Probiotics have been making waves in the nutritional community for ages, but only recently has kefir been found to have an abundance of nutritional and healing benefits.
Kefir is prepared by culturing fresh milk, water, or other non-dairy substitutes (with some adjustments) with kefir grains, which are basically clumps of bacteria that have been proven to be beneficial to the human digestive system.
The end product is a creamy, slightly sour, refreshing milky beverage that is filled with these ‘friendly bacteria’. The fermentation process only takes about 24 hours at room temperature and does not involve many of the sterilization techniques that go along with many other cultured products, such as yogurt.
It is said to have originated in the Northern Caucasus Mountains centuries ago, and has been associated with its numerous healing effects since the early eighteenth century. Claimed to have originally been a gift from Allah, it was passed from generation to generation for years before being exposed to the rest of the world.
The Healing Benefits of Kefir
Kefir is full of beneficial bacteria and thus can be labelled as a probiotic, which is to say that it contributes, enhances, and stabilizes the micro-organisms of the intestines. Since kefir is cultured mainly using live, active grains in a medium that is thick and coating, and because of the variety of ‘friendly bacteria’ found within, kefir seems to be a much better probiotic than many of the commercially available dried capsule products. These microbes are part of an essential team of around 400 types of bacteria found in the intestines that assist digestion, extracting various elements that are necessary to maintain human life.
It has also been found that kefir is an effective immune stimulant and antimicrobial against a wide variety of harmful gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. Kefir has been used to treat metabolic disorders, atherosclerosis, allergic disease, tuberculosis, cancer and other gastrointestinal disorders. It has also been associated with longevity in the peoples of Caucasus where it is thought to have originated.
Kefir also has an abundance of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes. Some of the more prominent of these are calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin B2, and B12, vitamin K, A and D. An essential amino acid found in kefir called tryptophan has been found to have a relaxing effect on the nervous system.
Kefir for the Future
This nourishing, disease-fighting substance has a long following in peoples across the world. This drink provides the same probiotic benefits of many commercially available products, but costs much less and has the added satisfaction of creating something in your own kitchen. As new batches of kefir are produced, the grains grow and can be passed on to others so that they too may share in the benefits of this exciting tonic.