Kefir is a cultured, enzyme-rich food that’s filled with friendly microorganisms.The word kefir means “feel good” in Turkish. Kefir grains are a combination of bacteria and yeasts, which are in a matrix of casein or milk proteins, lipids, and sugars. These symbiotic matrix grains resemble cauliflower. The matrix is a complex and highly variable community of microorganisms called probiotics. The kefir probiotics are more nutritious and therapeutic than those found in yogurt. Kefir, besides supplying protein, provides essential minerals like calcium and magnesium, phosphorus, the amino acid tryptophan, vitamin K and valuable B vitamins like vitamin B12, biotin and B1. It also contains enzymes. Kefir can be used to restore natural bacteria in the system after antibiotic therapy. It’s slightly mucous forming and the mucous has a “clean” quality to it, which creates an ideal condition in the digestive tract for the colonization of friendly bacteria.
Kefir’s abundance of beneficial yeast and bacteria provide lactase, the enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose or milk sugar, which consumes most of the lactose left after the culturing process. Lactose intolerant individuals may do well by eating kefir on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, before or for breakfast. They easily digest it.
Traditional kefir is fermented at ambient temperatures, usually overnight. It can be made from any type of milk, such as cow, goat, sheep, rice, coconut or soy. The fermentation of the lactose yields a sour, carbonated, slightly alcoholic beverage. It has a consistency similar to thin yogurt. Kefir, which was fermented by small-scale dairies early in the 20th century had alcohol levels between 1 and 2 percent, but kefir made commercially with modern methods of production has less than 1% alcohol content, probably due to reduced fermentation time.
Variations of this kefir can thrive in various other liquids. They may vary significantly from kefir in both appearance and microbial composition. Water kefir is grown in water with sugar for a day or more at room temperature. Sometimes such things as dry fruit like figs or lemon juice is added.
Kefir can be made at home simply and inexpensively. The production of traditional kefir requires kefir grains. Kefir grains contain a water-soluble polysaccharide known as kefiran that gives a rope-like texture and feeling in the mouth. Kefir grains can’t be produced from scratch, because the grains grow during fermentation, producing additional grains. Kefir grains can be bought or donated by other growers. The grains are white to yellow in color and are usually the size of a walnut, but may be as small as a grain of rice. The grains make kefir unique, because no other milk culture forms grains. After the fermentation the grains are removed with a strainer and added to a new batch of milk.
Kefir can be made into delicious smoothies to be enjoyed by young and old alike. It’s very nutritious for the elderly, those with compromised immunity and pregnant or nursing women. It has a tart and refreshing flavor and is similar to the drinking-style of yogurt.
You might have to introduce kefir into your diet slowly. Some people succeed on kefir from the beginning, but others need to proceed more slowly. People with candidiasis are lacking in milk digesting bacteria and may need to build up a tolerance to kefir. The best way is to start out with 4 ounces in the morning on an empty stomach. Every other day increase the amount slightly until you are able to drink 8 ounces.
Kefir and yogurt are both cultured milk products, but they contain different types of beneficial bacteria. Yogurt contains transient beneficial bacteria, which keep the digestive system clean and provide food for the friendly bacteria that abide there. What is different about kefir is it can actually colonize the intestinal tract.
Kefir contains several major strains of friendly bacteria that are not commonly found in yogurt. They are Lactobacillus Caucasus, Leuconostoc, Acetobacter species, and Streptococcus species.
Kefir also contains beneficial yeasts, being Saccharomyces kefir and Torula kefir, which dominate, control and eliminate destructive pathogenic yeasts in the body. They do this by penetrating the mucosal lining of the digestive tract, where unhealthy yeast and bacteria reside. They clean and strengthen the intestines, so that the body becomes more efficient in resisting such pathogens as E. coli and intestinal parasites
Kefir’s active yeast and bacteria also help digest the food you eat, therefore; making it more valuable than yogurt in keeping the colon clean and healthy. The curd size in kefir is also smaller than yogurt, making it easier to digest. This makes it an excellent choice for babies, the elderly and people with digestive disorders and chronic fatigue.
Kefir is known to be healthy to the nervous system and can have relaxing effects. It’s helpful to people suffering from sleep disorders, ADHD and depression. It can be beneficial to cell growth, maintenance and energy. It contributes to a healthy immune system and is helpful to people suffering from AIDS, herpes, chronic fatigue and cancer. Another benefit is that it cleans the intestines. It can be beneficial in intestinal disorders, constipation and can reduce flatulence. By making the body more balanced it can eliminate food cravings.
Kombucha, another probiotic, is a fermented tea which is very good for soothing your digestive system. You can make it at home in your own kitchen.