Boost Immunity & Heal your Gut with Kefir
Yogurt has been on my list of items to make at home from scratch for as long as I can remember. I even owned a yogurt maker at one point. But truthfully, technology bothers me. A strange thing to be said from a website programmer, I know. You might be thinking that a yogurt maker is not all that technological. Let me explain. Something in me yearns for simplicity. The days of old when electric yogurt and bread makers didn't exist. The days when manna fell from the sky. Then, low and behold, one day I was introduced to sourdough, and found out the truth that bread really does fall out of the sky (read more here). For yogurt, however, it took a few more years to find it in nature.

Just like making bread from commercial yeast, yogurt was on my mind, but I wasn't thrilled about the "how to" information. I wasn't thrilled about requiring a machine, or electricity to keep the bacterial strain warm while it did the work of fermenting the milk. I also wasn't thrilled about having to buy a new strain for every batch of yogurt. Something in me believed that a bacterial culture should live on to make as many batches as you want. So it is with sourdough, and kombucha cultures, but what about yogurt?

I was introduced long ago to water kefir, an extremely pro-biotic drink. Then I was introduced to milk kefir. In case you are new to kefir, it is very unique cultured dairy product as it is one of the most probiotic-rich foods on earth. It can protect your body from harmful bacterias, boost your immune system, and heal issues like leaky gut. The name kefir comes from the Turkish word “keif,” which means “good feeling”.

Fearing to brew dairy products on my counter initially, I have tried the commercial variety. Unfortunately, for me it was no replacement for yogurt or milk for my home made granola or smoothies. Now I know that, like so many other things, the homemade version is so much different, and so much better! You can also culture it to your taste preferences (24-48 hrs). A lower culture time will have less tang than a longer one.

Kefir is made using what looks like grains as a starter culture. The grains are symbiotic combination of bacteria and yeasts that interact with the milk to make a lightly fermented drink or light yogurt that even those that are lactose intolerant can drink. Scientifically speaking, Kefir "grains" contain a complex symbiotic microbial mixture of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts in a polysaccharide–protein matrix. Kefir can be made from any source of milk, such as goat, sheep, and cow milk (some even say rice or coconut milk which are not dairy at all). Always choose the best quality, anti-biotic and chemical free milk for best results, and highest health benefits.

For centuries, European and Asian folk have used it in medicine for it's wide variety of conditions it is known to cure. We now know that it is a nutrient and probiotic rich drink which helps improve many immune and digestive related health issues. It is currently being revived as one of the health foods for the 21st century. Kefir contains many bioactive compounds, including as many as 30 strains of good bacteria that help fight against tumors, bacteria, carcinogens and more. Here are some of kefir's known health benefits:

1. Boosts Immunity

Kefir contains a particular strain of healthy bacteria called Lactobacillus Kefiri which it helps modulate the immune system and inhibit many predatory bacteria growth such as harmful bacteria like salmonella and E. Coli.

Many compounds and nutrients found in Kefir, such as biotin and folate, also help kick your immune system into gear and protect your cells. Kefir also has a large amount of probiotics. In addition, Kefir contains an insoluble polysaccharide, a powerful compound unique to Kefir, called kefiran. Kefiran has been shown to be antimicrobial and help to fight against candida, as well as shows the ability to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

2. Builds Better Bones

Kefir has bioactive compounds that help absorb calcium into the body and stop bone degeneration. Kefir also contains vitamin K2, which has been shown to be vital in improving bone health, density and calcium absorption, while vitamin K deficiency can lead to bone issues. The probiotics in kefir improve nutrient absorption, and the dairy itself contains all of the most important nutrients for improving bone density, including phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K2.

3. Potentially Fights Cancer

Kefir can be an effective weapon against the spread of these multiplying and dangerous cancer cells due to its large anti-carcinogenic role inside the body. It can slow the growth of early tumors and their enzymatic conversions from non-carcinogenic to carcinogenic. Some compounds found in the probiotic drink have actually shown to make cancer cells in the stomach self-destruct. One in-vitro test conducted by the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at the Macdonald Campus of McGill University in Canada showed that kefir reduced breast cancer cells by 56 percent (as opposed to yogurt strains that reduced cells by 14 percent) in animal studies.

4. Supports Digestion and fights IBS

When it comes to bacteria in the gut, it’s a tricky balance. Kefir milk and kefir yogurt help restore that balance and fight against gastrointestinal diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s and ulcers. Drinking kefir, loaded with probiotics, also helps your gut after taking antibiotics. The probiotic compounds help restore the lost flora that fight against pathogens. The probiotics also aid against disruptive diarrhea and other gastrointestinal side effects caused by these types of medications.

5. Reduces Allergies

Some scientists believe that some allergic reactions are the result of a lack of good bacteria in the gut, and that various forms of allergies and asthma are all linked to inflammatory issues on the body. The live microorganisms present in kefir help promote the immune system to naturally suppress allergic reactions and aid in changing the body’s response to the systemic outbreak points for allergies. In certain studies with mice, kefir was shown to reduce inflammatory cells disrupting the lungs and air passages as well as mucus buildup.

6. Heals Skin

When your gut is not performing well it can send signals to your skin that disrupt its natural balance and cause all sorts of problems like acne, psoriasis, rashes and eczema. Kefir helps bring good bacteria back to the forefront and level out the homeostasis for your largest organ, the skin. Not only does it help with systemic based skin issues, but kefir benefits skin as burn and rash treatment as well.

The carbohydrate found in kefir known as kefiran, aside from aiding in the immune system, has also been tested and shown helping improve the quality of skin wound healing. It’s even been shown to be protective for connective tissue.

7. Reduces Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance

The good bacteria found in many dairy products is essential for a healthy gut and body. Unfortunately, many suffer from lactose intolerance and cannot consume dairy products. The active ingredient in kefir helps break lactose down into lactic acid, making it easier to digest. Kefir has a larger range of bacterial strains and nutrients, some only specific to kefir, that helps convert almost all the lactose into lactic acid, making the dairy easier to digest.

8. Makes itself!

This is not a health benefit, but it certainly is an important aspect of milk kefir. You need only give it new fresh milk every day, or every other day, depending on your sourness preferences. If you don't feel like feeding it new milk, just put the whole thing in the fridge until you are ready to start up again.

When I started I was kinda worried about "fermented milk". That's never been a pleasant experience. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that milk kefir is not at all like fermented milk. It is actually more akin to a thin sour yogurt. The first week I actually cultured the milk for only 12 hours, for fear of making it too sour, or worst, spoiling the milk. I would then put it in the fridge overnight. In the morning I separated the grains into fresh milk in the morning, and repeated the process. Now I find 24 hours still keeps the same flavour as 12 hours, or maybe I am getting accustomed to the flavour. Whatever the case, I have to say, I love it! I can't believe I took this long to get into making this one.

I definitely recommend you try it for yourself! Be sure to use glass jars, and to sterilize the jar before putting in fresh milk, and the strained grains. Also use a plastic strainer, never metal. But most of all, enjoy!

Be blessed.

7 Kefir Benefits and Nutrition Facts that Boost Immunity & Heal the Gut by Dr.Axe
Seasonal Allergies WebMD

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