind the taste too much). It’s also well worth the effort. Here’s a video to tell you more:

How To Make Milk Kefir 101

To find out more about the benefits of kefir, where to get it, and whether it’s right for you, and to get to the heart of your health challenges, contact Dr Sanua on 011 463 1614 or email him on alains@telkomsa.net today.

 

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