How kefir could help your health

According to the old saying, ‘you are what you eat’; but it’s your gut that turns healthy food into fuel. With the right balance of microorganisms, a healthy gut will help you to maintain a healthy body – but what is the best way to achieve this?

The human gut contains a complex ecosystem of microorganisms, many of which have evolved with us to produce an important symbiotic relationship. Most intestinal bacteria are beneficial to us; they produce essential nutrients and vitamins such as vitamin K1, prevent infections caused by intestinal pathogens, and help modulate a normal immunological response.

Like many other complex ecosystems, intestinal flora is relatively stable over time, maintaining a roughly constant number and variety of bacteria. This stability prevents and discourages infections from both external and internal pathogens.

However, when the stability is disturbed – for instance, after a course of antibiotics – harmful bacteria that wouldn’t normally stand a chance take advantage and grow, leading to what are called ‘opportunistic infections’.

So, what can we do to keep a healthy flora to ensure our guts keep working to help us? One approach that many people take is probiotics, ‘live strains of strictly selected microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit to the host’¹.

We’ve been looking into probiotics recently, as we think they could be an effective way to boost absorption of our supplements. The first step is to figure out what a perfect probiotic would look like.

Research suggests that probiotics may help to restore natural intestinal flora after antibiotic treatment, may have a positive effect on digestion processes and may increase the efficiency of the immunological system. However, the effectiveness of probiotics may depend on the strain, dose and components used to produce a given product.

The reason why many probiotic supplements are not as effective as expected is that they contain only a few selected microbial strains. In the recent years, it has become clear that variety, and not quantity, is key when it comes to probiotics. As we have mentioned earlier, there are many different microorganisms in our gut flora.

What we sometimes forget is that these microorganisms can be found in fermented foods that are consumed raw, such kefir, yogurt or sauerkraut.

Kefir is a traditional fermented drink, with a slightly viscous texture and a tart, acidic flavour, that has been produced for thousands of years in the northern Caucasus region. Traditional kefir is produced by infusing cow’s milk with kefir grains, although it can be made with goat, sheep or buffalo milk, followed by a fermentation period. In the UK, it’s available from most supermarkets or through independent suppliers online.

Numerous species of bacteria and yeasts have been isolated from kefir grains and from the fermented kefir product. Many are lactobacilli such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, and lactococci such as Lactococcus lactis, which are found in many commercial probiotic formulations.

Several scientific reports suggest that kefir can help against pathogens, can alleviate lactose maldigestion and have anti-inflammatory effects. Nevertheless, because of the inherent microbial variability of kefir grains (each regional variation will contain different strains) and the different processes used in kefir manufacture, different kefirs will have different microorganisms, which is likely to lead to different effects in the body. It’s this variability that seems to be the key to a great probiotic.

The right diet – including probiotics and fermented foods like kefir – could be exactly what you need to help your gut, and your overall wellbeing.

¹Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Guidelines for the evaluation of Probiotics in Food; Report of a Joint FAO/WHO Working Group on Drafting Guidelines for the Evaluation of Probiotics in Food; FAO: London, ON, Canada, 30 April – 1 May 2002

8 thoughts on “How kefir could help your health”

  • robert gribben
    robert gribben 2nd March 2018 at 8:26 am

    Hi keep me informed about kafir

    • The FutureYou Team
      The FutureYou Team 16th March 2018 at 2:19 pm

      Hello Robert

      Thank you for your interest in kefir.

      Although this isn’t something we’re planning on including in our portfolio, we’re happy that you’re taking an interest in how fermented foods can help improve your gut health.

      When purchasing kefir it’s important to know that only traditionally made kefir will contain the relevant bacterial strains that can help keep your gut healthy.

      Many high street kefir products are pasteurised during the production process to extend their sell by date, this reduces the amount of good bacteria and potential health benefits they can contribute.
      We recommend a traditionally made kefir or have a go at making it yourself by clicking here.

      Long Live You

      The FutureYou Team

  • maureen evens

    are prebiotics the same as probiotics

    • The FutureYou Team
      The FutureYou Team 16th March 2018 at 2:21 pm

      Hello Maureen

      Thank you for raising such a great question!

      Probiotics are foods that contain selected live bacteria that contribute to improved gut health by increasing the amount and/or changing the types of beneficial bacteria that are present in our gut.

      On the other hand, prebiotics are food that provide the right nourishment for the good bacteria that are already present in our gut to thrive. Unlike probiotics, these products do not have to contain live organisms.

      As mentioned in our blog, you can find lots of ways to introduce probiotics and prebiotics to your diet. For example, probiotic rich foods include yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut and prebiotic rich foods include Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus and chicory root.

      We hope that this helps with your understanding of the difference between the two

      The FutureYou Team

  • Margaret Horne

    Been having Kerfir for over a year have the culture take it ever Day very beneficial I think for my heath .

    • The FutureYou Team
      The FutureYou Team 16th March 2018 at 2:22 pm

      Hello Margaret

      Thank you for your comment – it’s great to hear that you find having kefir in your diet beneficial!

      We hope you continue to see its benefit.

      The FutureYou Team

  • Mrs J Mayes

    How does one include Kefir into your diet. Do you just drink it? I have to take an antibiotic every night before bed. What should I take for that?

    • The FutureYou Team
      The FutureYou Team 10th May 2018 at 1:59 pm

      Hello Mrs Mayes,

      Yes absolutely, in fact the taste of kefir is often described as being similar to a yoghurt drink!

      With regards to your antibiotic, it really would be best to speak to your GP or perhaps your local pharmacist, as they are trained medical professionals who will be best placed to advise you.

      If you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to ask!

      The FutureYou Team

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