Discovering the Magic of Kefir
Kefir has been around for centuries. Interestingly it was discovered in the Caucasus mountains when shepherds discovered that fresh milk carried in leather pouches would ferment into a delicious effervescent beverage. This bubbly drink was coined “keif” which meaning “good feeling” – associated with the uplifting feeling one experiences after drinking it.
We all know that kefir is rich in probiotics, however it has some truly unique properties which make it a must have addition anyone’s diet.
- Easy to Digest: Firstly as compared to yoghurt the curd of kefir breaks up very easily into extremely small particles. It is this small size of the kefir curd which facilitates digestion by presenting a large surface for the digestive agents to work on. This makes it an ideal food for infants, pregnant women, nursing mothers, convalescents as it is so easy to digest. The lactose in kefir has also been predigested due to the fermentation process making it easy to digest.
- Superior Strains: Kefir contains very different strains of probiotics to yoghurt. Probiotics found in yoghurt are transient and less potent than kefir strains. The bacteria in yoghurt lasts a few days in the digestive tract and needs to keep being introduced. Kefir on the other hand can actually colonise the digestive tract. It contains several major strains of friendly bacteria which are not found in yoghurt e.g. Lactobacillus Caucasus, Leuconostoc, Acetobacter species, Streptococcus species, Saccharomyces kefir and Torula kefir. When kefir is ingested it coats the digestive tract and enables healthy normal flora to establish residence there providing a tremendous boost to your digestive tract.
- Candida Albicans Fighter: Kefir has been found to be effective in digesting yeast cells and may have a beneficial effect on intestinal flora
- Laxative Action: Kefir is effective in stimulating peristalsis which is what controls your bowel movements. It also increases digestive juices in the intestinal tract and is thus recommended in cases of constipation.
- Cholesterol Lowering: Kefir has in some studies been shown to be able to lower cholesterol levels. This action may work through the increase in gut bacteria which works to ferment food derived indigestible carbohydrates. This fermentation works to increase the production of short chain fatty acids which are effective in decreasing circulating cholesterol concentration by inhibiting the production of cholesterol in the liver or by redistributing cholesterol synthesis from the blood into the liver.
- Potential Cancer Fighter: Japanese researchers have been conducting studies (on rodents unfortunately) which show that kefir and kefir grains may be able to slow down or reverse the growth of a wide variety of cancers.
- Rich in Vitamin K2: Vitamin K2 is a hard to obtain nutrient in the Standard Western Diet. Kefir is rich in this nutrient which helps in promoting calcium metabolism, where it is used to deposit calcium in appropriate locations, such as in the bones and teeth, and prevent it from depositing in locations where it does not belong, such as the soft tissues and the arteries.
- Immune System Modulator: Kefiran, a by-product of the kefir fermentation has been shown to reduce the allergic inflammatory response through its action in suppressing the activation of mast cells and cytokines which naturally reduce the body’s inflammatory response to a foreign body. It has also been found to inhibit IgE production which also is associated with a reduction in the body’s allergic response.
How to Make Kefir
Making kefir is easy and there is no reason to fear of feel daunted by the process. You can make kefir with either a grain or a kefir starter and you can use any type of milk or water as a base. My preference is for coconut milk kefir as it is suitable for everyone on the introductory stage of the GAPS diet. However, raw milk also makes a wonderful creamy kefir which you may also want to give a shot.
Option One: Using Milk Kefir Grains
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of milk kefir grains (you can obtain these from a lovely GAPs or Body Ecology friend who is maintaining these babies or alternatively buy online – e.g. www.kefirmagic.com )
- 1 to 2 cups of Coconut milk: Home-made (just blend shredded coconut with water in the ratio 1:2 – e.g. 1 cup shredded coconut and 2 cups of filtered water and strain through a nut milk bag) or canned. Use a BPA free brand without additives and sweeteners.
- To make coconut milk kefir, place the milk kefir grains in coconut milk.
- Stir with a non-metal spoon.
- Cover with coffee filter or cloth, secured by a rubber band.
- Culture at room temperature. After 12 hours, give your kefir a bit of a shake or stir. Remove the milk kefir grains once the coconut kefir reaches the desired consistency, normally after about 24 hours.
- Once the coconut milk has thickened and has a slight tang, it has turned into kefir. Strain the mixture through a fine plastic strainer to remove the grains.
- Store your kefir in the fridge and enjoy.
Note that milk kefir grains can be cultured in coconut milk regularly but should be revitalized in dairy milk for 24 hours once every few batches.
Option 2: Using a Kefir Starter Culture
This option is not completely dairy-free, but contains very little dairy and is much simpler than using milk kefir grains. Use a kefir starter culture packet in coconut milk. Simply follow the included instructions which normally involves diluting one sachet of Kefir Starter to 1.5 to 2 cups of coconut milk.