I’ve recently begun culturing my own fermented milk using kefir (keh-fear or key-fur: whichever one works for you) grains and can say that I’m officially hooked. The process of straining every day and looking after the grains is kind of therapeutic and it is always rewarding when you get to eat what you’ve made. All you need are kefir grains in a glass jar with (organic) milk and patience. Probiotics can’t be simpler and cheaper than home made kefir.
If you like Greek yoghurt you should like milk kefir. Kefir (meaning “good feeling” or “pleasure”) originates from the Caucasus region of the Soviet Union and is regarded as a gift from the Gods. Fermentation occurs from the kefir “grains” digesting the sugars in milk creating a flavour similar to koumiss (thanks to the lactobacillus acidification and alcohol production of the yeast).
While inside out mother’s womb the GI tract is sterile and is populated during the birthing process from our mothers and the environment. It is estimated that we have over 400 species of bacteria residing in different portions of the GI tract in differing populations and they create various levels of acidity that coincide with our general health and wellbeing. The use of oxygen (creating an anaerobic environment), production of antibiotics and short chain fatty acid complexes also inhibits the growth of unwelcome species.
The major species that give positive effects are the lactobacilli acidopholus (mainly in the small intestine) and bifidobacteria (mainly in the colon).
Health benefits include
- B-vitamin synthesis (helps us yield energy)
- Provides lactase to assist in milk digestion
- Enhanced protein digestion and absorption
- Anti-cancer and anti-tumour effects
- Keeping bad bacteria from proliferating
- Enhanced bowel function
- Controlling cholesterol levels
- Can help relieve anxiety and acne
- Healthier development of a babies’ digestive system
- Protects from toxins and radiation
- Enhances immunity (due to antibiotic production)
- Useful for treating psoriasis, eczema, allergies, migraine, gout, joint disease, cancer, skin complaints, herpes simplex, cystitis, colitis and irritable bowel syndrome.
Health can take a nasty turn if these beneficial bacteria are disturbed through use of antibiotics, sudden change of diet, vaccination, sudden weather changes and stress which reduce their numbers resulting in a less acidic environment along with opposite effects of what was listed above.
Can you now understand why it’s important to keep these little guys happy?
How do we keep them happy?
- Supplementation is a great way to ensure friendly bacteria are kept in check – probiotic tablets or fermented food
- A diet high in complex carbohydrates (whole fruit and vegetables, pulses, whole grains, nuts etc)
- Minimizing meat intake
As you can see implementing probiotics isn’t difficult and is worth the small effort for massive health gains. Home made kefir is my preferred method of probiotic intake as it surpasses other fermented milk products with enhanced stomach secretions, higher B-vitamin content and other essential nutrients. Kefir is very versatile and so far I’ve used it as a salad dressing, added it to protein shakes, implemented it into desserts and use it to satisfy hunger cravings when I get home late from training.
Have you tried kefir or other fermented products? If you would like to please get in touch!
How do you keep your friendly bacteria happy?