“As you may know, your health is vitally connected to a vast universe of microscopic organisms that thrive in and on every living thing…. Many of these tiny microorganisms—the ‘good bacteria’—may be both the smallest and best friends you’ll ever have.”
-Jordan Rubin, N.M.D., Ph.D, author of The Maker’s Diet
In part 1 of the TWM kefir series where I explained exactly what the little-known kefir drink is, we delved into the topic of fermented dairy. (Makes sense seeing as kefir is a type of fermented dairy, right?) In that post we talked about what it means for something to culture, we talked about curds and whey (*cue Little Miss Muffet nursery rhyme*) as well as curd cheese, we discovered what clabber is (and just what your great-grandmother used it for), and we even discussed why the process for fermenting pasteurized dairy products is different from the process for fermenting raw dairy products. And well, who’s to say for sure, but I’m betting that right about now there’s probably a certain thought running through your head. And it’s probably this one:
All those little facts are cool to know, but seriously, why on earth would I want to ferment my milk?
Was I right? Well, I hope so because today the answer to that question is exactly what you’re in for.
The Gut Connection
Up until a few years ago I had no idea how ginormous of a role the gut plays in our health. Well being and—along with the breath of our Creator—even life itself truly is completely dependent upon microscopic organisms. Bacteria, fungi, enzymes…all of them are essential to our very existence.
Did you know that our bodies are home to over 100 trillion bacteria—which is up to five pounds worth?! And that five hundred of these are different species’?! Okay, for real…that’s crazy. One hundred trillion? I don’t even think I can imagine a number that large. (If the thought that you have that many bacteria inside of you doesn’t sit well with you, just remember this—without them, you’d die.) The craziest part, though, is that a huge portion of these bacteria take up residence in our gut (intestines). Seeing then that 80% of our immune system is embedded within our digestive system, does it not follow that if—and ONLY if—we take care of our guts, they will take care of us? I believe it does.
Problem is, most people don’t know how to do that properly anymore. And the worst part is that when our digestive systems are out of whack, the rest of our bodies will be too. Because the standard American diet has been slowly but swiftly taking over our culture—and I will daresay has now completely succeeded—since the start of the 20th century, most of today’s generation hasn’t been taught how to nourish their bodies from the inside out. Whether you’re attempting to get back to eating real food or not, hear me when I say this—you need kefir. I need kefir. My pets need kefir. My neighbors need kefir. Everyone needs kefir! 😉
What’s so great about the stuff anyway?
The word kefir comes from the Turkish word keif meaning “good feeling”. It is said that this probiotic got its very name from its reputation—that is, how superb it made those who drank it feel. Even today, kefir is associated with the amazing longevity of the inhabitants of the Caucasian Mountains (where kefir most likely originated, in case you missed part 1). So why does kefir make you feel so good, you ask? Because it is a very healing food. It greatly helps improve digestion, it fights disease and infection, and it aids the body in detoxification. It’s also LOADED with nutrients! I’m not even kidding you—I was actually blown away during my research to find out just how nutrient-dense it is!
The nutrients in kefir actually vary because the kefir grains, type and quality of milk used, and region in which the kefir is fermented all play a part in the unique blend. However, according to my research kefir commonly contains several if not most or all of the following:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamins B1, B2, B7 (aka vitamin H or biotin), B9 (aka folate), and B12
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K2
- Essential amino acids
- Lactic acid
- Complete proteins (in kefir these are already partially digested, which is easier on your body)
- Beneficial bacteria
- Beneficial yeasts
While I am tempted to do so, it would take forever to go into depth on why each of the nutrients listed above are so important—and therefore to extensively define all of the far-reaching health benefits of kefir—so I won’t exhaust you with a description of that here and now! However, I think we can agree that any food which even at a glance boasts so many nutrients is certainly one worth looking into.
So why is kefir so good for the gut?
Remember those 100 trillion bacteria I was talking about earlier? Well, even though it’s not lacking in other areas, kefir is without a doubt most impressive because of the overwhelming amount of friendly bacteria and yeasts it contains (you can read more on this here at Cultures For Health). We’ve all heard that taking a probiotic of some sort is a good idea after taking an antibiotic, but what many don’t realize is that probiotics are important for us ALL the time. You see, the intricate ecosystem of microorganisms that exists inside of us (again, mainly in our gut) must stay in balance—there must always exist more good bacteria than bad or else we are in trouble. It is when the ratio is off that we are at risk for getting sick. And thanks to the poor dietary trends of the day and the widespread use of things which kill off the good guys as well as the bad ones (such as antibiotics and antibacterial hand soaps), most Americans are at that risk. It’s time to get the system back in balance!
But can’t I just eat yogurt to solve the problem?
Oftentimes when I talk with people about the probiotic power of kefir, they respond by singing the praises of yogurt. Now I LOVE yogurt. It’s super tasty and for the most part much better than a lot of other things out there to be eaten—so by all means, snack on! But if it’s probiotic power you’re looking for, you’d actually be much better off to go with kefir instead. Why? Because store bought yogurt usually contains only a few bacterial strains—likely less than 5 or 6. Kefir made from living kefir grains contains anywhere from 20 to 30! What’s more, kefir contains beneficial yeasts whereas yogurt does not.
A Few More Incredible Abilities of Kefir
As if we haven’t uncovered enough amazing benefits already, here are a few more things you should know about kefir (simply because they blew me away, and I feel I can’t conclude this post without at least presenting them to you for further study):
- It has antifungal, antibacterial, antimicrobial (source), anti-inflammatory (source), antimutagenic (source), and antioxidant (source) properties .
- It has been known to protect against cancer (source).
- Studies show it could help the body manage free radicals.
- It helps with wound healing.
- It contains no harmful bacteria at all. Scientists even experimented by injecting it with E. Coli and found that the pathogen could not survive in it (source)!
Too good to be true? Maybe…but I’m game to say most likely not! Chances are, kefir is simply a God-given miracle food.
Good things still happen, people. And I’m convinced kefir is one of them.
Were you surprised by how many health benefits kefir has? Which one surprised you the most?