Have you heard of Kefir and its reported health benefits? I have to admit, until recently, I did not have a clear understanding of what Kefir was, other than I knew it contained beneficial bacteria. Kefir is made from fermented milk with Kefir grains or a bacterial/yeast fermentation starter. It originated in the Caucasus Mountains around 3,000 BC. The fermented Kefir contains a mixture of good bacteria and yeast cultures. Commonly found good bacteria contained within Kefir includes Lactobacillus caucasius, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces Kefir. Kefir can be made from cow’s milk, goat’s milk, coconut milk, and almond milk. So if you are lactose intolerant you have several options available. All of which contain probiotic benefits. However during the fermentation process Kefir, that is made from cow’s milk, has little lactose remaining. Therefore if you are lactose intolerant it is possible that you will be able to tolerate Kefir.
Kefir is not only a rich source of healthy bacteria that our digestive systems need, but also contains a healthy supply of vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B9,D, K2, calcium, iron, iodine, and nicotinic acid. The yeast in the Kefir is actually a beneficial type. So if you have suspected Candida, Kefir can actually help support a healthy balance of good bacteria and yeast and also crowd out the bad bacteria and yeast.
Until recently, I really had not looked much into Kefir. The first thing I had to do, was try it. I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive at the thought of consuming a liquid fermented food. I was also worried it would not taste good, thinking it would have a sour taste or have the tangy taste of yogurt. Surprisingly, I actually liked it. For me, it tasted better than yogurt and did not upset my digestive tract like milk does. It was also easy for me to remember to do, as I would often forget to take a probiotic.
Next, I wondered if there was any research supporting its proclaimed health benefits. Much of the research on Kefir can be found in Russian and European journals. Some of the reported health benefits identified in the research include an improvement in the IgA response in the gut’s mucosal immunity. Researchers are learning how important our digestive system is to our overall health. Kefir is certainly one thing you can add to your diet every day.
Kefir has also been reported to have possible anti-tumor effects. A study by Shiomi et al, (1982) showed that the polysaccharides in the Kefir grains inhibited the growth of sarcomas or Ehrlich carcinoma in 180 mice. In another study by Murofushi et al, (1983) showed Kefir’s benefit in inhibiting pulmonary metastasis of Lewis lung carcinoma, and Furukawa et al, (1993, 2000) showed inhibition of B16 melanoma metastasis. It is suspected in the studies that there was an enhancement of T-cell and NK cell activity. Kefir has also been shown to have antimicrobial properties as well, against both gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria as reported in the study by Garrote et al, (2000). A study by Maeda et al, (2004) further suggests that Kefir can help with reducing cholesterol, blood pressure, regulate blood sugars, and relieve the symptoms of constipation.
From what I have learned, Kefir can be a healthy addition to any diet and may actually help improve your overall health. As we learn more about how important a healthy digestive system is to our immunity, it would be nice to see more research done on Kefir. In my book, “Seeds 4 Change: A Path to Health and Healing”, I write about the importance of a healthy digestive system and that your mucosal barrier is one of the three guardians of the digestive tract. We know that eating a healthy diet to obtain our nutrients is best and Kefir sounds like an easy addition to make to any diet.
Maeda, H; Zhu, X; Omura, K; Suzuki, S; Kitamura, S (2004-12-30). “Effects of an exopolysaccharide (kefiran) on lipids, blood pressure, blood glucose, and constipation”. BioFactors (IOS Press) 22 (1–4): 197–200.doi:10.1002/biof.5520220141. PMID 15630283. Retrieved 2007-06-10.